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Traffic

Huntington town board listens to residents complaints at a March 5 meeting. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

In response to the Town of Huntington proposed legislation to change the town’s traffic code, residents voiced their concerns and displeasure of the possible stricter penalties and its potential ramifications at a public hearing at Town Hall March 5. 

The proposed amendments would increase fines for violations, enhance enforcement and help collect on parking violations. These changes are part of the town’s approaches to alleviate parking issues in Huntington.

Engineer and Huntington resident Daniel Karpen took exception to the changes, saying it would bar residents from obtaining town-issued permits until parking tickets are cleared up.

“I don’t know why one has to deal with the other — why would you want to penalize people who want to take their child to the beach but have to deal with a ticket when they couldn’t find a place to park,” Karpen said. “This is mean to the public.”

Part of the parking changes would also include a requirement that parking summons and tickets be answered within 30 days or face an imposed default judgment, the nonrenewal of their New York State motor vehicle registration and possible immobilization.

Karpen cited the reason residents are getting fined is because there is a shortage of parking spaces in Huntington. He said a year ago he came to a town board meeting asking for more small car parking lots in the area. 

“I liked to know what progress has been made to put small car parking lots in downtown Huntington,” he told the town board. 

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) responded that the town has eyed several locations for additional parking areas and mentioned they are awaiting the final results of the $16,000 study of a proposed parking garage, which was approved in October, 2018. 

“We do believe stronger enforcement will encourage a change in driver behavior and end the abuse of time limits for free parking, both of which we expect to have a positive impact on the parking experience in downtown Huntington,” Lupinacci said.

Currently, the fine for not paying for parking in one of the town’s metered spaces comes out to $25. If Lupinacci’s proposed changes are approved the charge would increase to $75. If an individual is caught without a permit in a handicapped spot, the charge would increase from a flat fine of $200 up to a maximum of $600. 

Paul Warburgh, who has been a parking violation volunteer for the town for over five years, said under the resolutions the town would do away with the volunteers, and their duties would be taken over by the town’s uniform public safety officers. 

“The volunteers are on duty seven days a week, 24 hours a day,” Warburgh said. “I’m on duty at the Stop & Shop at 8:30 in the morning witnessing fire lane and handicapped violations.” 

He acknowledged the need for some changes to be made to the volunteer program, but it didn’t mean the town should get rid of it and asked the board to reconsider the proposal. 

“Are we going to get a uniformed officer there at that time, or at the post office at night when people decide to pull into the handicapped parking spaces because they feel like they’re entitled to do so?,” Warburgh said. “We are the enforcement — we provide a public service and we try to do our best.”

Jeff Bartels, of Lloyd Harbor, brought up the issue of handicapped parking within the town. 

“Who is getting some of these handicapped permits?,” he asked. “I mean I see these construction trucks [parked] — the guy is doing constructing and has a handicapped tag on his mirror. How can you be handicapped and be a contractor — that doesn’t really fit.” 

Linked with the proposed changes is also an amnesty program. The town will be offering a one-time 40 percent discount on the balance of an unpaid parking fine through April 1 as it tries to deal with residents owing more than $1.8 million in about 4,700 unpaid parking summonses and penalties.

Norhtport village residents packed the Jan. 29 public hearing regarding The Northport Hotel. Photo by David Luces

By David Luces

Northport residents came out in support of the business a local hotel could bring but raised concerns about the traffic that may come with it.  

Northport village held a hearing Jan. 29 on business owners Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce’s, of the John W. Engeman Theater,  proposal to construct a hotel-restaurant, The Northport Hotel, at 225 Main St. The much-anticipated project drew a large crowd to the American Legion Hall, which was packed to standing room only. 

Christopher Modelewski, an attorney representing O’Neill and Dolce, presented an updated site rendering of the hotel at the village public hearing Jan. 29. The rendering included changes they made to the site as a result of concerns raised by the planning board and area professionals. 

Study:  Northport has parking spots, if you walk

Northport residents voiced their concerns about a lack of parking along Main Street at a Jan. 29 public hearing on a proposed hotel and restaurant. Yet, a study released in December 2018 determined there are plenty of spots if people are willing to walk.

The Village of Northport hired Old Bethpage-based Level G Associates LLC to perform a paid parking study of Northport. Their survey, which took place from August to October 2018, concluded the village’s 615 parking spaces are sufficient, with a slight exception of summer evenings.

