The long and winding road to recovery after superstorm Sandy may also include a new opportunity to build an access road for the Seaford Harbor School.
At the Wantagh-Seaford‘s NY Rising committee meeting on October 17, dozens of concerned residents turned out in force to request that approximately $650,000 be given to construct an access road for Seaford Harbor School. Over 600 students and staff occupy the building and have a single congested road for ingress and egress. The Wantagh-Seaford communities have been given $11 million from New York state through the NY Community Rising program for rebuilding and revitalizing infrastructure to withstand future coastal storms.
Resident Melanie Schneider held up two posters with photographs of the traffic clogged street in Seaford Harbor. “This is an average morning to school. It is bumper to bumper traffic, horns are blowing and we can’t get through. It takes 30 minutes at drop off and dismissal. It’s gridlock.”
Referring to the access road, Mrs. Schneider said “We need help before it’s too late. What happens the next time there is an emergency? What if the children are trapped in the building? What if there is need for medical attention? We are isolated, scared, alone. This is an opportunity for us to be proactive and not re-active.”
These sentiments were repeated again and again. One mother said “I went to Seaford Harbor School when I was a girl and I remember my mother petitioned to have this road built. I never thought that, like my mother, I would have to be here tonight to petition for a road.”
Legislator David Denenberg said the property for the proposed access road originally belonged to New York state. “It was the state’s intention to build a road that would connect the Seaford Oyster Bay Expressway to the Wantagh Parkway. But that plan never materialized and around 2000 the state considered selling that property to a private developer for a nine hole golf course at Cedar Creek. The County was approached and asked if they wanted the property and in 2002-2003 the county acquired it,” he said. “Once the county secured the property, it was given to the school for a right of way for an access road.”
Meanwhile Legislator Dennis Dunne, whose district presently includes south Seaford said, “I had people from every level of government down there over the years to try and work on building this road.
“We had the DEC there to make sure we met their requirements on tidal flow and wild life protection. I spoke to contractors working on Wantagh Parkway [at the time] who were going to provide dirt for free,” said Mr. Dunne. “I even tried getting a temporary bridge to get to Cedar Street.
“The plan is to have the road start by the first house on the north side, where the property abuts that home and then we could go straight north to Cedar Street,” explained Mr. Dunne.
But Seaford School district taxpayers were unwilling to fund the road and that bond was defeated twice, most recently in 2011.
But then Sandy hit our shores and the community re-evaluated the issue. From all corners of the community support has grown for this access road.
Rita Matalone, representing Friends of Wantagh and Seaford, told The Citizen, “After Sandy, the road to get to and from school got worse. Lots of people are still trying to get back into their homes and there are construction trucks down thereblocking the road. I’m also concerned that something could happen at Cedar Creek plant [near the school.] If there is an accident, how will the children get out?”
Deanine Nagengast, Seaford Harbor PTA President said “we are collecting signatures and have an email campaign underway to county legislators, the County Executive, state Senator Charles Fuschillo and state Assemblyman Dave McDonough. The road needs to be built now.”
Ella Stevens, President of the Wantagh Seaford Homeowners Association [WSHA] said, “We support the efforts of the families of Seaford Harbor School for this much needed access road. We would be happy to assist their efforts any way we can.”
At the Seaford Harbor Civic Assocation meeting, the building of an access road also received support.
While everyone agrees the road needs to be built, the question remains on how to fund the project.
Legislator David Denenberg has written a letter to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano to request an amendment to the 2013 Capital Budget for Nassau County to include $650,000 for the construction of the emergency access road for Seaford Harbor. The Nassau County Legislature has not yet voted on the 2013 capital budget. Additionally, he has asked Jonathan Kaiman, Special New York state advisor for Long Island Storm Recovery if the state is willing to reimburse Nassau County for the project as part of the New York Rising Community Reconstruction Program in the Seaford/Wantagh area.
“Let the county do it now and get reimbursed so you don’t have to wait eight or 10 months before the state gets around to allocating money for that road,” said Mr. Denenberg.
But Mr. Dunne disagrees with this tactic. “I absolutely 100 percent believe in that road and I have fought hard for it. But Mr. Denenberg is grandstanding. The New York Rising Program is the way to go. It is our best bet.”
Seaford School’s Superintendent Brian Conboy in a prepared statement said, “The Seaford School District is open to and will consider any opportunities to fund this project whether its through the County or New York Rising funds, or any other means, but we continue to believe that the building of roads is a function of government and not school districts with limited revenues at their disposal.”
But it was resident Ray Laverti who expressed the sentiment of many residents at Thursday’s meeting. “I don't care who does it, but I don’t want to wait eight to 10 months. I want it now. This is about the safety of our children.”
Editor’s Note: Look in upcoming editions of The Citizen for more on the visions, ideas and plans of the Wantagh Seaford New York Rising Reconstruction Program.