Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
Stop signs are just about everywhere in Jennifer Garcia's West Babylon neighborhood -- except on the corner closest to her house.
"Our block is beautiful, lined with homes and filled with young children who love to play together in our little neighborhood," Garcia wrote. Then she got serious:
"Backing out of our driveways, walking down the street or simply crossing the street has become extremely dangerous as there is no stop sign at our block, leaving cars free to fly through at 40-plus miles per hour."
Garcia forwarded us a copy of her letter to Babylon Town's Traffic Safety Committee. Her block on Silver Street, about a quarter-mile long, is one of the longer residential blocks in the area. As such, it offers drivers the opportunity to reach speeds higher than the 30-mph limit.
For several years the neighborhood has been asking for stop signs at the corner near her house, where Silver Street meets Hampton Road. Babylon Town spokesman Kevin Bonner told us the town had denied the earlier requests because traffic conditions at the location "did not warrant a stop sign." A federal manual sets standards that govern installation of traffic signs and signals.
Safety concerns have grown as traffic has increased: Silver Street appears to have become a popular cut-through from Belmont Avenue to Little East Neck Road, in part because a section of parallel Baur Street is designated one-way. Garcia said she believes traffic to and from nearby Belmont Elementary School is relying on Silver Street instead of Baur.
Late this summer, those drivers should be ready to stop. The neighbors' efforts have at last paid off.
In response to Garcia's latest requests -- she submitted five letters over a period of several months, the most recent early last month -- the town undertook a new traffic study. The results indicate traffic volume is now sufficient to warrant stop signs.
Accordingly, the town's Traffic Safety Division has recommended stop signs on the corners at Hampton Road, Bonner said. The matter will be scheduled for a public hearing and then a Town Board vote, he said, and the signs could arrive by early August.
Evidence supporting neighbors' concerns was evident on the day we visited: They gathered in a front yard and started counting the number of young children living near the corner -- and stopped when they reached 25. Parents said they don't let children play in front yards to limit the chances they'll run into the street after a ball.
When we arrived, children and grown-ups were clustered near an ice cream truck parked near the corner. A stop sign extended from the side of the truck, as required by a Babylon Town law, and some passing vehicles slowed. But only some.
As one car approached, a neighbor held out a radar gun. It registered 40 mph.
April showers may bring flowers, but they also prompt calls about storm drains. Here's one:
"On my block, there is a storm drain that never drains," Tom Phelan told us about Fulton Boulevard in Commack. "When it rains heavy, like it is today, it'll fill up and spread across the street like a big lake -- and stay there for a week and a half."
The problem isn't new. Phelan said he has reported it to various Smithtown offices in the 16 years he's lived on Fulton. On occasion, he's been told that the equipment necessary to clean out the drain was broken. (In the we-can't-make-this-up department: That device is called a super sucker.)
The highway department told us that a work ticket had been issued in response to a call received Feb. 25, and a crew was dispatched with the super sucker March 10.
But whatever happened in March didn't seem to help during storms in April and May, when water in the street stood several inches deep.
Last week, Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgenson told us the problem has been identified and efforts have begun to repair it. An underground section of storm sewer needs to be replaced, he said.
That will entail installing a new concrete drainage ring. Before the work can begin, a "utility markout" is necessary to identify the location of underground gas and electric equipment.
Installation is expected to be completed this construction season, Jorgensen said, which would address one of Phelan's concerns: In winter, the standing water freezes over and drivers skid right through the nearest stop sign.