Tags Posts tagged with "Nicolls Road"

Nicolls Road

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A rendering of proposed bus lanes on Nicolls Road. Rendering by Greenman-Pedersen, Inc.

While a Jan. 27 Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality meeting was canceled, the letters the council requested of residents regarding a proposed rapid transit system along Nicolls Road were received.

Originally the council members were to meet to begin the decision-making process to determine the implications of the State Environmental Quality Review Act for the bus system. The proposal to create Suffolk’s first north-south multimodal transportation corridor was introduced by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in 2015. The proposed corridor would feature dedicated lanes for rapid transit buses traveling along Nicolls Road between Stony Brook and Patchogue, as well as high occupancy vehicle lanes in some sections, with the goal of relieving traffic congestion.

Rebecca Sinclair, county deputy commissioner of economic development and planning, commented on the canceled meeting in an email.

“The Department of Economic Development and Planning had become aware of community concerns not previously raised during outreach and project briefing sessions, and needs time to properly consider, while also being consistent with the requirements and regulatory framework of both the county and the federal funding agency.”

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) was one of the letter writers. In his letter of Jan. 20 that he shared with TBR News Media, Englebright expressed his concerns about the project and asked the council to require a full environmental review accompanied by the preparation of a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

“For my constituents Nicolls Road is much more than just a transportation corridor; it is the gateway to our community,” he wrote.

According to Englebright, the project could add 75 acres of impermeable pavement to the corridor, and he was informed that it would span “34 subwatershed areas and crosses the regional groundwater divide that defines the center of the deep-flow recharge of our sole-source aquifer system.”

Englebright said the road was originally designed to be a north-south greenway, noting this is most relevant to the section of Nicolls from Route 25A to 347. He added the area “was central to the vision of Ward Melville who was our community’s original planning genius and patron.” Melville donated the land that Stony Brook University is situated on.

“Stony Brook University straddles Nicolls Road in this stretch of roadway,” Englebright wrote. “Expanses of green grass fill the wide median and stands of native woodland trees create the natural feel of a linear parkway and provide a green screen for the university campus as per Mr. Melville’s expectation. This legacy should not be compromised.”

The Three Village Civic Association also shared its CEQ letter with The Village Times Herald. Like Englebright, the TVCA is urging the CEQ to recommend a SEQRA Positive Declaration and a full environmental impact statement for the transit project.

“Nicolls Road is the gateway to the Three Village community which includes Stony Brook and the Setaukets,” the letter read. “It’s more than just a transportation corridor; it defines the rural and historic character of the Three Villages.”

Both Englebright and the civic association feel that there should be more public input when it comes to the project.

“To date the outreach by Suffolk County has been deficient and poorly carried out,” the TVCA letter stated. “In fact the only hearing in which the public was invited to attend to learn about the bus transit project was held on December 13, 2016, several days before Christmas and at Suffolk Community College, a location miles away from the Three Village community.”

CEQ will meet Wednesday, Feb. 10, via Zoom at 9:30 a.m. Residents can email their statements for the public portion of the meeting to [email protected]

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a five-vehicle crash that killed a man in Centereach Jan. 30.

Ant’Wan Pevy was driving a 2011 Kia sedan northbound on Nicolls Road when he suffered a medical event that caused him to lose control of the vehicle at approximately 5:30 p.m. The Kia struck a 2016 Nissan SUV being operated by Zachary Morrison that was westbound at the traffic light at the intersection of Middle Country Road and Nicolls Road. Pevy’s vehicle also struck a 2000 Jeep, a 2015 Audi, and a 2018 Mercedes, all at the intersection.

Morrison, 29, of Holbrook, was pronounced dead on the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Pevy was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital for evaluation. Pevy, 25, of Ronkonkoma, was charged with Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle and will be arraigned at a later date. There were no other injuries reported from the scene.

All five vehicles involved in the crash were impounded for safety checks. Anyone with information on the crash is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

A rendering of proposed bus lanes on Nicolls Road. Rendering by Greenman-Pedersen, Inc.

Suffolk County is moving forward with a rapid-transit bus system along Nicolls Road, even though the initiative is still in its early stages.

On Jan. 27, the Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality, known as CEQ, will hold a virtual meeting to determine the need for a State Environmental Quality Review for the bus system. Residents interested in submitting their thoughts on the SEQRA review will be able to email them to CEQ (details at end). The opportunity will be the first of many for the public to comment on the system in the near future, according to Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who is also a CEQ councilmember.

The proposal to create Suffolk’s first north-south multimodal transportation corridor was introduced by County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in 2015. The proposed corridor will feature dedicated lanes for rapid transit buses traveling along Nicolls Road between Stony Brook and Patchogue, as well as high occupancy vehicle lanes in some sections, with the goal of relieving traffic congestion.

