Officials met at deadly crossing hours before fatal crash
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Hours before two teenagers died when the car they were in crashed into a Roslyn Heights backyard, a team of officials had huddled at the nearby intersection to brainstorm about ways to fix the troubled thoroughfare.
Nassau County Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) and North Hempstead Town Clerk Wayne Wink said the deaths Wednesday of the two recent high school graduates have spurred them to step up efforts to improve traffic flow in the area -- and save lives and property.
"We were literally standing at the spot where two teenagers died nine hours later," said Wink, the area's former legislator who signed one of the death certificates on Friday.
"I'm not going to rest until it results in the improvement of the entire area," Jacobs, who represents the area now, said.
Jacobs and Wink had met with North Hempstead town officials and county engineers Tuesday until 4 p.m. to assess a complaint from the owner of a home on Oak Lane -- which abuts Roslyn Road and Locust Lane -- and where other cars have veered onto the property.
"We felt fairly good that it [a change to the crossing] was going to get done," Jacobs recalled thinking after the meeting. "We went from something that was definitely a problem area to a crisis situation that literally caused deaths."
Police said Steven Clancy and his passenger, Javier Gonzalez, both 19 of Mineola, were killed early Wednesday when their 2004 Jetta, headed north on Roslyn Road near Locust Lane, struck a curb and then a tree in the backyard of the home on Oak Lane.
The homeowners, awakened by the 1:15 a.m. crash, called police, authorities and family members said.
Ron Rosen, 58, a veterinarian who lives in the Oak Lane home with his wife and two children, said his wife had just met with the officials.
The couple had already complained that drivers heading north on Roslyn Road become confused when they approach where the county road veers east onto town-run Locust Lane.
Drivers have trouble navigating a triangular piece of county land at the corner, Jacobs said.
As a result, officials and the Rosens said, drivers have repeatedly careened off the road, in one instance totaling a sport utility vehicle in the Rosen driveway, and another, landing inches from their home.
A Port Washington man was arrested in October on DWI charges when his 2012 Honda left the road, struck a tree, fence and the SUV parked in Rosen's driveway, Nassau police said. That coupled with another collision prompted the couple to seek relief from officials.
"They've almost been prisoners inside their own house," Jacobs said of the Rosens.
The "veer-off" lane, Jacobs said, poses an unusual risk to drivers and the community. Those in the right lane on Roslyn Road who hug the curb can accidentally end up in the veer-off lane, miss the stop sign at Locust Lane and drive toward the Rosen house. "They're going literally into a community," she said.
Jacobs has proposed removing the veer-off lane, creating a right-turn lane, and installing a guardrail around part of the Rosen property. She has asked the county to install a traffic light at Roslyn Road and Locust Lane.
The county plans to update pavement markers and improve signage and will look at permanently installing a sign that flashes drivers' speeds, she said, adding that she has been told a traffic signal investigation could happen for the area.
The deaths, Jacobs and Wink said, prove that at the very least the curve needs to be eased on Roslyn Road.
It is not clear where Clancy and Gonzalez were headed, but friends said Gonzalez had turned 19 on Tuesday.
Both graduated from Mineola High School in June and Gonzalez was enrolled at Nassau Community College and Clancy at Adelphi University, said Principal Edward Escobar. Nearly 400 students, friends and faculty paid tribute during a vigil at the school Thursday, he said. The class of 2013, with about 200 members, "is a tight-knit, small community," Escobar said.
"It's a shock to the system. They were solid kids, hard workers, and very much a part of our school -- everyone knew who they were," he said.