It has been a long and winding road for the Seaford School District in constructing an emergency access route at Harbor Elementary School.
After decades of back-and-forth negotiations, and community input by both Seaford and Wantagh residents, construction of the emergency road was finally completed last month. Collaboration among school district officials, local legislators and residents pushed the project forward, and the road was finally opened to the public.
It starts in front of the school, runs across the driveway to the back parking lot and north to Cedar Street. It opened on the first day of school, and was celebrated at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony.
It was a day of victory for the Friends of Wantagh and Seaford, a local civic organization that had lobbied hard for the road to improve safety.
Nassau County Legislator Steve Rhoads, a Republican from Bellmore, noted that the access road addresses a vital public safety issue — one that has been a hot topic in the community for a number of years. Previously, emergency workers had had only one road — Bayview Street — to get in and out of the 53-year-old school, which could have caused havoc if there had been a fire or other catastrophe. Now there are two access points. At the same time, the new road will alleviate traffic congestion at the school.
School Board President Bruce Kahn, Superintendent Dr. Adele Pecora and former Superintendent Brian Conboy were presented with the green ribbon and scissors to celebrate the school’s new road.
“As we have observed the traftraffic patterns,” Pecora said, “clearly the goal of easing congestion during times of student arrival and dismissal at Seaford Harbor has been achieved.”
Officials were also joined by State Assemblyman David McDonough, a Republican from North Merrick, and Hempstead Town Councilwoman Erin King-Sweeney, a Republican who now lives in Wantagh, but who grew up in Seaford.
County leaders began negotiating an intermunicipal agreement to fund and plan construction of the road in 2014, after meeting with local elected and school leaders; considering a petition with 700 signatures, submitted by Rita Matalone, of Friends of Wantagh and Seaford; and sending representatives to the site. The agreement, which took more than a year to finalize, provided county community reinvestment project funding to the district to construct the road, Rhoads said. The construction plan had to meet state and county building requirements before it could go out to bid.
The Board of Education unanimously voted to award construction of the 310-foot-long road to Mt. Olympos Restoration Inc., of Elmont, for $633,000. After decades of concern and community advocacy to win approval of and funding for the work, the two-month project began in April.
“With the addition of this emergency access road, the district will have an alternative route to move our students and staff away from the building, should that be necessary,” Kahn said. “The fewer vehicles traversing along Bayview Street, between Osage Place and Ocean Avenue and the Harbor driveway, will help alleviate the degree and frequency of traffic jams along Bayview Street.”
Leaders and residents of surrounding neighborhoods said they were pleased that the road had finally been built. Seaford Chamber of Commerce President Karen Cass has lived in the area since she was a child. The road had long been a point of concern, she said.
“I lived on Peconic Avenue, and even back then roads would flood, and we’d have to take our shoes off to walk home through water,” she said. “The true heroes in getting this project done are the moms and dads and grandparents who have children in the harbor and have tirelessly worked over these last many years just passing the torch on to the next person and getting it done.”
After more than 20 years, residents living in the harbor can finally lay down their torch.
Julie Mansmann contributed to this story