Buses would operate in HOV lanes on the inside of the road and along specialized bus lanes along the outside portions of the road. The buses will go from the Stony Brook train station all the way down Nicolls Road to Patchogue, and smaller routes would be incorporated to travel to the Ronkonkoma train station and MacArthur Airport.

“There are a lot of important improvements to a corridor that is a key north-south corridor in Suffolk County,” Hahn said.

The county legislator said it’s a tremendously large project which includes a more-than 5,000-page document for CEQ members to review. While she said it seemed as if the county had hoped the council would come to a decision about the SEQRA review in the December CEQ meeting, the members asked for more time to review the documents, saying it would take multiple sessions. They will also decide which will come first, a SEQRA review or a National Environmental Policy Act review, as the county has received federal funds for the project.

“We’re spending a significant amount of time going over each piece of it,” Hahn said.

Different topics CEQ members have and will review include groundwater effects if any, proposed pedestrian bridges, noise walls in specific spots, vegetation, air quality, bus shelters, home values, traffic estimates, coordination of bus routes, environmental analysis and more.

At the December meeting, CEQ members also made recommendations that data be added to the 5,000-plus page document.

“We are by no means ready to make a determination, and we are really early in the stages of the review,” she said, adding CEQ doesn’t expect to make a decision about the SEQRA review until February.

There are different phases of the project, and regarding the Three Village area, work won’t begin north of the expressway until 2024. Hahn said before any work begins there would be multiple outreaches to various civic groups and chambers in affected areas.

Proposed changes along Nicolls Road include intersection improvements at Hawkins, Hammond and Mark Tree roads, as well as Pond Path. Proposals include eliminating the left-hand turning lanes at the intersections and shortening the time of the red lights on Nicolls Road at those intersections for safety purposes and to help with traffic flow.

Residents who are interested in submitting statements regarding the council’s SEQRA review decision of the project can do so before the Zoom meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 9:30 a.m. The council invites residents to send in statements for the public portion by emailing them to [email protected]

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Suffolk County Police detectives are continuing to investigate a car crash that killed a pedestrian in Stony Brook Tuesday night.

Police said Kimani R. Porter was driving a 2017 Dodge truck southbound on Nicolls Road, at the intersection of Shirley Kenny Drive, when the vehicle struck Kenneth Rott who was crossing the street at approximately 6:45 p.m Dec. 29. Rott, 60, of Kings Park was pronounced dead at the scene. Porter, 31, of Brooklyn was not injured.

The Dodge was impounded for a safety check. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to contact the 6th Squad at 631-856-8652.

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Work proposed for the end of this year will eliminate the access ramp from 25A onto Nicolls Road from eastbound Route 25A. Photo from Google Maps

Due to consistent resident complaints, Suffolk County is planning to start work on easing traffic concerns on the northern part of Nicolls Road sometime by the end of the year. The planning has been several years in the making.

A recurrent issue for travelers on Nicolls Road has been drivers weaving quickly to the left lane when coming from eastbound Route 25A to make a left onto Lower Sheep Pasture Road.

William Hillman, Suffolk County Department of Public Works chief engineer, attended the Feb. 3 Three Village Civic Association meeting to discuss changes planned for the county road.

“It’s a relatively simple project,” he said. “Vehicles traveling eastbound to go south on Nicolls Road — many of them weave across to make the left on Lower Sheep Pasture Road. Simultaneously, someone who has made a left from 25A, quite often there’s conflicts there. We’re looking to eliminate that.”

He said the slip ramp on Route 25A approaching Nicolls will be removed, bringing a right-turn lane up to the signal. The only time the right-turn lane will stop is when the left-turn lane on the westbound side has the green arrow.

“About 80 percent of the cycle is green for this movement, so it’s only 20 percent that it would be stopped,” Hillman said. “From a capacity standpoint, it will have very little effect.”

The chief engineer said while Route 25A is a state highway, the county received a permit to remove the access ramp due to it causing problems on the county road.

Daniel Dresch, assistant chief engineer, said the lane will be about 450 feet long. When asked if a study was done regarding traffic on Route 25A, he said it wasn’t undertaken due to it being a state road, and instead the county focused on remedying the problems on Nicolls.

“It’s well outside of the scope of what we can do,” Dresch said.

However, the county has conducted a study of the area at Nicolls Road, Hillman said. During the morning peak hour, between 8 and 9 a.m., about 600 cars make the right from 25A. In the same hour, approximately 130 vehicles then make a left onto Lower Sheep Pasture Road.

