Tamar Sherman contacted the Community Watchdog because for more than...

Tamar Sherman contacted the Community Watchdog because for more than 10 years, she has been trying to get the Village of Northport to fix the dangerous curb cuts at the intersection of Woodbine Avenue and Main St. and other curb cuts in the village. Credit: Newsday/Gwen Young

We've said it before: Government moves s-l-o-w-l-y. But sometimes, it seems like it doesn't move at all.

This may not be a textbook example of why some intergovernmental projects take so long, but it does illustrate how not keeping close tabs on things can really hold up progress.

It's been nearly two years since Tamar Sherman asked us for help to fix a problem that she'd been trying to resolve herself for at least a decade. But despite a $70,000 federal grant to pay for the fixes, nothing's been done.

Sherman lives in the scenic Village of Northport and, since being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis some years back, she has had to rely on a wheelchair for mobility and independence. What she found was that at the busy downtown intersection of Woodbine/Bayview Avenue and Main Street, sidewalk curb cuts are too steep. "They're at such a sharp angle that, if I tried to navigate them, my wheelchair would tip backwards and fall over," she said two years ago.

We talked with Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin who told us, "This person and many other people have waited too long, and we'd like to get this off the ground as quickly as we can."

So much for speed.

Last month, Sherman emailed us: "Remember my issue with curb cuts in Northport? Well, they have not been corrected!"

Tobin did keep her apprised of obstacles that were holding up the project. "Henry promised me in early spring that the work should be completed in time for summer concerts" in the park, she said.

This is the second summer that's passed since Sherman contacted us. We reached out multiple times to Mayor George Doll for comment. Finally, after more than a week, we received an email signed "Mayor Doll" via the village clerk. It stated in part, "Please understand that fixing these handicapped ramps is very important to the Village. The good news is that the Village has received a grant from the state, to do the work, the bad new is because it is a grant we were require to have our engineers draw plans, have those plans approved by resolution of the Village Board. Then the plans went back to the engineer to be submitted to the New York State Department of Transpiration (DOT) for approval. That is where we are now. The Village is waiting for DOT approval before we can begin the work."

So we contacted DOT spokeswoman Eileen Peters to see where the plans were in the approval process. Basically, Peters' reply was, what plans?

"NYSDOT would be pleased to review the Village of Northport's design plans for curb cuts as soon as they are received," she emailed on Sept. 2. "This would help bring to fruition the $70,000 in federal funding that was earmarked in 2005 for the Village to provide pedestrian improvements. NYSDOT notified the Village of Northport in early 2006 that the federal funding was available and the project should be progressed. After the Village responded to NYSDOT's notification, a project kickoff meeting was conducted by NYSDOT on January 21, 2010, and was attended by the Village Superintendent of Public Works and their project consultant. The federal process and requirements for progressing a local project were discussed. It was NYSDOT's understanding that the Village planned to do preliminary design work utilizing local funds, and would use the $70,000 federal funds for the final design and construction phase of the pedestrian project."

Peters also stated that the DOT would reach out to the village to help "advance the project."

We called the mayor about the discrepancy. In a voice mail Tuesday, he said, "I'm in receipt of a letter from the Department of Transportation that they have no record of our plans for the handicapped ramps, so I am signing a new set of plans and sending them off today. It's probably because of your inquiry [to the DOT] that we have found that things are not moving."

We called the mayor back to ask why no one from the village contacted the DOT to check on the review after so much time had elapsed. He said officials didn't inquire because, "The DOT takes a long time to do things. We asked the DOT in June 2010 to examine the intersection of Main Street and [Route] 25A to see if they could think of a better way for a traffic signal to work at that intersection. I just got a letter in August -- they just completed the investigation."

In the curb cut case, Doll said, "Something has obviously failed us . . . but the process -- especially when you're dealing with a grant, does take time."

The DOT still has to receive, review and approve the plans and then the work will be assigned to an outside contractor. We're hoping the changes will be take place before next summer, so Sherman can enjoy the concerts. To that end, the mayor said, "This time, I will follow the status of the plan."

Stay tuned.

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