Sea Cliff resident Adam Friedberg has written a petition that advocates for turning Littleworth Lane into a dead end near the side entrance of Sea Cliff Elementary. The petition, which was started on Nov. 15, also calls for expanding the sidewalks around the intersection so children can navigate the area without having to walk in the street. Friedberg had collected nearly 400 signatures as the Herald Gazette went to press.
“My hope is that we won’t have to wait for a serious incident to occur before something finally happens with this plainly dangerous stretch of Littleworth Lane,” he said.
The petition proposes that Littleworth Lane be redesigned so it would be permanently closed to vehicular traffic between Carpenter Avenue and Hansen Place. Emergency vehicles would have access to the side of the school.
Friedberg, who has two young daughters at Sea Cliff Elementary, spoke passionately to the village board about the issue at its Nov. 13 meeting. “I started this petition to be sure that the mayor of Sea Cliff and the board of trustees realize that many residents recognize the serious situation that currently exists,” he said. “We view them as the entity that can most quickly and easily mitigate the problem.”
Mayor Edward Lieberman introduced a motion at the meeting to solicit input from local agencies, like the police and fire departments, to determine whether the permanent closure of a section of the road would create any new problems.
He also reached out to the district. “I’ve spoken with the superintendent and the school principal to discuss immediate safety issues, and to find a long-term solution,” Lieberman said. “Together we’re working to devise a solution, while taking into consideration their input, as well as the various aspects of the law.”
The street, which runs between the school and its playground, is already closed Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, municipalities in New York state cannot pass laws that prohibit the use of public roads.
Friedberg said that although his proposed solution would force vehicles to drive around the intersection, creating an inconvenience, the safety of children and pedestrians, and any potential legal liability for the village, should be higher priorities.
“Through traffic would be eliminated, and the traffic pattern would remain consistent throughout the entire year, conditioning all pedestrians to behave consistently at all times,” he said. “Pedestrians would still be able to walk through this intersection, but cars would have to drive around.”
Friedberg described witnessing a near-miss over the summer. He saw two boys, age 10 or 11, chasing each other on their bikes. They were riding from the sidewalk on the school side of the street into the street near the entrance of the playground. A car headed down Littleworth Lane toward them, but they were unaware of it. Although the car was moving slowly, Friedberg described the scene as “scary.”
“Relying on children who have been conditioned to treat this section of the street as a safe area, along with drivers being hyper-vigilant, is a recipe for disaster,” he added.
Fellow parents agreed. Dan Schweiger, of Sea Cliff, said that children don’t understand that the street is sometimes closed, allowing them unfettered access, while at other times it is open, causing potential danger. “[When weighing] the safety factor versus inconvenience, safety should come first,” Schweiger said. “It would definitely be safer with permanent signage. I’ve seen people crash into the [breakaway] chains.”
Patricia Weiss, a Sea Cliff resident who also has two young girls at the school, said it would make more sense to have the stretch of Littleworth Lane closed all the time. “The road goes through the middle of school [property],” she said. “If people were more [conscientious] drivers, maybe the current regulation would work.”
Village board Trustee Deborah McDermott applauded Friedberg’s petition. “The best way to effect change is to take the long view of things, and start local,” she said.
“The risk that one of our children, or any pedestrian conditioned to the fact that this stretch of road is intermittently closed, could be hit by a vehicle, would be greatly reduced if the street were closed,” Friedberg said.
The petition can be found at www.change.org, at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/yb767uaw.