Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
I am writing to you regarding a dangerous four-way stop at Bellmore Avenue and East Farmingdale Street in Islip Terrace. The stop signs have become "stoptional" in the eyes of local drivers who travel through the intersection with no hesitation or attempt to stop. I have contacted the Suffolk County Police Department's Third Precinct, as has my father. We both received a short standard response but have not seen any increased police patrols. We are lucky there hasn't been an accident. If we wait any longer, I fear it may be too late.
-- Zach deVries, Islip Terrace
Police agree there is a problem at the intersection and say they stepped up patrols there after receiving your correspondence. And they say they will maintain the increased presence until more drivers heed the stop signs.
Insp. Robert Brown, the Third Precinct's commanding officer, told us the intersection was added to the precinct's patrol check system a few months ago, after deVries' inquiry. In February and March, officers visited the location more than two dozen times and handed out 16 summonses, he said.
"There's definitely cause for concern," Brown said. "We will continue to address it until we see some improvement there."
The 16 tickets issued during the two months represent a definite uptick in enforcement. In the past four years, police issued a total of 67 tickets for all traffic violations on the two roads, not just for ignoring stop signs: 17 in 2009, 7 in 2010, 21 in 2011, and 22 in 2012.
Late last month, police also stationed a speed display trailer near the intersection, Brown said, but it malfunctioned almost immediately. The precinct plans to repair the device and return it to the area as soon as possible.
Brown said the intersection has a high volume of traffic from southbound drivers using Bellmore Avenue on their way to Sunrise Highway as well as drivers traveling to and from East Islip middle and high schools, which are at the west end of East Farmingdale Street.
Third precinct residents with similar traffic safety concerns should call 631-854-8300.
-- MICHAEL R. EBERT
Lessons from a late fee
Kathleen Zielazny opened her mail one day last month to find a notice saying she owed a $25 late fee on a traffic ticket -- a ticket she had never received.
The notice said she hadn't paid a $50 fine for a right-light camera violation plus the $30 "unsafe driving fee" that Nassau County tacks on.
"They added $25 saying I never responded to the first ticket. I never got a first ticket," Zielazny said.
When she inquired, a staffer told her a red-light camera video showed her car in a traffic violation Dec. 17 at Northern Boulevard and Glen Cove Road and that records indicated the notice of violation was mailed Jan. 23. The staffer "looked at the video and said, 'Your wheels are in the crosswalk' after the light changed to red," Zielazny said.
"Yep, that was me going through that light," she said, and was told an appeal of the late fee she would require a visit to traffic court in Hempstead.
So she sent in a check for the $105 total -- "Who's going to take a day off to go to court to contest $25?" -- but had second thoughts. "My mail doesn't get lost," she said. When she called the county again she was told she could have appealed the late fee simply by sending a letter.
That's when she contacted Watchdog. When we called the county, we learned that appealing by letter is not an option.
Nassau's coordinator of traffic safety, Christopher Mistron, told us that a late fee can be appealed only at the county's Traffic and Parking Violations Agency. "This must be done in person and cannot be done by mail." The agency, aka traffic court, is at 16 Cooper St. in Hempstead.
So drivers, if you receive notice of a late fee for a violation you're not aware of, be ready to take the time to show up in court -- or fork over the $25.
-- JUDY CARTWRIGHT
Mill Neck hedges cut back
The hedges along West Shore Road in Mill Neck, which had obstructed the road's shoulder, have been cut back along much of the two-lane roadway. Nassau Department of Public Works spokesman Michael Martino said last week that the hedges have been cut to the property line along 2,300 feet of roadway north of Cleft Road and 500 feet to the south. Hedges south of that point appear to have been trimmed, though not as severely.
"It's not done as far as I'm concerned," Michael Vitti, president of Long Island Greenways and Healthy Trails and Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists, said last week. The road has been a popular bike route for decades.
We'll find out how clear the road's shoulder is when the road reopens this summer, once reconstruction of the northern section and seawall is complete.
-- JUDY CARTWRIGHT