Northport’s central business district has a total 195 metered slots and 420 free spaces between Main Street and its side municipal lots, according to the study.  Nearly half of these spots are divided between streetside metered parking on Main Street, and the two free lots adjacent to the village’s waterfront parks.

On a typical weekday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Level G Associates found 60 percent of Main Street metered spots were taken and Main Street lots were full as well. However, the study cited roughly 100 available spaces in the waterside lots and Lot 7, located off Woodside Avenue by the American Legion hall.

“These are normal/healthy parking patterns for an active [central business district],” the report reads.

On Friday and Saturday evenings, Level G Associates found most metered parking spots and lots on Main Street were full. However, the study found “ample available parking” in the free waterside and Woodside Avenue lots that “are within reasonable walking distance for downtown employees or visitors.”

The only time traffic experts found an issue with the village’s parking was on summer nights, from 5 to 9 p.m. The study found the village’s parking is 95 percent full, often due to concerts and special event attendance, and could be improved through the addition of 72 spaces.

Tom Kehoe, deputy mayor of Northport, said the village board is being proactive in trying to address parking demands and congestion concerns.

“The evaluation provided us with some suggestions that we may consider,” he said.

Some suggestions include re-striping of  waterfront municipal lots could add 30 spaces, expanding the free lot by the American Legion to add 35 spots and development of a parking management plan. Other ideas given by Level G Associates are just not feasible, according to Kehoe such as leasing the parking lot used by the St. Philip Neri Church and Parish Center on Prospect Avenue.

Kehoe also said he has suggested moving the village’s Highway Department out of the Woodside Avenue lot to provide more spaces.

“It is a public safety issue,” the deputy mayor said. “You have the theater close by, snow plows are in there — that lot can get very busy.”

Kehoe said Northport residents are fortunate to live in a place where people want to visit and spend money, but in turn that causes more of a demand for parking. The village’s town board plans to continue the process of making these changes between now and the upcoming summer.

When the building plans were first presented to the village’s planning board in May 2017, O’Neill sought to construct a 24-room hotel and a 200-seat restaurant. Recent changes have  reduced the size of the restaurant to 124 seats with an additional 50 seats in the lobby and
bar area. 

Despite these changes, Northport residents continued to express concern about accessibility and how it could exacerbate parking issues in the village.

Tom Mele, of Northport, said he is for the creation of the hotel but argues it is off base to think that there isn’t an accessibility and parking problem in the village.

“If you [O’Neill] love this town as much as you say you do, you would find a way to work with the village board,” Mele said. “Work with them to decrease the traffic on Main Street and if that means downsizing the venue downstairs to accommodate the people, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for.”

Northport property owner Frank Cavagnaro expressed similar sentiments saying that the planning board shouldn’t accept the site plans as is. He viewed the parking issue as his main concern.

“You’re gonna come in and try to stuff five pounds of bologna in a 1-pound bag — it’s not going to fit,” Cavagnaro said. “Parking in the village is terrible, it’s going to kill the village.”

The  Village of Northport commissioned a parking study by Old Bethpage-based Level G Associates, released in December 2018, that found that during a typical weekday the downtown area “exhibited normal and healthy parking patterns.” While approximately 60 percent of Main Street metered spots were taken and the free Main Street lots were full, the study found 100 free spaces available during peak times in the in the municipal lots. 

Still, Cavagnaro presented a possible compromise to the village board. 

“Consider a smaller restaurant, to get him started with the option if we find more parking, for him [O’Neill] to come back to the board,” Cavagnaro said. 

Modelewski also cited a traffic impact study performed by Walter Dunn, a professional engineer and founder of Dunn Engineering Associates, and Tom Mazzola, former traffic and safety director for the Town of Huntington. The study found that the hotel would have a benign impact on the traffic in the area.  

O’Neill said under the proposed plans there would be no parking on Woodside Avenue and no right turn out of the two parking lots so traffic does not go into residential areas. 

“We will have the ability to take, between the theater and the hotel-restaurant operation,  roughly 150 cars off [the] street,” O’Neill said. “The village has 609 [parking] spots, for anybody in the industry that’s a seismic shift in the dynamics in how much parking is being provided.”

Residents were also concerned about the possibility of delivery trucks unloading on Main Street, which is not permitted under Northport village law according to Modelewski. 

“Tractor trailers and box cars double park behind cars — that’s unlawful,” the hotel’s attorney said. “There’s a reason why the law isn’t being enforced — it’s because it’s the only way businesses can function.”

