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Massapequa sump in need of cleanup

The tree on the left, behind the stockade

The tree on the left, behind the stockade fence, is part of the vegetation that William Appel would like Nassau County to clear from the perimeter of the sump that's behind his Massapequa backyard. (July 5, 2012) Credit: Newsday Judy Cartwright

Must be the season of the sump:

Long Islanders have been asking Watchdog for help with neighborhood sumps, the recharge basins that collect storm runoff. The complaint: Many sumps have been ignored.

"I am writing to you as a last resort," wrote William J. Appel of Massapequa. "The county sump behind my house is in desperate need of clearing."

Until two years ago, he said, the county would clear the growth around the sump, which abuts the neighborhood's backyards, each year, usually in late April or early May. But "they haven't come in two years now and some of the plants and trees are at least 8 feet tall" and growing over fences into yards, he wrote. He wants the surrounding growth, on a stretch about 3 to 4 feet wide, to be contained so it doesn't encroach over backyard fences.

Watchdog was curious if the county's almost 1,000 sumps were a victim of budget constraints. The spokesman for the county Department of Public Works, Michael Martino, said that's not the case. "We are operating on the same schedule," he said.

So it's not clear why the sump in question, near Sunrise Mall, hasn't undergone the annual cleanup that neighbors had come to expect. Martino offered this statement: "The DPW maintains county sumps on a daily basis throughout the year. This time of year with rains and humidity the sump areas become overgrown faster than the county workforce can maintain."

During a recent Watchdog visit, Appel said he had cut back some of the flora that had reached over his 6-foot stockade fence. Some plants across the fence that he said hadn't reached the top of the structure last year were several feet taller. And he fears that if growth isn't kept in check, the roots will extend under the fencing, foiling years of labor spent turning the backyard into an oasis.

Appel said he's willing to do the work himself next year, before spring growth emerges. The chore would be a challenge, as the sump is surrounded by a fence topped with rusted barbed wire.

We're hoping his effort won't be necessary. Martino said the DPW's highway department "will respond as possible" to reports of such overgrowth.

In the Town of Brookhaven, a similar query led to a cleanup of a town sump in Setauket that borders the yard of Jim Simpson.

A town employee said the highway department plans to cut back surrounding trees and scrape out the basin, a job that isn't done often but can help drainage in old sumps. Simpson called Watchdog last week to say the work had begun.

The town does remove garbage and debris that winds up in sumps, the employee said, and cuts back growth on the perimeter in response to residents' requests.




Speeding on Old Dock Road


Old Dock Road, take two:

In February, we featured Kings Park resident Patricia Magnan's concerns about speeding on Old Dock Road, which she called "especially horrific in summer." The road leads to a town beach and boat launch.

At the time, Suffolk County police's Fourth Precinct told us that it would boost patrols in the spring and summer as well as deploy a digital speed machine to alert drivers going faster than they should; the road has a 30-mph speed limit.

But Magnan wasn't satisfied. She called us again to propose adding speed-limit signs to Old Dock Road north of Sunken Meadow Road, the roughly 2,000-foot stretch that leads to Smithtown Bay. The section of road didn't have a single speed-limit sign, Magnan said.

So we contacted the Town of Smithtown, which then opened a case review to determine if new signs were warranted. Today, new signs are in place.

"We went out there, surveyed it, and had the work completed by June 5," town traffic engineer Tony Cannone said. "The work was an additional couple of speed-limit signs and we also replaced a couple of other signs in need of repair."

Cannone added: "As of this date, we have the adequate number of speed-limit signs on Old Dock Road in the area where they were requested."

Town of Smithtown residents with traffic safety concerns involving town roads can contact the town's traffic safety department at 631-360-7635.


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