By Mallie Kim
Runners and walkers wound through the hilly roads of Stony Brook for a Mother’s Day 5K race last Sunday, May 14, hosted by local advocacy group Sidewalks For Safety. At the event, a mix of athletes and local sidewalk fans numbering about 300 raised awareness in their bright “safety green” T-shirts as they made their way to the finish line at The Long Island Museum.
Sidewalks For Safety founder Annemarie Waugh was thrilled with the turnout, and said she looks forward to taking what she learned from this inaugural run to make it an annual event.
“There was such great energy, great cheer, and so many people in support of more sidewalks, especially around the schools,” she said. “I’m really hoping we can put children and pedestrian safety first.”
Long Island has fewer sidewalks because the suburban population expanded in an era when car was king. “Long Island’s sidewalks are here, there, everywhere and nowhere,” The New York Times noted back in 2004, adding, “The Island’s network of sidewalks is so haphazard.”
Waugh, a mother herself, makes the case to the public and to the Town of Brookhaven that sidewalks are a key part of keeping children safe as they walk to school and bus stops. She gathers volunteers as she goes — including this reporter, who proofreads the Sidewalks For Safety newsletter and helped check in participants at the race.
Waugh’s advocacy centers around connecting existing sidewalks in the Three Village area, particularly around the schools. She pointed out that secondary school track teams run on local roads. At Old Town Road in front of Ward Melville High School, that means students are running in the street alongside big construction trucks and heavy traffic.
Detractors fear sidewalks would give the Three Village Area a more “urban” feel.
At the finish line, Setauket mother Dr. Samone Zarabi said she would like more sidewalks so she and her young son can be safer while walking their dog around town.
Zarabi brought her family to the 5K also to celebrate Mother’s Day. “I just wanted to do something healthy and good for the entire family — no expectations, just being together,” she said.
First-time 5K participants Loam Lapidus and Miko Alfredsson, both 10-year-old Nassakeag Elementary School students, said they found the race “tiring.” But they care about sidewalks, they said, because they don’t want people or animals “to get run over.” Miko also had a particular reason for joining. “My mom wanted me to do it,” he said.
Local politicians also came to support Sidewalks For Safety, including town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who said she grew up in the area and supports safe, walkable communities, especially for children. Sidewalks “they connect communities — people to each other, people to places like parks, downtowns,” she said. “All these things are important for a sense of place in a community.”
The top three men and women finishers went home with flowers in lieu of medals, on theme for Mother’s Day. First-place male was Keith Forlenza, of Stony Brook, who ran the 5K in 16 minutes, 55 seconds, and first-place female was Jessica Baisley, of Centereach, who finished at 21:45.