Modelewski said O’Neill will work with the suppliers to use only box cars. 

Northport resident Alex Edwards-Bourdrez said the proposed hotel would fit the town beautifully. 

“I understand that there can be all these of glitches [in the process] but I would ask for all of us to rise up together in support of this,” Edwards-Bourdrez said. “We have all the brains in here to put the pieces together in a way that they won’t fall apart, it won’t choke the village — I don’t believe it will.”

Edwards-Bourdrez also touched on the issue of parking. 

“Nobody that goes into New York City or a bigger town worries about walking 5 to 10 minutes to where they are going,” he said. “There is parking, you just sometimes can’t park right next to where you want to go. We have to make these concessions for us to grow as a village.” 

The village’s parking study found that on a typical weekend, defined as Friday and Saturday evenings, there is ample available parking “within reasonable walking distance for downtown employees or visitors.”

Lenny Olijnyk, of Northport, said everybody was against the theater until O’Neill took over and renovated it in 2007. He argued that the hotel would increase the village’s commercial tax base. 

“Maybe we can clean up the streets a little bit, the sidewalks will get fixed,” Olijnyk said. “You have to think about that. The village wants to grow, my grandkids are going to live here. There has to be revenue for the village.”

O’Neill felt strongly in order for his theater business and others to strive they must work together in a positive way. 

“It’s just not sitting up here trying to make money, there’s more to it,” he said. “I don’t believe in sucking the community dry where we do business.” 

 

 

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Laurel Hill Road at Elwood Road in Northport. Photo from Google Maps

Northport parents are calling on school and town officials to examine what traffic improvements can be made to Laurel Hill Road after a teen was struck by a car outside Northport High School last Tuesday.

Miles Lerner, a 14-year-old preparing to begin his freshman year, was struck by a 2005 Honda sedan while crossing Laurel Hill Road Sept. 4 on his way to cross-country practice. While Northport-East Northport school district residents called the accident “upsetting” and “disturbing,” they weren’t surprised.

“If my complaints over the past few years had been heeded, it probably would have prevented this accident,” Jeantet Fields, a Laurel Hill Road homeowner said during a board of education meeting Sept. 6.

“If my complaints over the past few years had been heeded, it probably would have prevented this accident.”

— Jeantet Fields

Fields said he provided Suffolk County police officers with a video recording of the Sept. 4 accident captured by his home surveillance cameras that shows Lerner being struck and launched into the air “like a rag doll.”

“It was very disturbing” he said. “It’s one of those things you cannot unsee.”

The four-year Northport resident has admitted to being a bit of a squeaky wheel on the issue of traffic safety along Laurel Hill and Elwood roads. Fields said it’s a multifaceted issue resulting from insufficient parking, drivers not obeying the 20-mph school zone speed limit and traffic frequently backing up at the high school during drop-off and dismissal. He said buses and cars back up at the traffic light on Elwood Road, waiting to make the left onto Laurel Hill Road, and then again while trying to make left turns into the high school’s parking lots. Some drivers resort to using the shoulder of the road to pass on the right.

“I’ve gotten the middle finger salute for trying to pull out of my driveway,” Fields said.

Northport resident Michael Hawkins, whose son is also a member of the cross-country team, said traffic was worse than normal the morning of Sept. 4 as the district was hosting a superintendent’s conference day at the high school.

“I believe the district is partially to blame for the security guards who were standing at the entryway to every parking lot, asking every person who went into the parking lot for ID,” he said. “What happened is it backed up traffic for blocks and blocks and blocks around the high school.”

Hawkins asked Northport’s board of education and school officials to consider this a “teachable moment” and ensure steps are taken to increase parking spots and resolve traffic concerns.

Fields said he believes a more active approach to revamping traffic flow on the roads surrounding Northport High School is needed. The father said he observed a truck passing over the double yellow line, to the left of a stopped school bus, while at the end of his driveway to picking up his 6-year-old daughter. Upon reviewing the security footage, Fields compiled a video documenting about 25 drivers utilizing the westbound shoulder of Laurel Hill Road to illegally drive past stopped buses and cars in a roughly 30-minute time frame Sept. 6.
The Northport homeowner said he has shared the video with Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct Community Oriented Police Enforcement and offered to share it with Town of Huntington and school official in the hope of encouraging action.


