Illegal road racing remains a source of worry for Five Towns residents.
Sasha Young, of Inwood, who helps direct activities at the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence, voiced her concerns in a Sept. 10 Facebook post, calling on Assemblyman Ari Brown, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, County Legislator Carrié Solages and Town of Hempstead Councilwoman Melissa Miller to help.
Young wrote that illegal road racing is threatening the safety of children and families in the area, and asked what local police are doing about this dangerous situation.
On April 4, 2018, in a tragedy that shook the Five Towns, Elisheva Kaplan, 20, of Far Rockaway, and Yisroel Levin, 21, of Brooklyn, were killed by road racers on State Route 878, the Nassau Expressway, in Lawrence. The couple were returning from visiting Levin’s brother for Passover when their Nissan Altima was struck by a BMW 5501 GT traveling 100 mph, driven by Rahmel Watkins, 36. The Altima burst into flames, trapping the couple, and then was struck by a Hyundai Genesis driven by Zakiyyah Steward, 25, who was under the influence of alcohol and marijuana. Both Watkins and Steward, who were said to be speeding side by side, were convicted in 2019 and sentenced to prison terms.
Street racing remains a semi-regular occurrence on Rockaway Turnpike, through Inwood and Lawrence, as well as on Sheridan Boulevard and Bayview Avenue in Inwood, according to Barry DeGroot, a Bayview Avenue resident.
DeGroot described a group that gathers by a building at the intersection of Bayview and Craft avenues. “I see them always working, installing loud stereos, and I see them coming down the block, because Bayview Avenue ends at Inwood Park,” DeGroot said of the group’s typical race route.
Young said she has also seen high-speed driving in the area. “They were racing four-wheelers, and different kinds of motorcycles with no plates,” she said.
Solages said that residents who witness street racing should contact the Nassau County Police Department’s local precincts.
“I am encouraging people to please reach out to the county police when you see these car races, these dangerous shows of bravado in which people could be hurt,” Solages said, adding that more law enforcement is needed.
“Unfortunately, politics matter, and although they get the mantle of being strong on crime, if you really look at it, they’ve denied our requests for more police officers and detectives,” Solages, a Democrat, said of Republican County Executive Bruce Blakeman and the county government. “So in minority communities like Inwood, like Elmont, like Valley Stream — I hate to use that word, but it is what it is — you have a backlog of cases.”
County spokesman Christopher Boyle said that 20 additional police officers have been added to the county’s proposed 2024 budget.
“The county executive is working with the (New York City Police Department), Suffolk County police and the New York State Police to tackle this regional problem,” Boyle said. “These individuals, many of whom are repeat offenders, can not be held on bail as a result of the state’s dangerous criminal first-policies.”
Boyle was referring to the state’s bail reform law, which a majority of Republicans oppose.
David Hance, president of the Inwood Civic Association, said he believed that increasing law enforcement’s social media presence could help stop illegal street races before they start.
“Like with anything else, a lot of intelligence can help,” Hance said. “On social media they sometimes advertise where they’re going to meet.”
Young said she believes there are a number of things that need to be done. “We need to have the town (of Hempstead) come out and replace the no parking signs,” she said, and “whoever’s making zoning decisions needs to have at least some kind of idea on how these decisions are impacting our community. The people who are representing the community need to be more focused on the children and families they are supposed to represent, and not financial gains.”
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