Tags Posts tagged with "Sidewalks for Safety"

Sidewalks for Safety

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A student shakes hands with Valerie Cartright after receiving an award for a video created to highlight health and safety benefits of sidewalks. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school board welcomed Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County officials Feb. 12 for a special presentation. 

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) presented awards to four Ward Melville High School students for their public service announcements advocating for sidewalks to ensure safety in the community. 

Sidewalks for Safety, a local grassroots organization, sponsored a video contest to encourage high school students to highlight the health and safety benefits of sidewalks in neighborhoods and around schools. Student projects were sponsored by the Ward Melville art department.

Contest winners were Benjamin Dombroff and Nicole DeLucia, who tied for first place and received $500 each. Mia Schoolman was awarded second place and Elyas Masrour placed third. 

Three Village resident Annemarie Waugh, founder of Sidewalks for Safety, addressed those gathered for last week’s meeting and presentation. The organization’s vision for the community is to have “a minimal number of strategically placed sidewalks on only a few connector roads to enable students and residents to walk safely,” she said. 

Ward Melville Principal Bill Bernhard also spoke. He recalled an appointment with Waugh six years ago, when he was principal at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School. 

“We had a rather unorthodox meeting,” Bernhard said. “We took a walk around the neighborhood. It was a picturesque, beautiful day … and what we saw, besides the beautiful nature, was something rather disconcerting, which was the lack of available places for our students to walk — our lack of sidewalks.”

The Town installed sidewalks in front of the junior high school in 2016. The $300,000 project also included a pole with flashing LED lights that could be activated by pedestrians with the push of a button. 

Waugh indicated that there is still more to be done.

“Our roads are not comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists,” she said. “They are full of dangerous blind corners and speeding, distracted drivers.”

The student videos, which were screened during the meeting, echoed those concerns.

“Walkable communities are associated with higher home values,” Waugh said. “Imagine your kids being able to walk safely to school, to walk safely to their friends’ houses. Imagine being able to jog safely to West Meadow Beach. Imagine being able to walk for a coffee and to walk to local shops.” 

Romaine commended the students.

“Your students really know how to advocate and make a point,” he told school board members.

Also honored last week were members of the Setauket Elementary School student council, who raised more than $700 for Australian Wildlife Rescue, and varsity athletes who competed in fall sports. 

The school board also finalized the 2020-2021 school calendar. The first day of school will be Sept. 8, 2020.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn joined residents at the Setauket Neighborhood House for a conversation about pedestrian and cyclist safety. Photo by Rita J. Egan

One of the goals of the Three Village Community Trust is to identify the needs of local residents. Since March, with that objective in mind, the trust has been inviting residents to their Join the Conversation events at the Setauket Neighborhood House the fourth Thursday of every month.

At a May 25 meeting, led by Cynthia Barnes, president of the trust, the third of these conversations was held, this one about sharing the road safely. It was co-sponsored by Sidewalks for Safety, a grassroots organization dedicated to making the Three Village roads safer. Local residents were encouraged to discuss concerns about the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists both young and old in the area.

While Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Dr. Nancy McLinksey and David Calone, former chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, were on hand for brief presentations about proposed enhancements for walkers and bikers as well as the health benefits of walking, the main event was the conversation of concerned residents.

A few attendees said they have witnessed many young people, especially Stony Brook University students who live off campus, not walking against traffic along Quaker Path and Christian Avenue. Many said they have seen children distracted while walking with headphones on, or texting. Another concern was expressed about cyclists who do not travel in the same direction as traffic, or have no rear lights on their bicycles.

Another attendee said the newly-paved Quaker Path, with 11-foot-wide lanes, has seemed to become an invitation for drivers to speed. He said the lines along the side of the road are very close to the edges, which pushes pedestrians and bicyclists into the grass at certain spots. He suggested that narrower lines be painted to create a protective space.

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, suggested in addition to restriping wide roads such as Quaker Path, that crosswalk graphics be painted as a better alternative to traditional signs on poles that can sometimes add to the dangers of the road by causing an obstruction.

