Town of Hempstead proposes Erma Drive speed zone

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East Meadow residents living on Erma Drive said they have complained for years to Nassau County police and East Meadow School District officials about dangerous conditions caused by reckless drivers behind East Meadow High School, noting that the drivers often blow through a three-way stop sign at Erma and Nottingham Road, while also ignoring other stop signs on Erma.

Town of Hempstead Councilman Thomas Muscarella, a Republican representing the 2nd District, has proposed a school safety zone for Erma and parts of Ava Drive. The speed limit would be set at 15 mph from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. when school is in session.

If the Town Board were to pass a measure to create the speed zone, it is unclear when the zone would take effect. The town will hold a public hearing on the matter Sept. 9 (see box, Page 18).

The Herald spent two weeks, from April 15 to 29, observing traffic at the Erma-Nottingham intersection. A number of drivers were seen maneuvering dangerously on the surrounding residential streets, driving fast and ignoring stop signs, with a number of near-accidents.

East Meadow School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Card Jr. acknowledged receiving residents’ complaints, and said he would contact police. In June, Sgt. Robert Johnston, of the Nassau County Police Department’s 3rd Precinct, said the issues would be addressed.

Dr. Patrick Pizzo, the East Meadow district’s assistant superintendent for business and finance, said police pulled over several vehicles behind the high school, warning drivers that stop signs must be obeyed and speeding would not be tolerated.

Pizzo also said the district added two guards at the gate to the high school’s back parking lot.   

Erma Drive resident Nancy Widman, who has led the public outcry for help, said she saw no substantive changes in June, so she called Nassau County Legislator Tom McKevitt, a Republican from East Meadow.

McKevitt was out riding his bike on Erma Drive. “I looked at the street and noticed it was not a school zone,” he said. “So, I called Tom Muscarella and suggested that it become one. He got working on it right away.”

Card and Pizzo met with Dominick Colasanto, an assistant to Muscarella, in late June, and he shared the idea to create a school speed zone on the streets behind the high school’s back lot. Colasanto discussed the matter further with Card and Pizzo on Aug. 1. Colasanto was unavailable for comment.

“This is a fine example of how levels of government and neighbors can work together for the betterment of our communities,” Muscarella and Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said in a joint statement. “The safety of our children is always a priority.”

“I think this is a marvelous idea,” Widman said of the speed zone. “It will help with the people who cut through the neighborhood all day long too. There are children, people walking their dogs and the elderly who are in danger.”

Not everyone is quite as certain about a speed zone, though. Erma Drive resident Kathy Viola said, “I think they need to do something, but I don’t know if I’m excited about this. You’ll be coasting to the stop signs. You might as well get out and walk.”

Pizzo said there would be police enforcement on Erma at the start of the school year.

Allison Reynolds said she often has trouble backing out of her driveway on Erma in the morning when school is in session because teenage drivers race down the street. A mother of three, she has lived on Erma for 14 years. Her children play outside often, and she worries about their safety. She supports the school speed zone.

“The speed zone would be great,” Reynolds said. “I’m not confident the police will enforce it, but I’m hoping that this will scare people for a while and they will stop at the stop signs.” 

Pizzo said students will be warned before school starts to obey the rules of the road, including at an assembly that students must attend to receive their parking permits.

To see a video of some of the drivers who disregard stops signs on Erma Drive, go to: http://bit.ly/ErmaDrive

 

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