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Miller Place Road

Nico's Way serves as reminder of child's character

Vincent Sr. and Kim Signore embrace one another while their son Vincent Jr. speaks during the street-renaming ceremony. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

After her son was fatally struck by an SUV earlier this year, Kim Signore of Miller Place feared 14-year-old Nico would be forgotten. But a new street sign on the block where the budding lacrosse star grew up will help preserve his memory forever.

The Signores huddled together alongside family, friends and elected officials Oct. 6 during an unveiling of the sign labeled Nico’s Way. The dedication was done on the corner of Miller Place Road and Islander Court in Miller Place for the boy who died riding his bike on a busy intersection on Route 25A in February. The street sign, which stands only a few houses down from the Signore residence, was installed by the Town of Brookhaven at the request of members of the family.

“This block is where it all began for Nico,” the boy’s older brother, Vincent Jr., said before the unveiling. “Nico left us too soon, but in the little time he was here on this Earth he taught us how to live life to the fullest. He will never be forgotten. We hope that this street serves as a compass when you are lost and can’t find your way.”

Nico Signore’s Miller Place lacrosse teammates attend the ceremony to pay their respects and remember their fallen friend. Photo by Kevin Redding

Kathleen Perry, a longtime friend of the Signore family, agrees the dedication is a wonderful way to help Nico live on.

“Nico just lit up this block,” Perry said, remembering the 14-year-old as the most kindhearted boy she’d met. “I think this is a great thing for the town to do.”

Nico’s aunt, Mary Alipo, said although the family will never be the same after the tragedy, townwide support is helping with the healing process.

“He was such an amazing individual and to see this many people who cared about him coming forward and serving as a support group is just incredible,” Alipo said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) commended the Miller Place community for rallying around the Signores in their time of need.

“Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms to the Signores — I know you will forever keep Nico’s memory in your embrace,” Bonner said to the large crowd, including Miller Place school district faculty, members of Nico’s lacrosse team and neighbors, as well as Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). “You have all been there to prop them up, hug them when they needed it and dry their tears. This is a wonderful community.”

Kim and Vincent Sr. Signore unveil the new Nico’s Way sign in memory of their son. Photo by Kevin Redding

An emotional Kim Signore held back tears as she thanked everyone in attendance.

“You guys are amazing,” she said.

Upon losing Nico, the mother’s greatest fear was that, over time, her son’s legacy would disappear.

“This is a way to always remember him because he was such a good kid — a beautiful boy inside and out,” she said. She laughed recalling the impromptu dance sessions to Frank Sinatra songs that Nico often initiated. “He would come downstairs in his lacrosse shorts, and no shirt and say, ‘Let’s dance, ma.’ He was a good boy. He loved this community. He loved everybody.”

The idea for a street sign initially came from Kim and Vincent, Nico’s father, and was carried through by Nico’s aunt and uncle, Kelly and Charles Butruch, who were in contact with Romaine and Bonner for most of the year. As Brookhaven policy requires a six-month window between a person’s death and public memorialization, a resolution for Nico’s Way was approved at the end of August.

Vincent Signore hopes that the sign will serve as not only a memorialization of his son but as a reminder to drivers to be more careful.

“I would like for people to be more aware of their surroundings when they’re driving and not be distracted,” he said.

Since Nico’s death at the intersection of Miller Place Road and Route 25A, there have been significant changes to the location to ensure better safety for pedestrians and drivers alike.

Sophia, Vincent Jr., Vincent Sr. and Kim Signore are overwhelmed with emotion recalling memories of their brother and son Nico Signore during a street-renaming ceremony in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

Around what would have been Nico’s 15th birthday in April, the road saw the implementation of a red left-turn signal to stop cars from entering the crosswalk when pedestrians and bicyclists are given the go-ahead to get to the other side. No turn on red signs were also added.

“It’s bittersweet,” Kelly Butruch said. “A year ago, did I think we would be here today? No, and I wish we didn’t have to be, but it’s the best way to memorialize him.”

