Janice Alves, of North Valley Stream, was headed to Elmont Memorial High School’s winter concert on Dec. 20 when the car ahead of her suddenly stopped at Dutch Broadway and Ridge Road. The driver got out and started waving her hands, as the rain poured down. Alves left her own car to find a 16-year-old student lying bloodied in the street.
The driver had not struck the boy. The one who did took off and, as of press time, had not been found.
“He couldn’t remember anything or tell us what happened,” Alves said. “All we knew is that he was hit by a car, and the only thing that prevented him from being run over was because the first driver stopped and blocked the traffic.”
Alves joined Nassau County Legislator Carrie Solages, a Democrat from Elmont, as he declared a “state of emergency” on Dec. 21, noting that this most recent accident marks yet another incident in which an Elmont Memorial student was injured by a vehicle on Dutch Broadway in 2018. On Oct. 31, four students were injured when a car struck them after it hit the sidewalk and overturned less than a hundred feet from the location of the latest accident.
Solages, who has advocated for greater safety measures on Dutch Broadway since 2015, met with students and parents to assure them that the student who was struck in the hit-and-run was recovering, and that the county is working to bring about short-term and permanent changes so that accidents such as this one stop in Elmont. Solages explained that while the administration of former Nassau County Executive Ed Mango failed to act over a span of two years, current Executive Laura Curran has proven to be more helpful in securing road safety funds and studies for Dutch Broadway.
“She started just a few months into her term, and that first study is currently ongoing and will be presented to the community for feedback soon,” Solages said. “Unfortunately, government is a bureaucracy and takes a certain due process, but we’re pushing it to get it done as soon as possible.”
After the Oct. 31 accident, Solages held a community meeting between residents and county and town officials, at which residents aired their frustrations because of years of inaction over road conditions on Dutch Broadway. The heated meeting pushed officials to install new signs, including no-turn-on-red signs in all directions of Dutch Broadway and Elmont Road, school crossing signs along Dutch Broadway from 237th Street to Crystal Street, and no U-turn signs in front of the Dutch Broadway School.
While residents were pleased with the changes as they waited for the county’s studies to conclude, the Dec. 20 accident revealed yet more safety problems on Dutch Broadway. Cherie Aldridge, who lives across from the school at Dutch Broadway and Ridge Road, said that the streets are so congested with traffic and students during school openings and rush hour, that her own daughter chooses to leave school a little later to avoid getting caught in the chaos. Aldridge explained that because the intersection lacks a no-turn-on-right, cars drive into Ridge Road with impunity, despite the students trying to cross the street.
“We’ve got the new signs down the street, but we need them here, too,” Aldridge said. “Due process has to be superseded when it comes to the safety of the children. In the right community, this happens after the first child gets injured, so let’s not play games.”
The recent accident also highlighted poor visibility near the intersection, especially during evenings when students are going home after extracurricular activities. Aldridge said that the unusual configuration of the streets also encourages drivers to speed up near the intersection, as the two-lane roads in Queens become four in Nassau County. Speeding vehicles damaged two of Aldridge’s cars last year, and local activist Mimi Pierre-Johnson added that drivers unfamiliar with Elmont have no idea that they are putting students in danger because the high school cannot be seen when they drive into Nassau.
“People need to know that a school is there, so the town and county must make it a school zone to alert drivers,” Pierre-Johnson said.
Elmont Memorial High School Principal Kevin Dougherty and Sewanhaka Central High School District Superintendent Ralph Ferrie added that the district was in talks with the town and county to designate the area of Dutch Broadway adjacent to Ridge Road as a school zone.
The Nassau County Police Department is searching for the suspect who struck the student on Dec. 20. Detectives ask that anyone with information about the accident to contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 244-8477. All callers will remain anonymous.
The county’s Elmont-wide Corridor Study is set to begin this month, and Solages is scheduled to hold another meeting between residents and local officials to discuss the latest changes to Dutch Broadway in the coming weeks.