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Guardrails taken down after neighbor complaints

Two highway guardrails, seen on Branch Drive in

Two highway guardrails, seen on Branch Drive in the Village of the Branch on Sunday. Photo Credit: James Carbone

Two widely derided guardrails in Village of the Branch were removed Monday morning, the acting commissioner of Suffolk County's Department of Public Works said. 

The roughly 100-foot guardrails were installed in August on Branch Drive, part of a $1.8 million project to stem chronic flooding in a section of the village that is near a Nissequogue Village tributary. Suffolk County is overseeing the project for the village, which does not have its own department of public works.

Residents called the highway-style barriers sturdy but ugly and out of place: “obtrusive and inappropriate,” read the subject line on an email that Michelle Stiles sent to a reporter and to Suffolk County Legis. Leslie Kennedy, who represents the area. “It looks like the Northern State Parkway,” said Greg Owsenek at a village board meeting.

Stiles also worried that the guardrails’ placement next to the roadway would not protect neighborhood children and other pedestrians from a five-foot fall into the culverts. 

"The guardrails were removed this morning in-house by Highway Maintenance," acting commissioner Darnell Tyson said in a statement emailed by a county spokeswoman Monday. In comments the spokeswoman emailed in late August, Tyson said that New York State “Highway Design Manual regulations required the installation of guardrails.”

In a statement the spokeswoman emailed last week, Tyson said that “after further review of the installed guardrail, Suffolk County DPW determined the guardrail could be removed and be replaced with a handrail.”

The guardrail cost approximately $31,000. There is no additional cost for removal, and the material will be used at other locations “as needed,” Tyson said.

Tyson did not agree to an interview. 

Stiles, who said in an interview last week that a guardrail still extended about 18 feet across her family’s front lawn, said that “we’re excited to hear the news that DPW decided the guardrails are unnecessary for a residential neighborhood.”

“I hope we would be able to see what kind of rail they’re putting in and the length of it and what it’s made of so we don’t run into the same problem,” she added.

Delaney and Kennedy, who have served as conduits for resident complaints about the guardrails and the project overall, were guardedly optimistic in their comments.  

“DPW has a list of issues that need to be cleared up and they are working with the village engineer,” Kennedy said in an interview.  

The drainage project is scheduled to finish in early October.

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