Michael Lombardi, a Miller Place 10th grader
and lacrosse player, remembers his friend as an amazing person on and off the field.

A scholarship fund for Miller Place seniors who show exemplary spirit, courage and love of community was given out to two students this past May. The family intends to continue the fund throughout the future.

As the Signores and community members gathered under the sign, they shared stories of the highly regarded student-athlete.

“Nico was astounding,” Lombardi said. “He had a great personality — he was funny. He was always nice to everybody and a great player. Whenever we needed a goalie, he stepped up. He’s greatly missed.”

Another of Nico’s former teammates, Kevin Thompson, said his friend will never be forgotten.

“Whenever you pass the sign here and look at it, we’ll think of him,” he said.

Community members hold up signs on the corner of Route 25A and Miller Place Roadto bring awareness to the dangerous intersection following the death of a local 14-year-old boy. Photo by Kevin Redding

In response to a 14-year-old’s death at a busy intersection, the Miller Place community says enough is enough, and their voices were heard.

Residents from across the North Shore gathered March 26 to push for drastic safety changes at a dangerous road crossing at the intersection of Miller Place Road and Route 25A, where Nico Signore was struck by an SUV while riding his bike with friends last month.

Community members, including Signore’s family and friends, said the intersection should have a red left-turn signal to stop cars from entering the crosswalk when pedestrians are given the signal that it’s safe to walk to the other side. The group also agreed every corner of the intersection should be a no turn on red.

Community members hold up signs on the corner of Route 25A and Miller Place Road to bring awareness to the dangerous intersection following the death of a local 14-year-old boy. Photo by Kevin Redding

On Feb. 23, Signore pushed the crosswalk button, waited for the go-ahead signal to bike across the intersection, and was struck because the northbound driver had a green left turn arrow.

According to Miller Place resident Tammy McGuire, rally organizer and close friend to the Signores, the disastrous layout of the intersection gave the driver an invitation to run him over.

“There’s no reason Nico should be dead,” McGuire said, holding back tears. “We want someone to do something about it before more [people] die. Any parent or community member should want this changed.”

McGuire asked for a moment of silence among the crowd in memory of the beloved Miller Place lacrosse player, and 16-year-old John Luke, who died at the same intersection in May 2015, before leading the residents in a call and response chant.

“What do we want? Change,” the group shouted. “When do we want it? Now.”

Those in the crowd held up signs that read “make Miller Place safe again” and “we demand a full red before anyone else is dead” as passing cars honked in support.

“This corner has been a disaster — this whole section needs to be revamped and they need to do it immediately,” said Angela Campo, Signore’s former religion teacher. “The more time they take for studies, the more lives are lost. The Signore family has been destroyed and this community can’t take it anymore.”

A bear placed in memory if Nico Signore, who was hit by a car, holds a sign that says “make Miller Place safe again,” following the 14-year-old getting hit by a car at an intersection. Photo by Kevin Redding

She held up a sign containing a photo of her former student, adding that he was a beautiful and vibrant boy.

“He never got to live his life and the world is a much more awful place without him,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Kevin Cantwell, of Sound Beach, said Signore’s death should be the catalyst to get something done.

“Somebody has to figure this out because it’s a safety issue and there’s been proven deaths here,” Cantwell said. “Living in the community for 15 years — seeing this happen, seeing all the accidents, talking to the Miller Place fire department — this [intersection] is a nightmare.”

Back in October, months before Signore’s death, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) reached out to the department based on concern from the Miller Place School District about hazardous traffic conditions at the same intersection, where a frequent number of car accidents occurred.

Signore’s death at the intersection prompted a recent request from state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to the New York State Department of Transportation to conduct an immediate pedestrian-bicycle safety study along the Route 25A corridor.

LaValle received word from the DOT that it will be making changed to the Miller Place intersection. The agreement included a red turn arrow on Miller Place Road.

