State must OK Valley Stream streetlight

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Scott Cleary of Commander Electric installs a new Scott Cleary of Commander Electric installs a new LED street on Indian Head Road in Smithtown. (Undated file photo) Photo Credit: John Dunn

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Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column

Sometimes a phone call is all it takes to fix a streetlight, as we reported last month about a dark stretch of Northern Boulevard. Other times, the call is just the first step.

Recently Watchdog learned of two more communities with major roadways in the dark. A call led to the relighting of one, Old Country Road in Westbury. But restoring light to the second, Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, will wind up taking much more.

It's not that Valley Stream doesn't repair lights. The village takes pride in doing so within 24 hours of being notified, said Mayor Edwin Fare.

But because Sunrise is a state road and the repair is major -- new wiring and light poles -- state approval is necessary. The village submitted the plan to the state in 2006.

"This is bureaucratic red tape at its thickest and longest," Village Clerk Bob Barra, a former assemblyman, said last week.

The darkness is acute near Green Acres Mall, leaving the impression that more lights are out than on. "It's just overwhelming how many are missing," Chris Csuti told Watchdog. From his commute on the train, which runs along the road, Csuti said he could identify 37 spots where lights should be shining but aren't.

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Csuti echoed a common refrain: Who's responsible for streetlights?

The answer dates to the 1980s, Fare said, when the village got a letter from LILCO, LIPA's predecessor, saying the utility was handing street lighting over to local governments.

"And for a while the lights worked because wiring underneath was OK," he said, but over time both wiring and poles have rotted. The village hasn't been allowed to rewire the existing structures in the interim, he said.

Fare said he is hopeful that, after cycles of "notes and critiques" from the state, approval is near. It could be as close as a matter of weeks, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Eileen Peters said last week. Once the state receives one more round of revisions to accommodate safety improvements planned for ramps at Hicks Street and South Central Avenue, final approval should take about eight more weeks, she said.

In Westbury, most of the lights along Old Country Road -- the strip that includes The Mall at the Source -- were shining again last week. Resident Arlene Blum got the process started when she told Watchdog that, starting near Holy Rood Cemetery and continuing west to Carle Place, "the lights are there, they just don't work." She cited the potential hazard not only to drivers but to pedestrians and bicyclists.

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Municipal boundaries being what they are, those lights fell into three jurisdictions. On the south side of the road, which belongs to Hempstead Town, 30 of 65 streetlights were found to be out, town spokesman Michael Deery said last week. Several involved damage to a "riser," a conduit leading down from nearby overhead electric lines, he said. By Thursday, all but three lights had been repaired, he said, and the town and LIPA were trying to address the problem with those.

On the north side, 12 streetlights were dark, Westbury Village Clerk Ted Blach said, 10 of which belong to the village and two to North Hempstead. Seven of the village's have been repaired, Blach said last week, and a subcontractor was inspecting the other three. The remaining two lights are within North Hempstead, where spokesman Collin Nash said they are on track for repair.

-- JUDY CARTWRIGHT

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The Town of Islip has been ticketing commuters parked on a dirt patch at the Ronkonkoma train station. I recently began commuting daily and already have been ticketed twice. Vehicles have always been parked in this area, due to the scarcity of parking. If the town is going to hand out tickets, can't they place No Parking signs there?

-- Robert Miller, Farmingville

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A visit to the train station confirms Miller's description: There aren't any No Parking signs posted at or near the dirt patch, under the south tree line, where he received two $75 parking tickets in the fall.

But signs at the lot's entrances tell drivers to "park in marked stalls." And, according to town officials, those signs are adequate.

"Those signs do suffice," said Greg Byrne, the town's commissioner of public safety. "They are located at each entrance."

The town has no plans to install No Parking signs at the dirt patch or other locations inside the parking lot, Byrne said, because doing so would open up the possibility of "having to post signs everywhere." Drivers also would be tempted to park in a particular nook or area that didn't have a sign telling them not to, he said.

In short, he said, the current signage is the best: If it's not a marked stall, don't park there.

Residents concerned about town-issued parking tickets can contact the town's traffic violations bureau at 631-224-5372.

-- MICHAEL R. EBERT

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