Civic members asked what may happen to pedestrian crossings.

Hillman said the changes will improve pedestrian safety due to the county eliminating the slip ramp. Suffolk will also construct sidewalks from the north entrance of Stony Brook University up to 25A on the west side of Nicolls and a sidewalk on the east side as well.

Members also questioned Hillman and Dresch about bicyclists. Hillman believes the removal of the slip will help cyclists heading eastbound on 25A due to not having the conflict with drivers making a right before the light.

Those in attendance also used the opportunity to ask about possible plantings in the median, and if the civic association could help. Hillman said while community members can’t legally work on medians and islands, which are considered part of the road, members can sponsor landscaping work on the spaces.

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Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a three-vehicle crash that seriously injured a woman in Stony Brook Nov. 20.

Mariana Debbe was driving a 2003 Honda Civic westbound on Route 347 when she attempted to make a left-hand turn onto southbound Nicolls Road at approximately 1:30 p.m. The Honda was struck by a 2005 Mercury Mountaineer being driven northbound on Nicolls Road by Deanna Lee Hermida. The Honda then struck a 2015 Toyota being driven by Jose Salas that was heading eastbound on Route 347 and making a left-turn to head northbound on Nicolls Road.

Debbe, 26, of Miller Place, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Hermida, 23, of Ridge, was transported to the same hospital with minor injuries. Salas, 63, of Brentwood, was not injured.

All three vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Nicolls Road. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

County Road 97, commonly known as Nicolls Road, is one of Long Island’s main thoroughfares, connecting Stony Brook on the North Shore to Patchogue on the South with nearly 16 miles of highway. For years the county has examined ideas to relieve rush hour traffic; now it is proposing a rapid-transit bus system, high-occupancy vehicle lanes and 16 roadside bus stops.

“It’s going to be dual function, and also reduce congestion on Nicolls Road, so its two birds, one stone effect,” said William Hillman, a chief engineer at Suffolk County’s Department of Public Works.

In a 2015 county report prepared by multinational engineering firm Parsons Brickerhoff, the project cost was originally estimated at upward of $200 million, though plans have been scaled down slightly since then.

“By making the buses faster, more reliable, more frequent, we may have a chance to get people to sit in it and get out of their cars.”

— Kara Hahn

Babylon-based engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen, which was the latest company tapped to research the Nicolls Road project, presented April 2 summaries of its initial plans at Suffolk County Community College. 

The plans, as they currently exist, call for 16 new stations positioned along Nicolls as bus terminals connecting to existing Suffolk County Transit routes. The plans would also include 16.5 new miles of dedicated lanes to bypass traffic congestion. Service of these bus lines include a frequency much higher than any current county bus, from a weekday peak of every 10 minutes to a weekend peak of 20 minutes.

Presenters did not offer details on the buses’ fuel source nor did they describe where new stoplights or other traffic slowing devices may be implemented. Larry Penner, who worked for more than three decades in the Federal Transit Administration regional office and now comments on ongoing projects as a self-described transit historian, said that buses typically get right of way in among normal traffic.

Mike Colletta, a project engineer at engineering firm Greenman-Pedersen, which created the most recent presentation on the road, said the firm was recently put onto the project by Suffolk County, and is still in the very early stages of design.

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said the Legislature has been approving the project, applying for grants and getting funding toward the corridor studies for years. The project still has a while to go before the county can estimate the true impact on traffic. County officials worry that people will not use buses.

“By making the buses faster, more reliable, more frequent, we may have a chance to get people to sit in it and get out of their cars,” Hahn said. 

While representatives from the county and engineering firm could not give an estimate into the amount of vehicles, Penner said the county still has many things to consider, including costs of roughly 10 new buses, 16 stations and proposed amenities, such as real-time bus locators, similar to the units found at the train stations. Seating and overhangs for the stations themselves must also be factored in.

“Here’s the challenge they face: The density in Suffolk County is far less than Nassau, and far less than New York City,” Penner said. “How many people would drive to one of these 16 Bus Rapid Transit stations and how many people will take a commuter bus and switch to the rapid transit when you can get in your car and get there much more quickly, that will be the challenge they face, because time is money for people.”

These proposed stations would link up to existing Suffolk County Transit bus routes. Multiple existing bus routes already travel along or intersect with Nicolls, including the 3D, the S62, S69, 6B, S58 and 7A, though only two routes use the county road for a significant distance. Service on Suffolk County Transit has also been spotty for a long time, with users often left waiting for buses for over an hour. 

Bruce Morrison, the president of the Selden Civic Association, said he is skeptical of the project, questioning how many people would use it, especially with existing issues on the regular county buses.