“This will prevent cars from turning into the intersection while pedestrians are in the crosswalk,” LaValle said. “Additionally, the DOT will be installing new signs to warn drivers about pedestrians in the crosswalk.”

The changes, according to LaValle, will be implemented in two to four weeks.

“The DOT is in the process of developing long-term recommendations as well that, when implemented, will greatly improve the safety of this intersection,” LaValle said. “It is my deepest hope that these changes will prevent any future loss of life and lower the accident rate in this area.”

Community members hold up signs on the corner of Route 25A and Miller Place Road to bring awareness to the dangerous intersection following the death of a local 14-year-old boy. Photo by Kevin Redding

Stony Brook resident Danielle Algiere said even though she doesn’t know the Signore family, she came out for the simple fact that she’s a mother.

“It doesn’t matter that it happened in Miller Place, any local mother should be out here right now fighting for change,” she said. “He did everything he should’ve, and a flawed system is what got that child killed.”

The Signore family rejected the idea that the red light program had anything to do with Nico’s death, saying just the green arrow did.

“That’s not what this is about,” said Vincent Signore Jr., Nico’s older brother. “The intersection itself needs to be looked into and it’s nice to see a lot of people supporting this and caring about my brother. No family should ever have to go through this.”

All in attendance were encouraged to sign a petition, which help enacted the change, and another was passed around for the Rails to Trails project, to provide a safe, out-of-the-way path for residents to bike on. Also included in that petition was a request to dedicate a portion of the path running through Miller Place to Nico, an avid bicyclist.

“I met with the parents and they want to see a better situation in their community,” Anker said. “I hope if we move forward with Rails to Trails we’ll provide that safe place for our children to enjoy riding their bikes. The Signore family is close to my heart right now.”

This version is updated to include state Sen. Ken LaValle’s response from and about changes made to the intersection by the New York State Department of Transportation.

Accident leads to two fundraising efforts, 25A study

Nico Signore with his mother Kim. Photo from Facebook

Just days after Miller Place teen and lacrosse superstar Nicolo Signore died riding his bike on Route 25A, friends, relatives and community members are doing all they can to help his grieving family.

A little after 5 p.m. on Feb. 23, Signore, 14, described as “a happy kid with a big heart” by those closest to him, was out doing what he loved to do — riding his bike with his friends — when he tried crossing northbound Miller Place Road at Route 25A. The last of his group of four friends to cross the street, Signore was struck by an SUV after the light turned green, suffering significant head trauma.

Nico Signore wore No. 20 as a goalkeeper for Miller Place’s lacrosse team. Photo from Pam Santo Speedling

He was immediately rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, sending a shock wave through not only his family and friends but the entire community.

“I have no words to offer that could ever make this time easier; my thoughts are with you.”

“We are absolutely heartbroken with the loss of Nico. We will never forget him and will pray for peace for his loving family. We love you.”

“Although we do not know your family, we are part of the Miller Place community family. We are so very sorry for your loss. Our prayers are with you all.”

These messages, accompanied by donations of $100, are just a small portion of the love and support seen on the GoFundMe page “Please support Nico Signore,” one of two fundraising campaigns set up in the aftermath of Signore’s death. The page was created by family friend Pam Santo Speedling Feb. 25, just one day after the accident, with the intention of helping the Signore family pay for funeral costs and ease the burden of Kim Signore, Nico’s mother, who will now be able to stay home from work and grieve without worrying about income.

Nico Signore with his brother Vincent Jr., father Vincent, mother Kim and sister Sophia. Photo from Pam Santo Speedling

Speedling, who has been best friends with Kim for more than 20 years since graduating nursing school together, said she’s long considered all three Signore children her own, and sprang into action, unbeknownst to Kim.

“I just felt completely helpless because Kim was so distraught she couldn’t even speak, and so I knew I had to do something that would help her,” Speedling said. “The last thing you want to worry about after burying your child is worrying about how you’re going to pay the bills. At this point in [Kim’s] life, she doted on Nico and everything she did revolved around him. This accident just took her life away, it’s devastating.”