There was a speed radar sign posted at the end of Fields’ driveway Sept. 6 to make passing motorists aware of their speed. He said he believes an unmarked patrol car was keeping watch near the end of his driveway the following morning.

“People were slowing down for the first time,” he said. “It was a short-term behavioral change, and there’s a need for long-term change.”

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) had received several phone calls from concerned Northport-East Northport residents by Sept. 7, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

“I’ve spoken with Superintendent [Robert] Banzer and their safety team has reached out to Steve McGloin [town Director of Transportation and Public Safety] to see if there are any improvements on Laurel Hill Road to be made,” Lupinacci said in a statement. “Superintendent Banzer is reaching out to the county in regard to Elwood Road.”

Fields said he plans to start an online petition to ask town and county officials to conduct a traffic study of the intersection on how it can be improved.

“My goal right now — honestly and a bit selfishly — is to change the behavior of motorists on this street before my daughter has to cross the street to go to high school,” he said. “I have seven years. If I could, I’d do it in less.”

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A Chicane, or S-shaped traffic calming measure, installed on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

While new car owners in St. James are excitedly revving their engines, local residents are closing their windows and shaking their heads.

Several residents in the area of Montclair Avenue and Rutherford Street said they are tired of traffic by people test driving cars from the considerable number of dealerships on Middle Country Road. Some are asking Town of Smithtown officials to close off Montclair Avenue before the residential end of the road or create speed bumps on Rutherford Street.

he regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

— Patti McGovern

“There are more dealerships now that are taking their people and directing them to use Montclair [Avenue],” Patti McGovern, a 30-year resident on St. James Avenue South said. “The regular amount of traffic is just crazy for a residential section. When we first moved here it was nothing like this.”

The area is home to a number of dead-end residential roads north of Route 25/Middle Country Road along Rutherford Street, which is connected to Middle Country Road through Montclair Avenue and Arlington Avenue. McGovern said that many people use these roads as a shortcut due to Smithtown High School East being located to the north. Other people test driving from local dealerships push their new cars close to 50 mph on the residential road, well above the local speed limit.

The Town of Smithtown’s Traffic Safety Department conducted a traffic study through the month of May that determined average weekday traffic was approximately 500 vehicles traveling westbound and 630 eastbound between Montclair Avenue and Jackson Avenue. The study showed 85 percent of cars had an average speed between 31 and 35 mph. The survey concluded that the number of cars was normal for a road like Rutherford, and there wasn’t a speeding issue on roads north of Montclair Avenue.

A sign posted on Montclair Avenue in St. James. Photo by Kyle Barr

Despite the study results, McGovern said even a few speeding cars could be a real hazard.

“That 15 percent, stipulated with 1,200 vehicles, means there are [approximately] 180 vehicle trips coming here in speeds excess of 40 and above,” McGovern said. “That’s more than any neighborhood should bear.”

Residents have been making noise about these traffic issues for close to four years, according to McGovern. In 2015, the town agreed to build a chicane, a S-shaped traffic-slowing and road-narrowing measure, on Montclair. McGovern said that even with the road being narrowed to hinder large trucks, the chicane has not done enough to slow traffic.

“The chicane had to be built so that it had access for emergency vehicles, so any kind of truck can get through, even if they get up on the curbs of the chicane,” McGovern said.

Rutherford Street resident David Friedman said it has become a huge problem to see people test driving their cars down local residential streets — and in their haste, often running the stop sign at the intersection at Rutherford Street and Montclair Avenue. Friedman said there is a school bus stop near that same corner, and he often fears for children’s safety.

“It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

— David Toomey

“It’s constant, and some of them are just very discourteous,” he said. “Some of them are using it to test their engine — making a lot of noise.”

Middle Country Road is home to more than 10 car dealerships all within a few miles radius of each other. Friedman said that he has seen cars from the Smithtown Nissan and Competition BMW of Smithtown driving on their roads, but the worst, he said, has come from the Competition Subaru of Smithtown located at the corner of MontclairAvenue and Middle Country Road.

David Toomey, the general manager for the Subaru dealership, said he does not specifically emphasize people test drive on Montclair; but, if they do, he said he advises them to maintain the speed limit.

“We’re trying to minimize traffic in the back [residential] areas,” Toomey said. “It’s customer preference whether they want to be on the main road or the back road, but I think a lot of the traffic in this area has to do with there being multiple dealerships.”

