"My daughter would've been safer in a car," Sandi Vega told Town Supervisor Kate Murray and a packed room at Tuesday's meeting of the Town of Hempstead Board.
Vega, whose daughter, at the age of 14 while crossing Sunrise Highway in Wantagh on her way to school, spoke up during the public participation portion of the Jan. 25 meeting.
"She was a singer, artist, musician, sister, daughter and most of all, a child," Vega said. "But now she joins the other victims of our roads...she's just considered a statistic."
Vega hopes that by sharing her pain and the knowledge she has since acquired about the dangerous roadways in Long Island, her daughter's death can help save another's life.
"I don't want the same tragedy to happen," she told Murray, who expressed her condolences.
Vega called upon Murray to join other local officials in taking a stance to "make roadways safer going forward and not just for drivers" by adopting a "complete streets" policy.
According to the National Complete Streets Coalition, "instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities."
Vega indicated that she had already presented the idea to Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and he was responsive.
Murray said that she herself has nightmares about her two young nieces crossing Sunrise Highway, which is near their home.
"It scares the living daylights out of me," she said. She pledged to do whatever she and the board could do to work with the state and County, which are responsible for most of the major roadways located in the Town.
"I offer my condolences and the town's full cooperation," Murray said, adding that they would look into areas where town roads intersect with those run by higher levels of government to find steps they can take to make them safer for pedestrians.
"You have 150 percent of my commitment on behalf of all my colleagues," she said.
Ryan Lynch, senior planner of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, also addressed the board in support of the Vega family and the complete streets proposal.
Lynch explained that Sunrise Highway and Hempstead Turnpike are two of the deadliest roads in the region for pedestrians. He also said that some places in Suffolk County have already embraced this policy and invited the Town of Hempstead to be the first in Nassau County.
The Town's endorsement, he explained, would also help "send a message" to politicians in Albany, where a bill his organization supported last year to improve roadway safety has been stalled.
Murray invited Lynch and Vega to arrange a meeting with her and her staff to further review the policy.
Earlier that morning, Murray and the members of the board also voted unanimously to amend Chapter 202 of the Town’s code to include the following rules and regulations to limit parking and change traffic stops.
- In Malverne, parking will be restricted on the south side of Atlas Avenue between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. except Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. This pertains to the area beginning 30 feet west of the west curbline of Hempstead Avenue continuing for a distance of 310 feet. (They repealed two similar provisions - one that had been passed in 1985 and another in 2000 – that used different parameters on this street.)
- Thirty minute parking will be instituted on the north side of Merrick Road in Seaford, starting at a point 30 feet east of the east curbline of Seaford Avenue, and extending 38 feet east.
- Donlon Avenue in West Hempstead will have two-hour parking restrictions on the north side between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. with the exception of Sundays and holidays. This applies to the area starting at a point 190 feet east of the east curline of Monroe Street and ending 45 feet further east.
- The board also repealed a “No Parking” restriction on the north side of Anchor Avenue in Oceanside and replaced it with a two-hour parking rule.
- It also reversed a provision adopted in 1980 that had instituted four-hour parking between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on the north side of Grand Avenue in Bellmore, beginning 34 feet east of Johnson Street and stretching 100 feet east, except on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
They also voted across the board to pass additional parking and stopping prohibitions in Seaford, Wantagh, Valley Stream and Oceanside.
- No standing will be permitted at anytime on a 73-foot portion of the north side of Merrick Road in Seaford, starting 134 feet east of Seaford Avenue and stretching further east. (This replaces a “No Stopping” rule that the board appealed on this stretch of road.)
- From the curbline of Johnson Avenue and running 30 feet north and 33 feet south on Douglas Avenue in Wantagh, “No Stopping from Here to Corner” will be enforced.This rule will also apply to Wantagh Avenue starting at Merrick Road and extending north for 260 feet.
- In Oceanside, stopping will also be prohibited on Oceanside Road and Skillman Avenue, and both parking and stopping will be banned on sections of Salem Road in Valley Stream.
Additional traffic stops were also added on these roads:
- East Meadow – Hempstead Turnpike South Side Marginal Road: All northbound traffic on Taylor Avenue must come to a full stop.
- Lakeview – Lakeview Avenue: All southbound traffic on Waterview Drive must come to a full stop.
- Merrick – Brighton Way: All southbound traffic on Lincoln Boulevard must come to a full stop. Camp Avenue: All northbound traffic on Hendrickson Court and southbound traffic on Leona Court must come to a full stop. Gormley Avenue: All southbound traffic on State Street must come to a full stop. Putman Avenue: All eastbound traffic on Linden Place must come to a full stop.
In Merrick, revised public parking field maps were also approved at the meeting. Copies of these are available through the Town Clerk.
Check Patch later this week to learn about another big issue that was discussed at this month's Town board meeting - the controversy surrounding the animal shelter in Wantagh.