Pastor leads effort to make road safer
The Rev. Msgr. Michael Flynn's experiences trying to walk across busy Conklin Street in front of Farmingdale's St. Kilian Roman Catholic Church, where he is pastor, have turned into a successful push for roadway safety changes.
Fearing that thousands of parishioners and students at two adjacent schools also regularly faced the danger, Flynn in 2006 wrote the first of several letters to local and state officials appealing for a traffic solution on the two-lane extension of Hempstead Turnpike.
"History has shown that this is a dangerous section of Route 24 at the best of times," he wrote to state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) in October 2006. Other letters followed to other lawmakers.
Last summer, crossing beacons were installed on Conklin at Elizabeth and Cherry streets, where people regularly walk between the church and a parking lot.
"It was Father Flynn who spearheaded it. He's tenacious," said Farmingdale Mayor George Starkie.
The devices, two for westbound traffic and two for eastbound traffic on Conklin, are pedestrian-activated and shine strobing LED lights to warn drivers that people are in the crosswalks.
Conklin, which narrows to two lanes with a middle turn lane in front of St. Kilian, is at the far east end of a deadly 16-mile stretch of Hempstead Turnpike in Nassau County.
No traffic deaths have recently been recorded on the block, but Flynn and Starkie said close calls are dangerous enough to warrant action.
"It's not just a church and school crossing; it's a village crossing," Flynn said.
In correspondence over more than four years, Flynn, Fuschillo, Assemb. James Conte (R-Huntington Station), state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and others discuss solutions, including "yield for pedestrian in crosswalk" notices.
The letters -- obtained from the state Department of Transportation through the Freedom of Information Law -- helped initiate state transportation department investigations that showed pedestrian warning signs on the block needed replacing.
Hannon, Starkie, Nassau County Legis. Joseph Belesi (R-Farmingdale) and Subi Chakraborti, regional director of the state Transportation Department, met with Flynn in October 2010 to witness the Conklin dangers firsthand.
"They could see the traffic at the speed," Hannon said of transportation department representatives. "I basically said, 'What can you do?' "
They decided beacons should supplement new signs.
"He [Flynn] was able to articulate the problem, call on the right people to come look," Hannon said.
Flynn, who said he was nearly struck by a car that came barreling into the middle turn lane in an effort to pass another car, wants the stretch of road to get more warning signs.
The crossing beacons have slowed some but not all traffic, Starkie said. "People still blow through it," he said.