“If it’s not attractive to the public, you’re going to have empty buses.”

— Bruce Morrison

“Will they get the ridership?” Morrison said. “If it’s not attractive to the public, you’re going to have empty buses.”

Buses would operate in the HOV lanes on the inside of the road and along the specialized bus lanes along the outside portions of the road. One proposed route would take these buses down the Long Island Expressway, through the Ronkonkoma Train Station and the expected Ronkonkoma Hub project as well before linking back up to Nicolls. 

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) has been touting his Connect LI plan for years. In 2014 the county started exploring several other possible projects. Expanding Route 110 and the Sagtikos Parkway is among the other options. In 2015, Bellone shared his expanded plans for $300 million bus transit plan to connect Long Island’s downtowns, colleges, research and business centers. 

At one point, the county executive’s office floated the idea of building a rapid transit in the median of the well-populated road. Environmental impact studies are ongoing and necessary to ultimately receive federal funding.

In addition to the new route, engineers are also touting designs for a new trail that could run parallel to Nicolls. This path would be akin to the Rails to Trails project, but unlike the 3-mile Greenway Trail from Setauket to Port Jefferson Station, and the upcoming 10-mile project from Wading River through Mount Sinai, this path could be well over 15 miles of trail, crossing under the LIE and over other high trafficked roads like Middle Country Road. The 2015 study allocated $15 million for the biking and hiking trail.

Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning representative Kevin Luzong mans his station at the BRT first public information meeting. Photo by Donna Newman

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is hoping to modernize the way Long Islanders get around.

A proposal from the county executive to create Suffolk’s first north-south multimodal transportation corridor to feature dedicated lanes for rapid transit buses running along Nicolls Road between Stony Brook and Patchogue, was presented for public information and comment Dec. 13 at Suffolk County Community College in Selden. Interested residents attended to gain an understanding of the concept of a Bus Rapid Transit service, which unlike traditional buses are not constrained by traffic, and the possible ways the roadway might be configured.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) attended the event and said she supports upgrading public transportation on Long Island.

“Suffolk County is working to create a 21st century economy,” she said. “This requires a modern transit system that alleviates the burden of traffic and provides more transit options for a less car-dependent workforce. This is a first look at a proposal for a plan. We need community input to flesh it out more and see where the ‘buy-in’ could be.”

Hahn said she believes the idea would have multiple positive economic and environmental outcomes.

“Bus Rapid Transit offers many of the advantages of a light rail system, but at a fraction of the cost — both for the passenger and to the municipality,” a statement from Hahn announcing the county’s first BRT public information meeting said.

The BRT system would feature state-of-the-art Wi-Fi equipped buses; use dedicated “bus only” lanes, with priority traffic signaling; provide boarding at modern, comfortable, secure stations; accept fares with prepaid fare cards or electronic passes; and connect the commuter or traveler to transit hubs, such as other bus systems, railways and airports.

The purpose of the meeting was to provide information about the proposed road conversion in order to interact with three Long Island Rail Road branches, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Babylon, and facilitate public transportation access to Long Island MacArthur Airport. Visitors to the exhibit were encouraged to submit feedback in the form of comments and questions via mail-in comment cards or by email to [email protected]

Representatives were on hand from both the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development and Planning and engineering firms that have worked on the planning stage to further explain the project and answer questions.

Debbie Brown and Stephanie Larkin, self-described PTA moms from Selden, had several concerns.

“Are they adding a lane or dedicating one of the existing lanes,” Larkin asked, adding the road is crowded enough without losing one of its lanes.

“Who, exactly, is going to use these buses?” Brown asked.

Kevin Luzong, a spokesperson for the project, addressed the residents’ concerns.

“The bus lane will be created within the existing roadway in the median or through a repurposing of the shoulder,” he said. As for people who might be interested in using public transportation, he mentioned millennials, like himself, who utilize services across Long Island, including colleges, research facilities, and new housing options, like the Ronkonkoma Hub being developed near that railroad station.

Brown was skeptical that Long Island could be converted from a “car culture.”

“We, as parents, would have to get our kids used to buses at an early age,” she said, adding that parents might be hesitant to do so in today’s world.

BRT systems exist in more than 190 cities around the globe, allowing passengers to arrive at their destinations faster, while reducing road congestion.

The proposal did not include a potential cost for the project, though the county is examining grant-funding possibilities to help taxpayers cover the bill if the project comes to fruition.

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A Black Lives Matter banner below the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship sign is now gone. Photo by Sylvia Kirk

The Black Lives Matter banner that was affixed on July 3 beneath the sign identifying the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship on Nicolls Road was removed July 24.

