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Traffic

The Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees held its biweekly business meeting on Monday, Aug. 21, accompanied by a public hearing to consider adding north- and south-facing stop signs on the west and east sides of Scraggy Hill Road.

Public hearing

Situated at Scraggy Hill Road is the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School. Speed tables currently help to slow traffic around the school.

Village attorney David Moran explained the purpose behind the public hearing, stating that adding or removing all village stop signs requires an amendment to the village code, “and in order to add a stop sign to the village, you have to go through this process.”

During the public hearing, Ray DiBiase, the village’s Planning Board chair and a nationally certified traffic operations engineer, noted the issue of people driving around the speed tables on the roadway. “My first inclination would be to extend those speed tables,” he suggested.

Several neighbors turned out Monday night, shedding light on the situation. Stella Cohen reported that village stop signs are routinely disregarded and that the issue could only be resolved with adequate traffic enforcement.

“I have no objection to this motion whatsoever, but it’s paying lip service to a problem you’re not going to fix with a stop sign,” Cohen said. “I would respectfully ask the board, in addition to considering this motion, to also [consider] a motion on a future date for speed cameras.”

Ernie Geiger, another resident, summarized the “nightmare” situation around the elementary school. He advised the board to hire a traffic specialist. 

“I think that what you’re looking at now is the tip of the iceberg, and I really don’t think that stop signs are going to do any good at this point,” he told the board. “I think somebody should look at it, look at the signage that’s there and make an intelligent decision instead of just throwing up two stop signs.”

Ryan Walker, a trustee of the Port Jefferson School District Board of Education who said he was speaking as a resident, advised the board that additional signage could complicate “traffic patterns that are already a mess.” 

Instead, he proposed coordinating with the Suffolk County Police Department for more traffic enforcement along the roadway.

Following the public comments, the board did not hold a vote on the proposed code amendment to add the stop signs.

Members of the Village of Port Jefferson Board of Trustees deliberate during a business meeting Monday, Aug. 21. From left, Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay and Mayor Lauren Sheprow with trustees Drew Biondo, Bob Juliano and Stan Loucks. Photo by Raymond Janis

Audit report

Christopher Reino, a partner at the Port Jefferson Station-based Cullen & Danowski — the firm that conducts the village’s annual independent audit — delivered a presentation on the report from the 2022 fiscal year.

Mayor Lauren Sheprow said the audit report was presented to the treasurer’s office on Jan. 4, 2023, noting, “That report was addressed to the Board of Trustees.” 

“Upon canvassing,” the mayor said she had discovered that “the current board members who were board members on Jan. 4, 2023, had not seen that report.”

Moran remarked upon “another flaw in the process,” indicating that when a village uses an outside audit firm and files with the village clerk, “there needs to be a public notice that that report is available at Village Hall for anyone to come and review it,” adding, “As far as I know, that hasn’t happened either.”

During his presentation, Reino reported that the village’s fiscal health has “been looking positive.”

“The fund balance has been growing,” he said. “You actually have a balanced budget now — in the past, you were using some of your existing fund balance to fund the budget, but right now, you’re pretty much at a break even.”

Revenues, he added, are aligned with expenditures, suggesting that the village currently has “a realistic budget.” The “only concern I had,” Reino said, was the lack of “a complete inventory,” which could assist the village in conducting insurance appraisals.

East Beach bluff 

Conversations continued over the two-phased bluff stabilization project at East Beach. 

For the proposed upland wall to fortify the restaurant/catering facility of the Port Jefferson Country Club, Sheprow reported that the village government is still “waiting on a response from [the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Administration] to see if that [$3.75 million] grant is coming through.” [See story, “Schumer secures funds for upper wall at PJCC…” Jan. 11, TBR News Media website.]

The current engineering plans include the addition of steel beams, according to Sheprow, who estimated that they could cost the village approximately $18,000 per beam.

The board approved an add-on resolution approving services from Huntington Station-based engineering firm GEI Consultants for up to $9,200, which Sheprow contended could help the village save hundreds of thousands of dollars on the upper wall project.

“What GEI is being asked to do is take a look at that project description to see if the removal of all those beams would work,” the mayor said. “The supposition is that that would still work and perhaps even make it more stable.”

She added that the modification in engineering plans could save the village roughly $300,000 on the upper wall project, “spending a few thousand to save a few hundred thousand.”

To watch the entire meeting, including trustee reports, please see the video above.

Photos by Raymond Janis

After a roadway closure spanning nine months, construction resumed last week at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and State Route 25A.

The construction project signals progress and a cooling of tensions between the Village of Port Jefferson and the New York State Department of Transportation. The initial roadway obstruction was created in September 2021 as part of the DOT’s sidewalk initiative along 25A. Under the original design, a sidewalk was added through the intersection along the pavement and changes were made to the grade, causing vehicles to get stuck at the bottom of the slope.

Seeing this as a public safety hazard, village officials closed down the intersection to traffic, igniting an intergovernmental dispute between the village and DOT.

Recently, travelers along the 25A corridor noticed significant digging, uprooting of pavement and movement of dirt. Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for DOT Region 10, detailed the progress of the reconstruction efforts.