In terms of the number of Subaru test vehicles driving on the residential neighborhoods, he said most of the traffic is from dealership employees driving to their new dealership located at 601 Middle Country Road. He said there should be little to no Subaru cars on local roadways once the company finishes relocating in early September.

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The Nesconset Civic Association held its first general meeting April 19. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

“We have become the dumping ground of Smithtown,” is being repeated by Nesconset residents, almost like a mantra. Now, they are banding together to form a new civic group.

The Nesconset Civic Association held its first general meeting April 19 at the Nesconset branch of The Smithtown Public Library. The members of the new association said they have felt the character of their town is slipping away due to unwanted development and increased traffic.

“We’re not against development, we’re just for sensible development,” Vice President Sal Romeo said. “We want development that takes in the quality of life.”

Its members first met in the fall of 2017 at an informal meeting where they discussed traffic and development problems in Nesconset. A core group of like-minded people started a plan to make their voices heard. News of the proposed 7-Eleven at the southeast corner of Nichols Road and Smithtown Boulevard, at the site of the former Capital One bank, served as a catalyst for the group to organize.

We feel that Smithtown has not been listening to us and they’ve used Nesconset as their dumping ground.”
– Phyllis Hart

Several members have complained that there was already a 7-Eleven located approximately one-tenth of a mile west on Smithtown Boulevard and another would negatively affect traffic patterns on an already congested road.

“In terms of increased traffic, in terms of the structure proceeding without a full debate, it was something that we were very against, and it resonated,” said James Bouklas, president of the civic association.

Bouklas pointed out that 7-Eleven already has 13 convenience stores within the Town of Smithtown, with two other locations in Nesconset.

While there are two other area civic associations, the Nesconset Civic members said they plan to be laser-focused on their town’s issues and what they perceive are its modern problems of overdevelopment, traffic and underrepresentation in town government.

“We are the forgotten hamlet,” board member Marie Gruick said. “They are concentrated on developing Kings Park, St. James, everything but us. What I would like to see is something that draws people to the community, not these 7-Elevens or foot massage places.”

Phyllis Hart said she moved to Nesconset in 1994 because she saw it as quiet and rural. But since then, Hart said she feels those qualities have been slowly stripped away and pleas to elected officials have gone unheard.

Nesconset Civic Association members protested outside the site of the proposed 7-Eleven March 31. Photo from Facebook

“We feel that Smithtown has not been listening to us and they’ve used Nesconset as their dumping ground,” she said. “You don’t see this development in St. James or Kings Park. We don’t have a main street and I feel that that’s what’s holding us back.”

Nesconset resident Gerald Abualy said that the traffic on Nichols Road has gotten worse since he moved there in 1991. He said drivers constantly go 30 mph over the speed limit, causing frequent accidents and
imposing danger to him and his neighbors.

“My feeling is that we couldn’t get anybody from town to listen to us and we’re hoping that a new administration, a new set of eyes, new set of ears, new set of hands and feet on the ground, maybe they’ll listen to what we have to say.”

Overall, the Nesconset Civic Association members said they want to be more involved in the decisions town officials make. They want their voices and opinions to be heard.

“Our point is, think about what you’re doing, think about how it affects us, and we want to be part of the discussion,” Bouklas said.

The organization’ goals include getting the town to perform a traffic study of Nesconset and become more involved in the master plan being drawn up for the Town of Smithtown.

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didn’t see a horrifying and preventable accident this morning. I didn’t see a little girl, let’s call her Erica, on her way to her first week of school.

Erica, who, in our story, is 10 years old, wants to be a veterinarian, and has pictures of animals all over her room. She begged her parents so long for a kitten that they relented. They saw how well she took care of the kitten, putting drops in her eyes when she needed them, making sure she got the correct shots and even holding her kitten in the office when they had to draw blood to test for feline leukemia, which, fortunately, her kitten didn’t have.

Two years after she got her kitten, Erica continued to ask for additional animals, adding a fish, a rabbit and a hamster to her collection. Each morning, Erica wakes up and checks on all the animals in her little zoo, well, that’s what her father calls it, to see how they’re doing.

Her mother is convinced that the animals respond to her voice, moving closer to the edge of the cage or to the door when they hear her coming. When mother leaves to pick up Erica from school, the animals become restless.

