“I have seen close calls on that street that have taken my breath away,” said Adam Friedberg. The Sea Cliff parent was speaking at Monday night’s village meeting. In a prepared statement for the board of trustees, he implored them to permanently close a stretch of Littleworth Lane, between Hansen Place and Carpenter Avenue.
The street, which sits between Sea Cliff School and its playground, is already closed Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, under New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, a municipality does not have the power to pass laws that prohibit the use of public roads.
Friedberg, like many other parents who attended the meeting, demanded that the board find a solution to keep the street closed because of safety concerns.
Trustee Deborah McDermott brought a motion to the board to close the stretch of street indefinitely, which resulted in two hours of discussion, including comments by parents, which board members rebutted at times.
“This issue is not something that is new to the board or this administration,” Sea Cliff Mayor Edward Lieberman said. “We need to take the law in consideration, search for the best solution for our children’s safety, and ensure all options are recognized and discussed.”
The mayor stressed that the issue could not be solved by the board alone. He introduced a motion to solicit input from local agencies such as the Fire Department, Police Department and school district.
Village Attorney Brian Stolar drew up a letter requesting that the agencies address any concerns or obstacles that would result if a section of the road were permanently closed. “We’re seeking guidance from these entities to see if closing the road would impact or inhibit their ability to provide their services,” Stolar said.
Lieberman said that soliciting expertise from agencies responsible for the health and safety of village residents was a necessary step toward resolving the issues presented by the road. The board agreed to hold a special public meeting to address the mayor’s motion next week, but the time and date were not finalized. “This is a preliminary determination to work toward a long-term solution,” he said.
Many parents said they supported the motion to close a section of the block permanently to avoid what Friedberg said would be an “inevitable tragedy.”
Parent Kevin White, a former member of the village board, described a near-miss incident involving his young son, Jared, while he was attempting to cross Littleworth Lane. “It is not a safe street right now,” White said. “That [traffic] law is saying no. but we should find a way to say yes.”
Resident Kristy Willis said she understood the need to comply with the law in finding a solution, but added that the law shouldn’t supersede residents’ safety concerns. “We’re a committed group of people that want to increase safety for our children,” she said. “That passageway should always be a safe place to cross.”
Phil Como, commander of James F. Brengel American Legion Post No. 456, agreed with Lieberman’s motion to solicit feedback from local agencies. “We need to get everyone at the table so reasonable people can come up with a reasoned answer,” he said.
Even though there have been many decisions over the years to regulate traffic on Littleworth, some residents, like Lisa Cashman, said they believed it was time for a solution. “This is a long historical issue that has been approached from many angles,” she said. “I think what it needs is a start on a fresh page.”
McDermott agreed. “The village is at risk when that road is open,” she said. “It is the municipality’s legal responsibility to conduct a study that would reveal traffic-calming measures to alleviate near-miss incidents.”
The board’s next conference meeting is scheduled for Dec. 4, at 5:30 p.m. in Village Hall. The public is invited to attend.