Elmont to county: Safer roads!

Residents ask for upgrades on Dutch Broadway

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Elmont residents have a big problem, and it can be spotted almost every day along the western half of Dutch Broadway. Cars zip by, sometimes at speeds of more than 60 mph, as they cross the Queens-Elmont border into Nassau County. Speeding cars have caused several accidents along the street.

County Legislator Carrie Solages, who represents Elmont and has been advocating for safer roads in Elmont for years, explained that there are several blind corners near the intersection of Dutch Broadway and Elmont Road because of a slope in the road.

“As cars go onto Dutch Broadway [from Queens], the one-lane streets become two lanes, and people see that as a sign to speed up,” Solages said. “And they crash into cars or people coming out of the blind corners.”

Solages and several Elmont community groups and residents are calling on Nassau County, which oversees Dutch Broadway, to make safety upgrades to the road. The effort began when speeding cars killed two young women in 2015 and 2016. Karl Valere, a local activist and the founder of the community group We Are Elmont, started a petition to get a traffic light installed on Dutch Broadway after 19-year-old Amay George’s death in 2015. With Solages’s help, the group eventually got a speed indicator installed near the Dutch Broadway School.

But Valere said that wasn’t enough. “We asked for stop signs, traffic lights and studies on the speeding violations and accidents that indicate that this is a dangerous road,” he said.

To try to prove the case, Solages took Shila Shah-Gavnoudias, former commissioner of the county Department of Public Works; Robert Walker, former chief deputy county executive; and Thomas Krumpter, former police commissioner, on a tour of Dutch Broadway to discuss ways to make the road safer. Solages asked if the county would consider removing lanes, upgrading crosswalks, installing traffic signals and adding signage.

Not much was done. Then, in 2016, a car struck and killed 12-year-old Gabrielle Johnson as she walked to Elmont Memorial High School. Solages again appealed to county leaders to conduct a traffic study, with a focus on the intersection of Dutch Broadway and Diamond Street. Again, not much was done.

“It was clear that the previous county executive was not hearing our request,” Solages said.

Last June, a car struck a home at the same intersection. The homeowner, who identified himself only as Barry, built a fence around his yard to try to keep his two children safe. With his fence now damaged, what little peace of mind Barry once had is now gone.

“How am I supposed to let my kids play outside when things like this keep happening?” he said. “I’m scared to leave them alone.”

Barry said he had several videos of cars speeding past at nearly 80 mph. He noted that things improved after a speed indicator was installed on the road last year, but it is now gone, and drivers have returned to speeding.

Solages explained that because many roads in Elmont and across the county have problems similar to Dutch Broadway, mobile speed indicators are constantly moved around due to high demand. Instead of another speed indicator, Solages, Barry and other residents are calling for the county to put up a traffic light or signs at the intersection of Dutch Broadway and Diamond Street.

“I’m thinking about going around with a petition so we can get something done about these roads,” Barry said. “The county has to do something about it.”

Some residents also expressed concern that Dutch Broadway would become even busier once construction begins next year on the New York Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park, scheduled to open in 2021.

“Dutch Broadway will be a secondary road that will be flooded with cars heading to and from the stadium, trying to avoid traffic on Hempstead Turnpike,” said Ferida Khan, a mother who lives near the Dutch Broadway School.

Neither the Nassau County executive’s office nor the Department of Public Works responded to the Herald’s requests for comment. But Solages said he had met with representatives of those offices recently, and that the county had pledged to conduct a proper traffic study of the street. He added that this year’s county budget included funds set aside for new crosswalks and countdown clocks at several Dutch Broadway intersections.

In a letter to the DPW, Valere, of We Are Elmont, asked for additional traffic studies on Linden Boulevard, which is also a county road. The streets there, he said, need crosswalks and stop signs, because Elmont residents are consistently forced to cross roads with no signs.

“These areas are dangerous for Elmont residents commuting westward or going to school,” Valere said. “We want the county to prioritize traffic control here.”