YONKERS, N.Y. – A red light camera is causing more than just traffic tickets in one Yonkers neighborhood.
Residents in the Park Hill area say they are outraged a contractor hacked several large branches off a more than 50-year-old cherry tree in Rumsey Road Park and mounted a large white lens on what little public green space the neighborhood has to offer.
“There are so few parks and so little open space,” Yonkers Land Conservancy member and Park Hill resident Loretta Miraglia said. “This is a densely populated city and that little park really makes a difference.”
Pointed at the Rumsey Road and Spruce Street intersection, the bright-flashing camera was meant to catch drivers who run the red lights in the neighborhood. The corner, near a Saw Mill River Parkway exit, was one of more than two dozen intersections city-wide designated for camera installation.
The device was, however, supposed to be installed near a Rumsey Road sidewalk, city officials said. Instead, it was placed in designated parkland late last week by a subcontractor of camera company ATI Systems.
And to clear the camera’s view of the intersection, the subcontractor later cut down several large branches, effectively butchering the tree, neighbors said.
Mayor Mike Spano said the camera was installed in the park without the city’s knowledge and that he too was outraged to learn of it.
“The contractor did not confirm with the city of the designated spot for the camera,” Spano spokesperson Christina Gilmartin said in an email. “They did not know that median was parkland.”
After a meeting Monday morning between contractors, city officials and neighborhood residents, the Arizona-based ATI has agreed to pay restitution to the parks department for the damaged tree, city officials said. The red light camera has also been disabled and will likely be relocated along a grassy area near the sidewalk along eastbound Rumsey Road.
This is not the first time, however, that red light cameras have been the source of discussion in Yonkers. The devices have drummed up quite a bit of controversy since they first began popping up in 2010.
Many residents have raised concerns about safety, while others say it is simply a means of raising money for the cash-strapped city. Yonkers resident Eric Schoen launched an online petition last year, urging the city to put notices at intersections where the cameras are located.
Even along Rumsey Road, neighbors said there is disagreement about whether the red light camera is a valuable tool.
“People are very opinionated about whether or not it belongs there,” Miraglia said.
Those opinions, combined with the desire of others to protect the Rumsey Road parkland, have generated quite a bit of buzz over the camera’s installation.
“This appeals to such a wide range of issues really near and dear to people’s hearts and it brought people together,” Miraglia said.
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