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Oyster Bay board restores truck limits on South Oyster Bay Road

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Oyster Bay Town Board members on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, unanimously voted to ban large trucks on South Oyster Bay Road. The 6-0 vote reversed a December 2014 state designation of a 4-mile stretch of road south of the Long Island Expressway as a "truck access highway." (Credit: Newsday / Jessica Rotkiewicz)

The Oyster Bay Town Board Tuesday night unanimously voted to ban large trucks on South Oyster Bay Road, putting it in conflict with the state and federal governments.

Board members reversed a December 2014 state Department of Transportation designation of a 4-mile stretch of the road south of the Long Island Expressway as a "truck access highway."

But officials with the state and the Federal Highway Administration have said only the state can de-designate the road and only if there is a proven history of truck-related accidents and other safety problems.

Town Supervisor John Venditto said Tuesday night town attorneys concluded the town has the power to reinstate the pre-December restrictions limiting trucks on the road to 48 feet in length, 10,000 pounds in weight and 13 feet in height.

Residents who live along and near the road said that since the trucks started rumbling down South Oyster Bay Road, the area is choked with diesel fumes, driving has become more treacherous and their once-peaceful neighborhood is now punctuated with loud truck traffic.

Edward Bond, 62, who lives four houses down from the road, said the trucks regularly wake him up throughout the night.

"These things are like railroad cars at night," he said.

Geraldine Geannikis-Hoffman, 68, who lives one house in, said she can no longer sit outside reading or work in her vegetable garden because of the noise. The trucks are reducing property values, she said.

"It's unfair for the people who have lived in the area for as long as I have to have to deal with it," said Geannikis-Hoffman, who has lived in her home 38 years.

Cheers erupted when the board voted 6-0 -- with Councilwoman Michele Johnson absent -- to reinstate the ban. The vote followed morning and evening public hearings that together lasted nearly 3 1/2 hours.

Bob and Carol Pollack each said after the meeting they were "thrilled" with the decision. The Syosset couple said their asthmatic son has to close his window to avoid breathing problems because of the fumes, and they worry about driving with trucks that block their vision and have a harder time stopping, especially on ice and snow.

Robert Lengwenus, 70, of Hicksville, was one of the few people who spoke in favor of allowing trucks on the road. He said during the morning hearing that the road has relatively few traffic lights, offers easy access to shopping areas and the Long Island Expressway and offers good visibility. He questioned why nearby Route 106/107, which has long been a truck route, should take most of the area's truck traffic.

"South Oyster Bay Road could handle the additional traffic," he said. "Those residents along South Oyster Bay Road should share the responsibility and assume the extra traffic. Why is it always put on 107?"

Attorney Jeff Forchelli, an attorney for the Bethpage Business Park, which includes light industrial sites and offices, told the board that "if the new law is passed, how will trucks get to Bethpage?"

Businesses at the park need access for the big rigs, and the ban would hurt Oyster Bay's economy, Forchelli said.

But Councilman Joe Pinto said the resolution merely reinstates the status quo that existed less than a year ago.

Matthew Rozea, an assistant town attorney, said the law does not ban trucks from using local streets -- including South Oyster Bay Road and side streets -- to make deliveries to businesses and residents.

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