Back in May, the Larchmont Gazette posted an interactive SeeClickFix map that allows residents to anonymously report quality of life issues in hopes of getting action from public officials. Using a program pioneered by four software engineers in New Haven, Connecticut, the map has had a mixed response with Gazette readers and local officials.
Anyone from anywhere can access the online map to record a complaint. A tan flag appears on the map to “open” a “ticket.” A green flag is one “acknowledged” by a map administrator. Anyone – citizen or official – can “close” the ticket and turn the flag blue once the issue is addressed. However, because no one is overseeing the map, the problem in an “open ticket” may have been fixed long ago or may be something not under local control.
“Bone-jarring” potholes, dangerous intersections, and tumbling curbstones are some of the problems identified. Residents have utilized SeeClickFix to present their cases online, hoping officials will pay attention. So have they?
In the Village of Larchmont, a number of complaints relate to untrimmed bushes encroaching on sidewalks, especially along Larchmont Avenue. One resident remarked this has been ongoing for years. Another post said the unkempt bushes force “everyone to walk in the street including kids going to school.” The commenter concluded, “This is a dangerous situation especially given how fast people drive through the Village area.”
“There is a high level of complaints” about Larchmont Avenue, said Frank Blasi, Larchmont’s building inspector. One of his responsibilities is enforcing the rule that lawn hedges should not intrude on pedestrian walkways. He acknowledged the issue, particularly in Larchmont Manor, but he didn’t think out-of-control bushes was the biggest problem.
“There is no number one problem,” he said. “It varies.”
Earlier this year, following the implementation of the Gazette interactive map, Mr. Blasi was asked by the mayor to spend at least one day each week on code enforcement, including uncut hedges. His way of learning about problems is through several sources: letters, phone calls, tips from village crews, and SeeClickFix.
“[We use] SeeClickFix as a guide,” Mr. Blasi commented. Once he finds out about a problem through whatever source, he inspects the home, and if there is a violation, he sends out a notice. Depending on the homeowner’s response, he can impose a fine.
In an interview with the Gazette, Larchmont Mayor Liz Feld reviewed issues from the SeeClick Fix map and saw that uncut hedges was the most frequent complaint.
“Frank [Blasi] should be looking at this,” she commented.
However, Mayor Feld had conducted her own review and said most of the Larchmont SeeClickFix “tickets” had been inspected and fixed. She did not believe overgrown shrubbery was a major issue requiring government intervention. Instead, she said traffic problems are what she considers a major public safety issue.
Traffic concerns have been noted on the interactive map. Five months ago, two complaints called attention to a dangerous intersection at Stuyvesant and Soundview. The Larchmont Traffic Commission, which handles these concerns, noted the problem. Since then, area residents have pursued solutions though meetings with the commission, the Larchmont Village Board and the Pine Brook Neighborhood Association. Various solutions have been proposed and discussions are ongoing. (See: Pine Brook Residents Call for Safety Study and 14-Point Safety Plan Proposed by Pine Brook Assoc.)
Over in the Town of Mamaroneck, the most complaints are over potholes, particularly along Griffen Avenue: “pothole central”, ” giant strings of potholes”, and “Disasterville” were among the comments posted.
“Due to the severe changes in temperatures over the last several winters potholes have become a bigger problem,” said Mamaroneck Town Administrator Stephen Altieri. “Our complaint volume is up a little.”
Recently, Griffen Avenue was repaved from Weaver Street to Old Mamaroneck Road in a collaboration between the towns of Mamaroneck and Scarsdale, which share responsibility in that sector.
Did SeeClickFix play a role in this? Not really, according to Mr. Altieri. Griffen Avenue had been slated for repairs for months before the map was activated.
“ClickFix has not been seen as an alternative for the Town,” said Mr. Altieri. “Residents here call our Highway Department or send e-mails to our office. ClickFix appears to be better suited to larger communities.”
Town Supervisor Valerie O’Keeffe is also aware of the interactive map but says it doesn’t play much of a factor when it comes to collecting data and making decisions. She agreed with Mr. Altieri that SeeClickFix doesn’t work for the town.
“Virtually everyone knows how to get a hold of us directly,” said Ms. O’Keeffe.
How effective the map is at reporting and addressing problems remains to be seen.
The first “ticket” posted on the Gazette map in early May was for displaced curbstones in the Gilder Street parking lot. In June, the Village of Larchmont Department of Public Works sent crews to reposition curbstones throughout the lot, which hadn’t seen much renovation since the early 1980s. Was it a coincidence? Perhaps. Rick Vetere, head of the DPW, said his crews were repairing damage from last winter. Or was the DPW responding to the gentle pressure of having an “open ticket” in a public forum?
Is there an issue you’d like to report? You’ll find a link to the map in the Gazette’s top navigation bar. Click on “Spot a problem?“