Ever since I began working in the Bronx last year, I have been eager to learn as much as possible about the daunting Step Streets, the most conspicuous example of pre-ADA urban planning in New York City.
The often steep staircases pose an insurmountable obstacle for anyone in a wheelchair or with other mobility issues. They seem a quirky anachronism, but a lot of people really have to go out of their way to maneuver through the Bronx topography.
Every week, I hike the steps at W 167th Street between Shakespeare Ave (near Jerome Ave) and Anderson Ave. I'm in good shape, but those stairs are hard work. And they're overflowing with empty beer cans, Chinese food spilling from styrofoam containers, busted up umbrella skeletons and – at least last week – a lacy white bra.
The first time I encountered those stairs, I followed Google Maps down W 167th Street from the 4 Train and across Jerome Ave. I was annoyed when my app told me to continue on W 167th Street because the street had clearly ended. I walked a few blocks south on Jerome, then another block north on Shakespeare. before returning to the curved intersection at 167th and Shakespeare.
Finally, I looked at the narrow chute between granite buildings and recalled scenes from the Netflix show 'The Get Down' where the teenage characters head down the steps in tight sequin dresses and pumps on their way to a disco club.
Oh jeez, I thought, those steps are really how people get around!?
As I mentioned in a previous post, the renovation of steps that link Clay and Teller Avenues at E 168th Street was supposed to end in 2015. But when I brought this up to a construction worker at the site, he laughed. A plaza, which will sit on the flat area in the foreground of the top photo, should be ready by October 2017, but construction of the tiered staircase won't end for another two years, he said.
He said the the construction crew discovered "brittle bedrock" when they first started building the foundation and had to dig into bedrock 12-feet deep before to anchor each landing. The extra work delayed the project.
Even without the stair-climbs, neighbors will continue to get exercise walking north or south along Clay and Teller to E 167th or E 169th until 2019.