When she presented the idea to family friend Denise Cagno, Cagno told her it was a great idea.

“It’s just amazing how many people are being so generous and supportive of this thing for the family at this time,” Cagno said. “It’s a great way to help a family in need, and it’s a big load off them.”

“My little brother was the most perfect, pure person I’ve ever come in contact with. He could walk into a room full of sadness and light it up like a Christmas tree.”

— Vincent Signore Jr.

The fundraiser hit its goal of $5,000 after just about a day, and within three days, the funds exceeded $27,076. So far, 370 people have donated, with individual contributions ranging from $15 to $300. The family has considered putting Signore in a burial vault, as they did with his grandparents, which costs $10,000.

Charles Butruch, Nico’s uncle, created another GoFundMe page, “The Nico Signore Scholarship Fund,” Feb. 27, on behalf of the Miller Place teen’s parents, who wish to preserve their son’s legacy through a scholarship fund that will recognize Miller Place seniors “who embody the same exemplary spirit, courage, determination, love of community and passion for living that Nico exhibited so naturally.” After just one day, the page has raised $3,200 of its $25,000 goal.

Kim Signore is also interested in having a bike path named in memory of Nico in recognition of one of his greatest passions. Coincidentally, Suffolk County is in the process of planning a bike path that would run from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River.

“My nephew was just an unbelievable person, had such a love for lacrosse — ‘proudly wore the No. 20 for the Miller Place Panthers as goalie’ —and bike riding, he loved life and always had a smile on his face,” Butruch said. “It’s a very sad time, but hopefully through the scholarship, since he never got a chance to go to college or do what he wanted to do in life, other kids can … and he can have a living legacy.”

Nico Signore proudly displays a lacrosse award. Photo from Pam Santo Speedling

Butruch recognized the support of local businesses, including Middle Island Pizza, which has been sending food every day to the Signore family, saying the outpouring of support has given Kim and Vincent, Nico’s father, “an unbelievable feeling” and has “taken them totally by surprise.”

“My sister says her heart is touched, she’s overwhelmed with all the love and support being provided from total strangers,” said Kelly Butruch, Kim’s sister. “They’re brought to tears by all of this, it’s beautiful.”

Nico’s older brother, Vincent Jr., 22, expressed his feelings in an email.

“My little brother was the most perfect, pure person I’ve ever come in contact with,” he wrote. “He could walk into a room full of sadness and light it up like a Christmas tree. People from all over are reaching out with support, love and amazing memories of Nico and it’s really helped put into perspective how many lives he has touched. I would like to personally thank all my close family and friends for being such an amazing support system right now.”

In response to Signore’s death, State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) wrote a letter to the commissioner of the Department of Transportation, requesting a pedestrian/bicycle safety study along the Route 25A corridor to prevent further injuries or deaths, writing that Nico’s accident was “the second tragic fatality of a young student crossing Route 25A in Miller Place in 18 months.”

The family also points to the red light cameras across county intersections as a concern and a possible contributing factor in the accident.

File Photo

Suffolk County Police Sixth Squad detectives are investigating a crash that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl in Miller Place on the evening of Aug. 6.

Kevin Denton was operating a 2003 Dodge minivan heading eastbound on Route 25A at approximately 7 p.m. when his vehicle was struck by a 2013 Ford van operated by Brian Schember, who was traveling westbound on 25A and attempting to make a left turn onto Miller Place Road. Schember, 20, of Miller Place, had two residents from the Hudson Group Home in Coram in the vehicle.

Denton, 41, of Port Jefferson Station, an adult passenger and five children were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital. A four-year-old girl suffered serious eye and facial injuries. The injuries of the other passengers in his vehicle were minor.

The two passengers in Schember’s vehicle were transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson with minor injuries. Schember did not need medical attention.

The vehicles were impounded for safety checks. The investigation is ongoing.