Lines of cars stretched past the quaint shops along
Plandome Road, waiting to turn onto Bayview Avenue at one of Manhasset's
busiest intersections. Gingerly, Toni Malafronte stepped into the crosswalk,
heading toward Starbucks. Miraculously, a car stopped and let her cross.
In the three months since a local grassroots organization, Coalition for a
Safer Manhasset, launched a "Community Courtesy Campaign," some residents and
businesses have felt a definite change in the air.
"It's a good thing they started," said Malafronte, a homemaker and
eight-year resident of Manhasset. "The community is close-knit and everyone is
really nice. This makes a difference."
Some of the most prevalent problems along the tony suburb's main shopping
street include: drivers not allowing pedestrians the right of way, drivers
talking on their cell phones, drivers cutting off other drivers and shoppers
not holding doors open for other people.
"Some people hear about the courtesy campaign and say, 'Whatever,'" said
Sue Auriemma, one of the campaign's four co-directors. "We didn't think that
this campaign would be a magic fix, but it definitely has raised education and
One of the main reasons the campaign developed was because of reckless
driving on Plandome Road, Auriemma said. The mother of co-director Seval
LaRocca suffered severe injuries when she was hit by a minivan while pushing
her granddaughter's stroller across the street in 1998. Another co-chair, Elise
Ledda, was hit by a car in 2004. And Nassau County police officer Peter
Chuchul was clipped by a car in April, Auriemma said.
After her mother's accident, LaRocca began lobbying the Town of North
Hempstead to add more crosswalks, widen sidewalks and increase police
surveillance on the road. Eventually, she formed the Coalition for a Safer
Manhasset with Auriemma, Ledda and Katie Miller.
Subsequently, the women started thinking about basic courtesies they
believed had disappeared in Manhasset. They tried to raise awareness by posting
banners and fliers, placing brochures in churches and synagogues, and reaching
out to the police, town administrators and religious figures. The group, which
has about 20 members, solicited and received donations from local business and
civic organizations and conducted a raffle to help fund the campaign.
The efforts have paid off in many ways. Since the advent of the courtesy
campaign, the police have become more aware of the problems and increased their
presence on Plandome Road, said Officer Robert Browne of Nassau's Sixth
Precinct Problem Oriented Policing unit.
The community has reacted positively, said Browne, who also has spoken to
students in the middle school about the issues.
"I let them know that this is your community, and you need to give people
courtesy," Browne said. "But if being nice isn't enough, we are going to be
sitting behind the stop sign with a radar gun."
Jon Kaiman, the North Hempstead town supervisor, said police have been more
active in issuing tickets, and people seem more aware, but the longer-term
issue is the root of the problem in the Plandome corridor: traffic.
The town of North Hempstead has been devising a plan for Plandome Road. A
traffic consultant recently completed a study, Auriemma said.
Kaiman said the coalition's concerns will influence the town's
Still, some residents are not sure whether any of these measures can help
Manhasset become more courteous.
"Manhasset, for the longest time, was like a bubble of graciousness and
courtesy," said flower shop owner Lillian Lindergern, 64, a resident since
"But for whatever reason, the bubble burst, and all of the sudden there are
fingers flying out of car windows, horns are honking constantly, U-turns are
the norm, grandmas are cursing out of windows," Lindergern said, referring to
an 85-year-old woman who yelled at her.
"People are really rude on Plandome street," said Mary Ellen Gately, a
lifelong resident and co-owner of the gift store Little Shop 'round the corner.
"I had two wreaths stolen off our door last Easter. That has never happened
before in 10 years of business."
However, Gately said she's glad people are starting to think about the
Kathy Spagna, a lifelong resident and co-owner of Orlando's Deli, which
sits on a busy stretch of the famed road, said she has seen definite changes in
residents' attitudes since the courtesy campaign started.
"People seem to be more courteous," Spagna said. "No one is double-parking
anymore. Things seem to be moving along faster than they were before."
The Coalition for a Safer Manhasset plans to continue working to make the
area a safer and more courteous place, Auriemma said.
"It's a long uphill battle to change the attitude of the residents," she