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Lower speed limit proposed in Elmont after accidents

Gabrielle White was injured in an accident 17

Gabrielle White was injured in an accident 17 years ago on Dutch Broadway in Elmont. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Gabrielle White said a speeding driver on Dutch Broadway nearly cost her her life and ended a career as a rising high school track star 17 years ago.

It was the same street where four Elmont High School students were seriously injured by a driver that careened on the sidewalk and crashed on Halloween near the school.

Town and state officials are now moving to lower the speed limit on the main thoroughfare, which runs along the junior-senior high school and Dutch Broadway Elementary School.

“You have to wonder what took so long,” White, now 33, said, as officials gathered Friday to announce the proposed speed limit change. “Looking back, I can’t believe I’m here today.”

Hempstead Town officials will vote Tuesday to lower the speed limit from 30 mph by extending the 20 mph school zone on Dutch Broadway for an additional 1,500 feet between Elmont Road and Astor Street.

The resolution by the town board would have to be approved by the state Department of Transportation before it can be enacted. Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) said she would seek to get it expedited by the state.

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen said the road sees an average of 25,000 cars daily in a stretch that includes two schools, six places of worship, two parks, a bowling alley and a youth center.

“Everyone in this community knows that Dutch Broadway is a dangerous street prone to accidents,” Gillen said.

The most recent crash on Halloween was triggered by a four-vehicle collision  when one of the cars drove onto the sidewalk and struck four teens who were on the corner near the high school, waiting to walk home.

Sidney Garcon’s 16-year-old daughter, Sidney was struck by the vehicle and has undergone multiple surgeries while she continues rehabilitation and attends school intermittently. He said, “Her face was shattered,” and she suffered multiple skull fractures, but is also still haunted by the psychological trauma.

“This is an experience I don’t want any other parent to have to go through,” Garcon said in an interview after the news conference. “Sidney has a long road ahead, and every day is another day.” 

The 2002 crash that left White temporarily paralyzed when she was 16 sent her car hurtling into the flagpole of Dutch Elementary. She said she was in the intensive care unit for days after open heart surgery and having both lungs punctured. She said she had to relearn to walk and talk and couldn’t see her mom when she needed her most.

“It hurts because I’ve been there. When you’re so young, it pains me because you know how badly you want your family and you want your life back. You don’t want to be the poster child for overcoming this. You just want to play and do kid stuff.”

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