A Nassau County proposal to reduce northbound and southbound lanes from two to one on a section of Grand Avenue in south Baldwin has deeply divided the hamlet.
County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), Baldwin Civic Association president Karen Montalbano, Chamber of Commerce co-president Eric Mahler and about a dozen residents supported the still-tenuous plan at a public meeting Wednesday night.
They extolled enhanced safety and economic benefits from the estimated $7 million project, which is focused on the area between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway and meant to be a part of the downtown mass transit revitalization effort.
“For the first time in years, Baldwin has a real opportunity to transform Grand Avenue into a thriving business corridor,” said Curran, who is working with the county’s Department of Public Works on the plan.
“Do you want to see a safer roadway for you and your children? Do you want to have a main street that encourages new businesses to move in and to actually stay? Then part of the answer is to implement these solutions.”
Vehemently opposing the plan at the two-hour meeting in the local high school was Jack McCloy, a community activist who has been handing out fliers at the hamlet’s LIRR station at least two mornings a week for the past month.
He was joined by Meta Mereday, another activist who champions veterans issues and is a member of the Baldwin Oaks Civic Association; George Verity, owner of a local taxi and a limousine service, and more than half a dozen other residents, some of whom spoke to Newsday before the meeting. They all disputed the enhanced safety and economic benefits, saying the plan would worsen traffic.
“Although the proponents claim that . . . calming traffic — that is slowing it down by causing manufactured traffic congestion — will make Baldwin safer, I challenge that notion and say it will cause Baldwin to be more dangerous,” said McCloy, who is also a member of the Baldwin Civic Association.
Verity disputed Mahler’s suggestion that if “you slow down the traffic, you’ll be able to see what [business] is there.”
“Just not true,” Verity said. “I know traffic around here.”
Under questioning by Mereday, Sean Sallie, the county DPW representative at the meeting, conceded some of the recent paving in the area might be torn out if the new plan goes through. “But the plan is constantly changing,” he said. “That’s why we’re here.”
Montalbano, who made a presentation for the project from the slideshow provided by the county, also said the plan is fluid, “not set in stone.”
Wednesday’s meeting, hosted by the Baldwin Community Coalition, was the third on the issue, with previous sessions hosted by the Baldwin Civic Association and the Chamber of Commerce.
McCloy said he thinks road changes will negatively impact police and firefighter movements. First Precinct Cmdr. Dan Flanagan could not be reached Friday, but Fire Chief Karen Bendel said she and members of her staff plan to meet with the association and others “to get a clearer understanding of what’s involved.”
Diana Mann, who is not a member of the civic association but has lived in Baldwin 45 years, summed up the opposition’s view: “It just doesn’t make sense,” she said.