Eileen and Sol Hummel, owners of the Imagination Pre-School, which has rented space in the fellowship for 20 years, discouraged its placement when they were first told it would go up.

Eileen Hummel said she responded to the notification with an email that simply read, “It’s going to hurt our business.” She said she made several subsequent requests to have the banner removed, including forwarding emails received from parents expressing dismay.

“The safety of the children is the most important thing for us,” Hummel said. She said police officers whose children attend the school were upset about the banner, and others were concerned about safety at the school because the message has created a heated debate nationwide in recent months.

“The safety of the children is the most important thing for us.”
— Eileen Hummel

The timing of its placement, shortly before the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, and the subsequent shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, intensified the controversy surrounding the banner.

“We hoped to have a discussion with the community about the need for reform in police practices,” said Peggy Cohee, a member of the fellowship’s Racial Concerns Committee. “We feel it’s a social justice issue, not an anti-police issue.”

Concerned about the possibility of legal action against the fellowship, Cohee said its board of trustees decided to remove the banner temporarily, pending a discussion among the entire congregation.

“I don’t think this is finished yet,” Hummel said. “The fellowship informed us they are having a community meeting.” She was told the preschool parents would be invited to attend.

“I’m not against the church,” Hummel said, “I’m against the banner.” She thought they should move it inside the fellowship hall.

Hummel’s response to the banner was “all lives matter,” according to Cohee. “While we agree [with Hummel], our concern is that we can truly say that only when it applies to everyone.”

Residents gather to discuss drug and heroin use, rehabilitation and laws at the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ monthly meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“Addiction is a family disease.”

That’s what Tracey Budd and social worker Mary Calamia had to say during the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ community event about heroin use on Long Island.

Around 20 residents gathered at the Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars headquarters on Feb. 24 to discuss drug laws, heroin use in the community and how to combat the Island’s heroin issues.

Tracey Budd, of Rocky Point, founded the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates group to help work with families to try to combat the drug issues on Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Tracey Budd, of Rocky Point, founded the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates group to help work with families to try to combat the drug issues on Long Island. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Budd, of Rocky Point, established the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates group last fall. Her son, Kevin Norris, was one of many heroin users on Long Island before he died of an overdose in September 2012. Budd hoped to educate Long Island communities on drug awareness and establish a support system for drug users and their families who are seeking help, with the creation of this group. She tries to hold a meeting at least once a month.

“I’m hoping that as parents, neighbors, [and] friends, we learn how to advocate [about drug awareness] a little more, rather than putting it on Facebook,” said Budd about residents who have sought help, especially with acquiring Narcan, through social media outlets. She was among several residents, including Dorothy Johnson, who said people need to change how they view heroin users.

Johnson is a member of the Great Bay coalition. She lost her son four years ago to a heroin overdose and has fought to increase drug awareness ever since. For Johnson, heroin and drug users aren’t junkies, but everyday people in need of help.

“It’s not that they’re bad and sitting on a street corner,” Johnson said. “It’s somebody that’s walking around in a suit and tie that comes from a good family.”

Many of these families do not change how they view or deal with their relative once they return from a rehabilitation center. According to Calamia, treating rehabilitated individuals as though they still use heroin or other drugs will only encourage future drug use.

In light of heroin use on Long Island, the Suffolk County Police Department started using Narcan in August 2012, according to Dr. Scott Coyne, chief surgeon for the police department. The anti-overdose medication was used more than 470 times in 2013 and 2014 and 543 times last year. While Narcan allows officials and those trained to administer it to save people who overdose on heroin or opiate-based drugs, public and safety officials said some drug users abuse the system.

Sgt. Keith Olsen, on right, speaks at the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Sgt. Keith Olsen, on right, speaks at the North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates’ meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Capt. William Murphy said the police department has saved an unidentified Mastic Beach resident around 11 times using Narcan. Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) added that one woman who got into a car crash on Middle Country Road and Nicolls Road a few weeks ago demanded Narcan from First Responders. According to LaValle, officials can’t test a resident’s blood after receiving Narcan.

Currently, patients can go home shortly after officials administer the medication. Budd is trying to establish a 72-hour hold for these patients, which will allows hospitals to monitor patients following the procedure.

She also helped establish a 24-hour hotline for drug users and their families or friends who are looking for help, after she attended a conference at the Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s (D) office last September. That hotline should be up and running, according to Budd, by April 1.

“Sometimes I feel bad for the young kids we’re locking up,” said Sgt. Keith Olsen of the SCPD. “They need help. They’re not the dealer. They’re not turning it over. They’re not the ones causing trouble.”