Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
This has been a banner season for drainage sumps: With lots of rain, and little mowing, many are encased by hip-high weeds. By mid-July, some hadn't been mowed even once.
And with apologies to everyone who asked us for help getting their neighborhood sumps mowed or otherwise maintained, here's a look at two that came to our attention because of very different complaints.
The first, in a Jericho neighborhood, appeared junglelike in photos Samuel Herzog sent.
Herzog and his wife, Arline, have lived in the neighborhood since 1973 and told us that for years, actually decades, the sump was mowed at regular intervals. "It's gotten worse in the past four or five years," Arline Herzog said and recalled only one mowing last year.
This sump is sizable, its unruly border extending more than 500 feet along Rockland Drive.
Herzog began making phone calls in the spring, starting with Oyster Bay Town, but learned from Town Hall that the sump belongs to Nassau County.
In early July, weeds reaching ever higher, he contacted Watchdog. We paid a visit, walked along the edge of the overgrowth and did our best to avoid the poison ivy along the sump's perimeter.
And we asked just how often the county's sumps are getting mowed. Such maintenance is ongoing "on a rotating schedule," the county told us, without specifying frequency.
Here's the statement from Nassau's Department of Public Works:
"In the past two years, sump maintenance has presented a larger challenge due to damage caused by both Hurricane Irene and Sandy. The extremely wet early growing seasons followed by extreme heat have caused the areas to become overgrown quickly.
"Nassau County maintains more than 560 sumps in Nassau County. Sumps are maintained by County employees on a rotating schedule. Nassau County has dispatched additional crews of both full-time and seasonal employees this year to assist in both sump and road maintenance," a reference to mowing along roadways.
The Herzogs report that the sump on Rockland was mowed a few days after our visit.
We asked the county if it has tried to enlist volunteer or civic organizations to help keep the sump jungles tamed. We'll let you know what we hear.
CLOSING OFF SUMP ACCESS
In Centereach, a round of maintenance was done, but it left a sump looking even less neighborly.
The sump had been enclosed by a green buffer; admittedly, many of the trees were akin to very tall weeds. Most of the vegetation was cut down and hauled out a few weeks ago when a bulldozer cleared the site, leaving the drainage basin exposed.
Michael Gallagher said Brookhaven Town had not notified the Noel Drive neighborhood about the work. And he was a bit exasperated because the clearing exposed flaws that would allow access to the sump: A section of barbed wire atop the fence was missing and erosion had left a gap under the locked gate.
Gallagher, a former resident of the street who still has family there, called Town Hall and the town's Highway Department in search of an explanation and repairs. When he got no response, he contacted Watchdog.
The Highway Department told us that tree removal was necessary so crews can get into the sump for maintenance. The town was acting on a complaint about the state of the sump, spokesman Frank Petrignani said.
The department has since replaced the missing barbed wire and built up the soil beneath the gate, he said. Those repairs effectively shut off access to anyone tempted to use the sump as a back alley.
"The main thing is, now no one is gonna be jumping over" or crawling under the fence, Gallagher said.
NEW SIGN TOWARD HOSPITAL
Chances of getting to North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset have improved: A new blue hospital direction sign is in place on the north service road of the Long Island Expressway at Community Drive.
That's the intersection where drivers headed for the hospital need to make a right turn. But Great Neck resident Robert J. Ost told us earlier this month that such signs were nowhere to be seen, either at the intersection or along the service road segment that starts at New Hyde Park Road, a stretch of about seven-tenths of a mile.
Ost said friends who were relying on hospital signs for direction had missed the turn.
We asked the state Department of Transportation about the lack of direction, but they told us Nassau County has jurisdiction there. A few days after we called the county, a new sign was in place.
Of course, drivers who know the hospital's address, 300 Community Dr., could simply turn when they see a sign for that road. Except there wasn't one — at least, not one that we could see.