I didn’t see Erica walking with her best friend Jenna. Like Erica, Jenna has a dream. She wants to pitch for the United States in softball in the Olympics. Jenna is much taller than her best friend and has an incredible arm. Jenna hopes the Olympics decides to have softball when she’s old enough and strong enough to play. Jenna thinks bringing a gold medal to her father, who is in the Marines and has traveled the world protecting other people, would be the greatest accomplishment she could ever achieve.

I didn’t see a man, whom I’ll call Bob and who lives only four blocks from Erica and Jenna, put on his carefully pressed light-blue shirt with the matching tie that morning. I didn’t witness him kissing his wife Alicia, the way he does every morning before he rushes off to his important job. I didn’t see him climb into his sleek SUV and back quickly out of his driveway on the dead-end block he and Alicia chose more than a dozen years earlier.

I didn’t see Bob get the first indication from his iPhone 7 that he had several messages. I didn’t witness Bob rolling his eyes at the first few messages. I didn’t see him drive quickly toward the crosswalk where Erica and Jenna were walking. The girls had slowed down in the crosswalk because Jenna pointed out a deer she could see across the street in a backyard. Jenna knew Erica kept an animal diary and she was always on the lookout for anything her friend could include in her cherished book.

I didn’t see Bob — his attention diverted by a phone he had to extend to see clearly — roll too quickly into the crosswalk, sending both girls flying. I didn’t see the ambulances racing to the scene, the parents with heavy hearts getting the unimaginable phone calls, and the doctors doing everything they could to fix Jenna’s battered right arm — her pitching arm.

I didn’t see it because it didn’t happen. What I did see, however, was a man in an SUV, driving way too quickly through a crosswalk, staring at his phone instead of looking out for Erica, Jenna and everyone else’s children on his way to work.

It’s an old message that we should repeat every year: “School is open, drive carefully.”

Drivers slow down for rumble strips on East Broadway heading into Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Alex Petroski

Drivers in Port Jefferson might think the little drummer boy has taken up residence in the village for the holiday season, but in reality the rumbling they’re hearing under their tires is a new initiative to get them to reduce their speed.

Rumble strips and speed tables were installed by the village in December in strategic areas to alert drivers to slow down on roads frequently used to enter Port Jefferson, following a study by an engineering firm which suggested motorists were traveling too fast.

Speed tables are on some village roads to curtail drivers’ speeds. Photo by Alex Petroski

Upon the recommendation of the firm, the strips were placed in the westbound lane of East Broadway between the Village Center and Belle Terre Village on Cliff Road. They were also added to both sides of Myrtle Avenue near Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church. The speed tables are located on Brook Road near Caroline Avenue on the western side of the Port Jefferson high school campus. More speed tables and rumble strips may still be added to other areas in the village.

“I think the resident community was a little off put when they first hit them, but now they’re slowing down,” Mayor Margot Garant said in an interview. “Most of the local people in the neighborhood get it — you can’t just fly through the neighborhoods. I’ll put the rumble strips in just about anywhere people want.”

The village board of trustees passed a motion Nov. 28 approving spending for the project up to about $5,800, though the actual cost is not yet clear.

Garant and village Code Chief Wally Tomaszewski each referenced deadly crashes in recent years at the sites of the new speed reduction measures as evidence that something needed to be done to curtail speeds in the village.

In December last year, 48-year-old Belle Terre resident Glen Nelson was killed while driving on East Broadway after his car crashed into a telephone pole near High Street.

“Everything is done to exercise as much notice and caution to the general public utilizing the roadways.”

— Wally Tomaszewski

“On East Broadway the rumble strips were necessary because the cars that are coming down the hill, there are many that were speeding both going down and up the hill,” Tomaszewski said in a phone interview. The strips, which are painted white and cause a rumbling sound inside the car when tires roll over them, are spaced a few hundred yards apart over a half-mile stretch on East Broadway.

The code chief also said the measures are having the desired effect.

“Absolutely they’ve worked so far,” Tomaszewski said. “Everything is done to exercise as much notice and caution to the general public utilizing the roadways.”

Garant said she received some push back initially because the speed tables were not adequately identified according to some users of the village roadways, though the mayor said the plan is for the tables to be painted in the near future for better visibility. She added that other measures were considered, like narrowing roadways in some spots, but ultimately the strips and tables made the most sense.

The speed tables are elevated speed bumps that are wider than typical ones and can do damage to the bottom of a car if drivers go over them too fast.

“I’m sorry that people in the first week got caught off guard, but I think the long-term intent is to slow everybody down,” she said.