“The New York State Department of Transportation is working to address longstanding terrain issues at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and State Route 25A in the Village of Port Jefferson and expects work to be completed by the end of the summer,” he said in an emailed statement.

Responding to the ongoing construction, Joe Palumbo, the village administrator, offered thanks to DOT and to state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) for expediting the reconstruction efforts. The Palumbos are not related.

“The Village of Port Jefferson is delighted to see active construction taking place to redesign the intersection of Arlington and West Broadway,” Joe Palumbo said in an email. “The village would like to thank Senator Palumbo for his help in getting this project started and NYSDOT for seeing the need for the redesign and executing the new plan.”

To read more about the background to this dispute, see The Port Times Record’s March 24 story, “PJ Village clashes with DOT over Arlington Avenue obstruction,” available on the TBR News Media website.

Mayor Margot Garant has responded to concerns about seating availability at Port Jefferson train station.

The village mayor believes the issue of seating availability cannot be divorced from public safety. “We were getting a lot of complaints about the homeless population,” Garant said. “They were using the off and on ramps and sleeping in them. And our ridership — whether it was people from Port Jeff Station or Port Jeff village — they were complaining to us about the safety at that time of getting on and off the train, especially in the early mornings and in the evening hours.”

During the 2019 redesign of the Port Jefferson train station, the village had discussed both seating availability and public safety with Long Island Rail Road. During those deliberations, the mayor said LIRR had pitched an idea to add redesigned benches to prevent individuals from sleeping on them.

“The discussion was held at that time about what the renovation plans would look like and I believe they had commented to us that they were introducing some of these other types of benches which would allow for seating but don’t allow for overnight sleeping,” she said, adding, “Since then our complaints have gone down, I would say, like 85%.”

‘So, yes, seating should be made available if they can’t sit inside the booth or they want to sit outside, but it may be the type of seating that does not allow for you to lie down on it and that’s for a reason.’  — Margot Garant

Despite the decline in complaints from residents, there remains the problem of user-friendliness at the station for some riders. As reported last week, there are only two outdoor seating areas at the station, which can present an unnecessary obstacle for people with disabilities and the elderly.

Garant acknowledged that greater accommodations at the station should be made to ensure these populations can rest comfortably while waiting for a train.

“I feel for the complications that people have,” she said. “So, yes, seating should be made available if they can’t sit inside the booth or they want to sit outside, but it may be the type of seating that does not allow for you to lie down on it and that’s for a reason.”

The quantity and style of seating at the station is largely determined by LIRR, according to the mayor. The decision to add armrests along the benches, however, was a coordinated decision between LIRR and the village to curb sleeping at the station.

“Yes, there was a conversation with respect to that because we’re trying to prevent people from using the station as a sleeping area,” Garant said. “There is a significant, conscious effort in making sure that when our ridership gets up there in the early morning to take the train to work, they are not having to step over people or deal with a certain population up there that’s going to panhandle and make them feel unsafe. That was a conversation that we had.”

Garant added that user-friendliness has not been part of her agenda primarily because she does not see the public demand to alter the present layout of the station. 

“In three years, nobody has come to us at a public meeting or raised this as a concern of theirs that they feel that the station is not user-friendly for them,” she said. “It’s not something that was brought to our attention.” She added, “Since we worked with Pax Christi and the station was renovated, it’s been a very peaceful coexistence.”

Because the railroad is not a village property, the mayor also said she is limited in her ability to change the layout. However, she agreed that if this becomes a persistent problem for riders and residents, then she would coordinate with LIRR to remedy it.

“We will certainly discuss with the Long Island Rail Road — because it is not our property — what we can do together to try and alleviate that concern,” the mayor said. “I have to be honest, that concern has not come to my desk in over three years.”

Station Street

Questions surrounding the layout of the station will continue as the village embarks upon its latest project to introduce Station Street, a one-way thoroughfare that will begin at Main Street, cut east near the parking lot and end at Oakland Street. This planned terminal will mitigate congestion on Route 112 and facilitate traffic coming in and out of the station.

Three-dimensional renderings of the proposed Station Street plaza. Graphics generated by Campani & Schwarting, courtesy of Mayor Margot Garant’s office

The Station Street project has been in the works since 2016, when the village approved a master plan to revitalize Upper Port. As part of joint efforts between the village, the Town of Brookhaven, LIRR and the state Department of Transportation, the proposed Station Street would create a plaza that will help channel traffic from the main thoroughfare, alleviating congestion as drivers enter the village. 

“We did a traffic study,” Garant said. “The traffic study and the DOT comments said the more that we can get people off of Route 112 as they’re going toward the east to work at the hospital, the better.” She added, “That will eliminate a lot of the buildup, the people waiting in line to get into Port Jeff village.”

The plan, if implemented, would eliminate two traffic concerns for the village. First it would relocate the bus stop currently placed along the train crossing into Station Street, eliminating a public safety hazard for people getting off of the bus. Relocating the bus stop will “make it much safer, get the pedestrians off that train intersection there and alleviate the traffic,” Garant said.