“There is something, to me, very physical and powerful about graphics on the road, and in the case of Quaker Path, there are numerous key intersections where a crosswalk or a cross-street could be fine,” Reuter said. “Now this probably runs counter to all kinds of engineering sensibility about keeping traffic moving, but with paint, one can signal that there is something going on here that you should be aware of.”

Sidewalks were another issue of concern that had residents in support and against the idea in particular places. Jennifer Martin, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright’s (D-Port Jefferson Station) chief of staff, said having feedback from the community could help the town decide where to add them.

“There seems to be a general consensus about the need for sidewalks along 25A, but as of yet,  there’s not a community consensus about sidewalks in other parts of the community, especially when you get deeper into the residential areas,” she said.

One woman in attendance asked if there was a way for legislators to persuade residents to be more open to sidewalks, especially since the town owns six feet in front of each piece of property and can do whatever they want with it.

Another resident said while she respected the opinions of those who wanted sidewalks, she felt they needed to look at the historic reasons for not having them. 

Barnes diffused the debate though, saying there is more than one solution to the problem.

“Sidewalks are one of several solutions; it’s not the only solution,” Barnes said. “Some of it is the people who are driving in cars not paying attention. When you get behind the wheel you are a driving a huge weighty tank that can kill people if you’re not careful and paying attention.”

The Three Village Community Trust’s next Join the Conversation meeting is June 22 at 7 p.m. The talk will focus on Plum Island and will include a virtual tour by Louise Harrison, a conservation biologist and the New York natural areas coordinator for Save the Sound.

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Additions address safety for students who walk to school

Workers excavate the east side of Mud Road to prepare for sidewalk installation. Photo by Donna Newman

This fall, the streets near the Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School will be safer for students who walk to school. The Brookhaven Town Highway Department is nearly finished installing sidewalks on Mud Road, a frequently used route for students who walk to school.

“I am grateful to have finally brought this project to fruition, as residents have been requesting additional sidewalks in the area for the last decade,” Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said. “In 2014, a year after I took office, school district administrators requested a traffic study, while noting 118 students walked to and from Gelinas Jr. High School. Clearly, this pedestrian safety project was warranted.”

The entire project, which will include the paving of Mud Road, will cost $300,000 according to Losquadro, add ding the undertaking will ” help to ensure the safety of students and pedestrians.” The cost includes the sidewalks, retaining walls, a drainage system, a crosswalk and electrical signal work.

A decorative pole with flashing LED lights, activated by pushing a button, will enable pedestrians to halt traffic to cross the street.

Sidewalks were added in front of the school building and to the south. On the west side of Mud Road, sidewalks extend from the school to Brandywine Drive.

Previously, sidewalks had been installed in the fall of 2008 — heading north from the school and west along Christian Avenue to the spot where it meets Friends Road — to accommodate a blind child living in the neighborhood who walked that route to school.

The groundwork for the current project predated the formation of a grass-roots advocacy group called Sidewalks for Safety, founded by Annemarie Waugh in July 2015.

“It’s really wonderful that the town is putting in the sidewalk outside Gelinas!” Waugh wrote in an email. “I hope the sidewalk will go all the way around the treacherous corner on Mud Road, so children walking to and from Gelinas will be safe. I really hope the town will put in many more sidewalks, especially around all the schools and on the busy main roads, so we can have a healthy walkable community.”

Sidewalks for Safety was established by Waugh to raise awareness for pedestrian concerns throughout the Three Village area and to lobby local politicians to affect change. The organization mounted a petition on Change.org to gather signatures from supporters for submission to Brookhaven Town. That website garnered nearly 700 signatures, and the group has obtained more than 500 others on paper.

“Annemarie has been very active in trying to get folks on board with helping improve walkability,” said Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “I think she is certainly working hard on raising awareness. I talked to her about what I did on Nicolls [Road]. I think most people don’t understand that they drive on roadways that have different levels of government responsible for them.”

Waugh and her group have ramped up their awareness-raising efforts.

“More recently we have been engaged in educating local politicians, school officials and Three Village residents with a newsletter,” she said. “We attended Earth Day at Stony Brook University … and joined with Scout Troop 1911 to collect signatures at the shopping center on 25A.”