Transportation workers set up a sign letting travelers know of road changes. Photo from NYS Department of Transportation

Motorists who travel on Route 347 between Terry Road and Gibbs Pond Road should expect changes, as construction is set to begin Aug. 1

According to the New York State Department of Transportation, travel lanes will be reduced and night closures will start so that construction can begin as part of the Route 347 Safety, Mobility and Environmental Improvement Project. The $36.2 million plan is meant to improve motorists’ safety and mobility and transform the roadway into a modified boulevard and suburban greenway for 15 miles through the towns of Smithtown, Islip and Brookhaven.

According to the department, east and westbound travel lanes will be shifted toward the center median to accommodate work on the north and south sides of the roadway.  In addition, the current median opening at Garfield Court between Lake Avenue and Gibbs Pond Road, and the opening at the Smithtown Highway Department west of Southern Boulevard will both be permanently closed for the safety of motorists.

Due to the lane shifts, intermittent single-lane closures will be in effect Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.  Work requiring more than a single-lane closure in each direction will take place at night between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., Monday through Friday nights, weather permitting.

The department said in a statement that motorists will be warned in advance of the closings via electronic road signs but should plan to take alternate routes to avoid delays.

For real-time travel information motorists should call 511 or visit New York’s official traffic and travel information website: www.511NY.org.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta goes over legislation to suspend the camera program. Photo by Phil Corso

The Legislature may not be behind them, but Suffolk County residents are still calling the red light camera program a money grab and a safety hazard.

People cried out in support of county Legislator Rob Trotta’s (R-Fort Salonga) bill to suspend the county’s program during a Public Safety Committee meeting on May 26, but the Suffolk legislative committee stopped it from coming to fruition. The vote was 5 to 3 against a motion to move the bill to the full county Legislature for voting after nearly 20 residents spoke up against the use of the cameras.

Stephen Ruth Jr., pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on June 3 to 17 counts of criminal mischief after allegedly tampering with 16 red light cameras at intersections along Route 25 in Coram. He also spoke at the Legislature meeting late last month.

“Red light cameras are a detriment to Suffolk County,” he said. “The risks and damages to the well-being of Suffolk County residents far outweigh the benefits. We all know now that red lights cameras are a systematic form of extortion and nothing more. … Traffic signals were manipulated for revenue and it was only made possible by Suffolk County’s reckless willingness to do anything for money.”

Stephen Ruth mugshot from SCPD
Stephen Ruth mugshot from SCPD

Residents cited statistics to try to back up their issues with the program, using a 42 percent increase in rear-end collisions in 2014 as evidence of the program’s shortcomings, and said nearly half of the locations where cameras were installed showed an increase in personal injury.

“You’re not here working for the middle class people, you’re actually hurting them,” Hector Gavilla said. “The program is not working at all. We were promised that these red light cameras would stop these incidents.”

But overall, crashes have decreased by 3.1 percent, while T-bone crashes have decreased by 21.6 percent. The data also reflects an overall decrease in crashes involved injury by 4.2 percent, based upon data from the New York State Department of Transportation’s most current data available as of December 2014.

Rachel Lugo, who has worked in highway safety for over 20 years, was the only person to speak in support of the cameras. She said that although crashes have increased, she believes it’s not because of the cameras, but as a result of more new drivers on the road, and “increasingly dangerous” issues like texting and being distracted while driving, drinking while driving and being under the influence of drugs.

“You can’t say that these crashes are increasing because of red light cameras,” she said. “What about stop signs? Let’s take them away also. Why won’t we just take away traffic lights? Red light cameras are not the problem. Teaching the motorists to change their behavior behind the wheel is where we need to start. If everyone stopped at the red lights we wouldn’t have to worry about what’s going on with fines and who is making money.”

There are statistics to back her up.

Paul Margiotta, executive director of Suffolk County’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, said that between 2012 and 2013, the county saw a 34,000 increase is licensed drivers, where prior to 2012 the average was trending down. He said citations for texting and driving and distracted driving doubled since 2011, which tends to cause rear-end crashes.

Legislature William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) joined Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) in voting to pass the bill.

Spencer asked to put the program under a microscope.

“We have to do something,” he said. “It’s hard for me to discount the public outcry. There’s a lot of smoke here. I want to make sure I’m doing my oversight job to make sure I have looked at this with a very detailed eyed.”