The plans would also introduce a driveway into the train station parking lot, where taxis and cars will have a better drop-off and pickup area. Behind the scenes, these plans are falling into place, according to Garant. Although still without a developer, the plans have been put out to bid and contracts are expected soon.

“The bid is out right now for contractors to come in and do the installation of that street,” the mayor said. “Everything is lining up and the plan is coming to fruition as we speak.”

For six months, roadway barriers, shown above, have blocked the intersection of Arlington Avenue and State Route 25A. Photo by Jim Hastings.

Public officials are addressing an ongoing dispute between the Village of Port Jefferson and the New York State Department of Transportation involving a roadway obstruction at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and Route 25A on the long hill leading into Port Jeff.

Due to its steep slope, Arlington Avenue requires a specific grade to allow vehicles to safely traverse the intersection without bottoming out. Under the current design, instituted in September 2021 as part of DOT’s sidewalk initiative throughout the village, the roadway remains impassable.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for DOT Region 10, addressed the issue in an email statement: “The New York State Department of Transportation is working with the Village of Port Jefferson to address longstanding terrain issues at the intersection of Arlington Avenue and state Route 25A and hopes to reopen Arlington Avenue as expeditiously as possible.”

“Prior to them doing the work, there was no issue there.”

— Kathianne Snaden, deputy mayor of Port Jefferson Village

Joe Palumbo, Port Jeff village administrator, shared that the DOT has not yet put together a workable plan to resolve the matter.

“Their design there is not acceptable in terms of navigating the road from 25A onto Arlington,” he said. “The grade there is not sufficient for vehicles to go up and down that road.”

According to Palumbo, the grade issue remains the primary point of contention between the two parties.

“DOT is in the process of putting a design together,” he said. “Their most recent design that they had sent over to us is not acceptable. The village would prefer to have something that was similar to the grade that was there prior to the paving, or better.”

According to Palumbo, under DOT’s present plan, vehicles can still get stuck at the bottom of the slope. Kathianne Snaden, deputy mayor and commissioner of public safety, said there had been no problem with the grade before DOT’s changes.

“Prior to them doing the work, there was no issue there,” she said. “It is a steep hill, but cars could easily get up and down, emergency vehicles could get up and down, school buses could get up and down.”

Snaden objects to the addition of a sidewalk along the pavement. She said that by adding the sidewalk, DOT had created a grade that is different from that of the pavement. According to her, this presented a safety hazard requiring the intersection to be closed to traffic.

“They paved 25A and additionally, with the paving, they added a sidewalk,” she said. “The sidewalk, for some reason, they put straight across the roadway, which we’ve never seen before. In doing so, it changed the grade from a slant to more of an angle because the sidewalk, obviously, is low.”

Snaden said that the roadway closure, put in place by DOT six months ago, is a significant risk to public safety. “My concern, of course, is the safety of the residents,” she said. “We had a house fire on Arlington almost two years ago. The roadway was impassable, but that time it was because of a downed tree. When that house caught fire, they couldn’t get all of the firetrucks to that house.”

According to Snaden, as long as the intersection remains blocked, this scenario may repeat itself in the future.

Pixabay photo

In an increasingly modern, information-based economy, survival requires an ability to adapt to the changing environment.

On the other hand, those who shrink in the face of change will have the hardest time navigating this new normal. This week, TBR News Media was fortunate to speak with several leaders throughout our area. Their warning was the same: Long Island is still unprepared to meet the demands of the 21st century.

Martin Cantor, director of the Long Island Center for Socio-Economic Policy, shared with us the history of mass transit systems on Long Island.

Sometime during the suburbanization of Long Island, regional planners failed to account for population increase and the great many cars to accompany it. Today, we pay the cost of failed planning in the form of cluttered roads and endless traffic.

 So reliant are we on our cars, some well-intentioned reformers now suggest that we transition to electric cars here on Long Island — and throughout the country. This, too, has its drawbacks.

Kevin Beyer, vice president of government affairs at the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said the push for electric vehicles is unrealistic and expensive. The grid simply cannot accommodate an overnight increase of millions of electric vehicles, and we shouldn’t expect it to.

The Long Island parkway system is nearly a century old, yet our commuters rely upon this infrastructure every day to get to work. Without a modernized mass transit network, Long Island commuters must choose between cramped train cars or congested highway traffic. We expect antiquated transit networks to support today’s mass of commuters.

Time and again, Long Islanders apply outdated methods to modern problems. This is like building a jet engine with stone tools.

Not all hope is lost, however. For example, look no further than Smithtown’s Office of Town Clerk, where you will find that the transition from old to new technologies is already underway. For the last 16 years, Town Clerk Vincent Puleo (C) has worked to digitize paper records for electronic filing. This has made the day-to-day operations of the office faster, simpler and more accessible to his constituents.

We need to apply Puleo’s approach elsewhere. We must update our transportation systems to account for the many more drivers on our roads today. We must invest in mass transit, such as buses and boats for commuter travel, so that we are no longer helplessly delayed.

 We must embrace the changes happening all around us, for change is the only constant in this life. And with all of that being said, we should remember and learn from the ways of the past. Let history be our guide as we move ahead into the world of the new.

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.