Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
Cars start parking on the street near the Ronkonkoma train station early in the morning. Very early.
From his job nearby, Frederick Foley watches as some drivers park and head to the station in pre-dawn darkness, as early as 4 a.m. On-street parking is permitted at that hour, but signs warn that half-hour restrictions take effect at 5 a.m.
The signs don't seem much of a deterrent: Cars stay in those spaces all day, Foley said, a practice that contributes to traffic chaos as homebound trains pull in.
"When trains start coming in the evening, that's when you see gridlock," he said, in part because all those short-term spots aren't available for cars waiting for arriving commuters. "So people double-park, and then the MTA police come. It gets all bottled up."
The station has more than 6,000 parking spaces spread among lots and a multilevel garage. But in the early-morning darkness, the appeal of the 30-minute spaces lies in their location: Next to the station.
Foley works at a private parking lot, and it's conceivable the business could benefit from an on-street parking crackdown. But we're convinced his desire to clear up the traffic madness is genuine: On the days we visited, business in his lot was constant and empty spaces, few.
Foley said that when he asked the town to enforce the parking limits, he was told that budget restrictions meant staff couldn't be devoted to the task. Our public-records request for the number of tickets issued last year on Railroad Avenue near the station produced this response: "There are no known documents that are responsive to your request."
The town later confirmed that no such tickets were issued in 2013.
That is going to change, spokesman Jack Krieger said. The town is advising patrol staff to enforce the parking restrictions, he said, and "if there are any parking violations on Railroad Avenue near the station that our code enforcement personnel observe, summonses will be issued."
Foley insists the town could reap a minor windfall if it set out to put tickets on all those windshields. The fine is $50, according to the town website, so quite a few tickets would be necessary to achieve windfall status.
Foley was motivated, in part, by a particularly unpleasant evening: A driver waiting for an arriving train pulled into his lot and, when informed she would need to pay a parking fee, spit on one of the lot's employees.
The next day, Foley contacted us. "Yesterday was the last straw," he said.
My son attends St. Joseph's Nursery School on North Carll Avenue in Babylon. During the school year cars speed down the 20-mph school zone through the green crosswalks. I've been to the Village of Babylon mayor's office and was told the police would be notified to get more patrols on Carll, but there have been no visible increases of patrols. Please help before someone gets hurt.
-- Phil Colucci, North Babylon
Keep an eye out for increased police presence, Mr. Colucci.
Insp. Gerard Gigante, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Department's First Precinct, said he has instructed the Community-Oriented Police Enforcement (COPE) unit to monitor the location and take enforcement action as needed; he also has notified sector cars covering the area to make patrol checks and to take appropriate action.
"Sometimes increased enforcement for a period of time will go a long way toward reminding drivers of traffic control devices that are in place," Gigante wrote in an email.
In the past five years, 104 summonses were issued on the nearly mile-long Carll Avenue, he said. Most were for speeding, he said, but included such violations as improper passing and failure to yield right of way.
We asked if it would be possible to station a crossing guard near the nursery school but Gigante said the location does not meet the criteria for the volume of unattended child crossings in a given time frame. Nursery school children "are not -- and should not -- ever be dropped off and left to their own devices to cross any street," he said.
The nursery school's parents usually walk the children into the building from a parking lot, he said. At nearby Babylon High School, teens have "ample crossing opportunities" at staffed crosswalks near the school, he said.
The precinct's records indicated no previous complaints about speeding or crossing on Carll Avenue, Gigante said.
First Precinct residents with enforcement concerns can call the bureau at 631-854-8100.
-- MICHAEL R. EBERT