Seaford school, parents seek emergency road, cite safety fears
Seaford Harbor elementary school parents and school administrators -- whose safety concerns were heightened by superstorm Sandy and a recent traffic jam at the building with only one way for vehicles to enter and leave -- have revived their bid for $650,000 to create an emergency access road.
Advocates complained that Bayview Street, the only roadway from the 50-year-old elementary school, is heavily congested during morning student drop-off and afternoon pickup. A new road would alleviate the constant traffic tie-ups and provide an efficient means of evacuation for the school, which has more than 600 students and 100 staff members, advocates said.
"It is a problem that will not go away and has only been made more acute in the post-Sandy discussions," said Seaford school district Superintendent Brian Conboy, adding that floodwaters from Sandy made nearby streets impassable. "I've been working here as a professional for 30 years," he said. "I can never remember a time when it [traffic] wasn't a problem."
The traffic situation was exacerbated three weeks ago, when a truck used during construction on a home across the street from the school got stuck on the road during morning drop-off, school PTA president Deanine Nagengast said. The traffic jam for several blocks prevented buses from getting to the school and angered parents who were trying to drop off their children and nearby residents trying to get to work, she said.
"It raised the question if there was an emergency how would the police, ambulance or fire truck be able to get into the school," said Nagengast, who has 8-year-old twins in the fourth grade.
Principal Donna DeLucia-Troisi said the district has about eight employees outside the school helping to direct traffic and buses. About 400 students use school buses, but 200 others get picked up.
"We have a safety plan if there was ever a need to evacuate the school, but we would have to get the police to assist us to get the buses down here and hope that the parents won't find out so they won't come and clog up the roads," DeLucia-Troisi said.
The school district tried to fund the costs for an emergency access road through a bond referendum in May 2011 for up to $600,000, but it failed because residents felt it was the local municipalities' duty to pay for the road, not the school district's, Conboy said.
The plan called for a 310-foot access road on land owned by Nassau County, after it took ownership of the land in 2003 from the state Department of Transportation in an effort to help complete the project, Conboy said.
The road, designed to be gated on both ends, would almost be a continuation of the school driveway that would lead into Ionia Street/Cedar Street. The gates could be opened in times of heavy traffic and during emergencies, he said.
Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) requested that the county change its 2013 capital budget to include the funds to build the access road. The project should also qualify for federal reimbursement funds, Denenberg said.
County Department of Public Works spokesman Michael Martino said it "is studying the feasibility of building the roadway and obtaining estimates to conduct the work."Phil Franco, president of the Seaford Harbor Civic Association, said a road needs to be built quickly because the school is close to the Cedar Creek Sewage Treatment Plant, which creates the explosive gas methane.
"God forbid there was ever a need for evacuation," said Franco, co-chair of the Cedar Creek Oversight Committee and president of the Coalition of Nassau Civic Associations. "Then we would be naming a road after someone."