Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
Let's take this opportunity to tie up a few loose ends from 2012:
The lights are still out in Valley Stream
Sunrise Highway near Green Acres Mall remains in the dark.
That's one unlighted stretch of roadway that has defied efforts to get the lights back on. Many other outages got repaired quickly: Sections of Northern Boulevard were relit in February soon after we notified North Hempstead Town and the villages of Muttontown and Brookville about the darkness. A month later, a section of Old Country Road that crossed three jurisdictions -- Westbury Village (12 lights), Hempstead Town (30) and North Hempstead (two) -- was bright again after a variety of repairs.
But getting the lights back on in Valley Stream requires not only new wiring and light poles but also state approval because Sunrise Highway is a state road; the repairs are part of a project involving other improvements. In March, the state Department of Transportation told us that one more round of revisions was necessary and predicted approval would come in a matter of weeks.
Nine months have passed.
Village Clerk Bob Barra told us the state called recently to say "they're still reviewing it."
The village first submitted a plan to get the lights back on in 2006. "Hopefully sometime between now and the next ice age we'll get approval," he said.
Redrawing the lines
In response to complaints about commuter lots in Hicksville and Syosset, the town asked an expert in ADA regulations to inspect all of the town's parking lots. The town reports that commuter lots in Hicksville, Glen Head and Syosset have been reviewed by a consulting engineer and 8-foot-wide access aisles added to each disabled driver parking space. Commuter lots in Massapequa and Bethpage are under review, said town spokesman Brian Devine, and "if any changes need to be made, we plan to do so accordingly, but that remains to be seen."
In Bayville, an incorporated village in the town, resident Scott Bebry continues to wait for more action to make village offices and meetings accessible. Though a ramp leads to one village hall entrance, it has no landing and no buzzer to call for assistance.
Inside, the restroom cannot accommodate a wheelchair. Village Hall is a former estate horse stable, officials told us in the spring that reconfiguring the structure to make the restroom accessible is not possible.
As for getting into the building: The village said anyone seeking entry should use a cellphone to call inside for assistance. When told of that, an attorney with the state Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities said municipalities with structural obstacles have had years to meet ADA guidelines or develop options, such as moving public meetings to a location that is accessible.
Has anything changed at village hall since then? "Absolutely not," Bebry said recently.
The village did not respond to a voice mail left for Mayor Doug Watson or an email sent to his address.
Thanksgiving came, and Thanksgiving went
That was the target week for removal of a pipe that runs down the middle of streets in a West Babylon neighborhood. The pipe, installed in June, remains, as do concrete barriers that close the streets to traffic.
The pipe provides drainage for underground work on sewer construction nearby, part of the Wyandanch Rising project. Residents were initially told that the pipe and barriers would be in place for a month or two. When October arrived, resident Holly Bailey showed us how difficult it is to maneuver a car past the pipe and barriers and into a driveway.
That's when Babylon Town told us the structures should be gone by Thanksgiving. When we checked in earlier this month, spokesman Tim Ruggeri said that super storm Sandy had delayed the work; he declined to estimate how much longer it's likely to take.
"The town is assisting neighborhood residents getting into and out of their driveways," he said, and encouraged them to call the town's 311 line or 957-TOWN (957-8696) if they need help.
Before the next storm
Here's an update to a column prompted by a Commack resident who asked whether shelters can accommodate the needs of people with disabilities. We asked the American Red Cross, which said shelters aim to meet the needs of all comers and if a specific site can't do so, one suitable for an individual's needs will be found.
When Bruce Blower read that, he told us about a county program that provides shelter for disabled residents. Blower was the founding director of the Suffolk County Office of Handicapped Services.
The county's Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services office oversees the Joint Emergency Evacuation Program, or J.E.E.P. Joel Vetter, coordinator of the office, said residents can register for the program at https://gis.suffolkcountyny.gov/spns, or by phone at the Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, 631-852-4900, or the Office for People with Disabilities, 631-853-8333 (voice) or 631-853-5658 (TTY).
The program uses the county's skilled nursing home in Yaphank as a shelter.
During Sandy, the program provided shelter for 128 county residents with special needs, 26 who needed skilled nursing and six on ventilation.
Vetter encouraged residents who haven't registered to do so rather than wait until a storm is forecast because "it becomes too dangerous for us to move people" when weather is at its worst.
Nassau is considering implementing a J.E.E.P. program and special needs registry, spokeswoman Katie Grilli-Robles said. The county already keeps "voluntary lists of vulnerable populations," she said.
A reader comes to our rescue
"I read your article about a Levittown street . . . It mentioned a stop sign on the curve on Blacksmith Road. . . . I can tell you how it came about."
That was the beginning of a voice mail we received about a Levittown resident's unsuccessful effort to get a stop sign installed on Forge Lane, where cars have failed to negotiate a sharp curve. Another street in the community, Blacksmith Road, has a similar curve but managed to get a stop sign.
So, how did Hempstead Town approve one and not the other? The circumstances on Blacksmith "may have been different," the town told us, and our calls to households near the stop sign didn't find anyone who knew why or when it was installed.
Then we got the voice mail from Joseph Berman. He lives on another street in the neighborhood and remembers when the sign arrived. He even attended the Town Board meeting at which it was approved.
When was that?
Sometime before 1984, he recalled. The time frame was easy to remember because that's the year he retired -- and he remembers stopping in at the town board meeting on his way to work. (He was late.)
Berman had seen a published legal notice about several proposed stop signs and thought the one for Blacksmith Road was strange because stop signs aren't typically used to control traffic at places other than intersections. The Blacksmith location isn't close to a side street, nor is the one on Forge Lane.
Minutes of the meeting -- it was held Aug. 26, 1980 -- indicate that the stop signs were approved by unanimous vote. The minutes, which the town tracked down at our request, don't reflect Berman's presence, though he remembers telling board members that they should put a sign not on the Blacksmith curve but instead two blocks away, at an intersection near an elementary school.
He said board members told him residents had signed a petition for a sign on Blacksmith, and he encouraged us to tell Forge Lane resident Patrick Vaughan to do the same. Vaughan has enlisted neighbors in his campaign, but without success.
Berman bought his house in 1950, a time, he said, when drivers wouldn't hesitate to use his street -- it doesn't have curves -- as a cut-through. Cars would speed past, he said, many on their way to jobs at the Grumman plant in Bethpage.
"Of course, all the people [on the street] . . . got upset that all this fast-moving traffic was coming through and our kids were going to school," he said. In those days, he said, police would set portable stop signs in the middle of the street before and after school.
And today? His street has seven stop signs.
Residents near Suffolk County's West Sayville and Bergen Point courses got our attention in the spring when golf season opened and golf balls once again flew into their neighborhoods. Early this month we revisited the issue with the county to ask whether they've come up with a plan to try to contain errant golf balls or deal with the damage they cause.
The county told us to expect a response by Dec. 21. We're still waiting.