A county report says Indian Head Road and Jericho Turnpike in Commack saw crashes increase since a red light camera was installed in 2014. Photo by Phil Corso
A county report says Indian Head Road and Jericho Turnpike in Commack saw crashes increase since a red light camera was installed in 2014. Photo by Phil Corso

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) agreed, although she stated that there was always an expectation that there would be an increase in rear-end crashes.

“Many things we deal with here are not black and white,” she said. “The policy decision was to institute an enforcement mechanism that will decrease the right-angle crashes which cause the more serious injuries and death, with the chance of and the expectation that there will be some uptick in rear-end crashes.”

She said she would like to see a report done on the intersections where there were a large number of rear-end crashes, to see if a majority of them were a result of the cameras, or other things like texting and driving.

According to William Hillman, Suffolk’s chief engineer, that investigation is ongoing. The county is in the process of reviewing crash data at the 42 intersections it controls. The state controls the other 58 intersections with cameras.

“These intersections where there’s been that high uptick, all-due haste is needed in reviewing what is going on so that we have a real answer,” Hahn said. “There’s a huge increase in crashes just in general because of distracted driving. This is happening more and more and red light cameras are not going to stop that. What red light cameras were designed to do was for the folks who were choosing to put their foot on the gas when the light turns yellow, to rethink that. They will actually stop at a red light, and that will save lives when people know that there could be consequences for running a red light. And that probably already has, because we’ve seen a decrease in T-bone crashes, which are more serious and life-threatening, and that is the purpose of the program.”

From left, Judith Greiman, vice president for government and community relations at Stony Brook University, with Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, State Sen. John Flanagan and Assemblyman Steve Englebright. Photo from Dan Losquadro

The state and town have teamed up and come up big for traffic safety in Stony Brook.

More than $1 million will make its way to the North Shore with help from its elected officials to fund a traffic safety improvement project on Stony Brook Road, officials announced this week. The money, which came largely through state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), will examine a contentious stretch from Oxhead Road to Development Drive in Stony Brook, to improve bicycle and pedestrian safety as well as accessibility to public transportation.

The community surrounding Stony Brook University has been a longtime talking point for North Shore natives as an area in desperate need of improvement.

“I am proud to have worked with Stony Brook University and the Town of Brookhaven to advance this important project that will improve safety for students and residents alike,” said Flanagan, who secured $1 million for the project. “Creating more walkable communities is a move toward the future and I am happy to have contributed to such a worthwhile project.”

Once completed, the undertaking should herald the construction of a continuous sidewalk along Stony Brook Road; the extension of existing bicycle lanes and the installation of new left turn lanes at the existing signalized intersections; installation of a new traffic signal at Development Drive; and pedestrian signal upgrades, ornamental pedestrian-scale lighting, landscaping and ADA-compliant handicap ramps.

Flanagan’s $1 million, coupled with an additional $75,000 in grant funding that Englebright helped acquire, will hopefully reduce the presence of motorized forms of transportation and create a more united community surrounding the university.

“I applaud the ongoing efforts of Superintendent Losquadro and President Stanley to improve safety on Stony Brook Road and am heartened to see this project coming closer to fruition,” Englebright said. “The state funding secured by Senator Flanagan and myself will make a safer road for walkers and bicyclists by providing sidewalks, bicycle lanes, street lighting and a new traffic signal with pedestrian upgrades.”

Samuel L. Stanley, president of Stony Brook University, said pedestrian safety has been a longtime priority for the 25,000-student campus.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said the project was a pivotal step in the transformation of the community surrounding Stony Brook University.

“The addition of sidewalks and bicycle lanes will provide an alternative, safe means of transportation for students and residents traveling to and from Stony Brook University,” he said. “As a graduate of Stony Brook University, I take a lot of personal pride in moving this project forward.” 

The estimated total cost of this project is $1.6 million, officials said. In addition to the $1 million in state funding — which comes from the New York State Dormitory Authority, through its State and Municipal Facilities Capital Program — and the $75,000 secured through the state multi-modal program, the Town of Brookhaven Highway Department is covering the remaining costs.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has been working with the town board to usher in a greater corridor study of Route 25A, which passes through Stony Brook, and said the traffic study project would also help propel the town toward a safer space for foot traffic.

“Safer roads are a great way to promote pedestrian traffic around Stony Brook University,” Romaine said. “This is a perfect example to prove how different levels of government can work together to get things done. I thank Senator Flanagan and Assemblyman Englebright for securing the funding and their commitment to improving the quality of life in Brookhaven town.”