On Tuesday evening, Nanuet residents, Clarkstown officials and Rockland County legislators discussed the issues surrounding the Clarkstown’s decision to close Samuel Road.
The Rockland County Legislature then against Clarkstown for closing Samuel Road in Nanuet without proper approval from the county's superintendent of highways.
After more than two hours of discussion over the Samuel Road closure, some legislators made a motion to rescind the lawsuit resolution.
However, it did not pass with a 3-2 vote against it.
From those on the county public safety committee, Legislators Jay Hood, Toney Earl and Aron Wieder voted no, Chris Carey and Ed Day voted yes and Aney Paul and Alden Wolfe were absent.
Gromack was joined by Principal Town Planner Joe Simoes, Code & Zoning Enforcement Officer Joel Epstein, Police Chief Michael Sullivan and several others.
Patch has written two previous articles at the subject of Public Safety that was discussed at the meeting and at the county's lawsuit resolution against Clarkstown and Clarkstown explaining the reasoning behind the temporary barricade. Here are a few other topics that were brought up regarding the Samuel Road Closure.
The legislature’s resolution brings up the question as to why the 170 plus-member Clarkstown Police Department cannot control speeding on a town street without closing it off to residents.
In response, Clarkstown PBA President John M. Hanchar recently about the legislature's resolution in which blame was placed on police officers for "unlawful actions of some motorists."
Legislators tried to clear the air Tuesday evening of any misperceived criticism on the Clarkstown Police department.
“(In reference to We didn’t place the blame on the Clarkstown Police Department,” said Legislator Ilan Schoenberger. “As a matter of fact, many of us spoke that night and we didn’t understand why a road would be closed due to public speeding because we have full faith and confidence in the Clarkstown Police Department to deal with things like that. If we were to close a road due to speeding, we might as well close Ridge Road, 304 and a whole bunch of other roads. We thought we were actually defending the Clarkstown Police Department, not criticizing them.”
Sullivan apologized to the legislature for any “inarticulateness on my part at that meeting.”
He said that the police department did three traffic counts on Newport Drive—July 2011, April 2012, May 2012. The reports “averaged 2,000 vehicles on Newport drive; that’s a lot of vehicles for a cul-de-sac.”
Also, the traffic count on Samuel Road showed 1,500 cars traveling through.
“We felt that the volume coming through a residential neighborhood was too intense,” said Gromack. “That doesn’t mean that when there’s speeding in any of our towns that we’re going to start dead-ending streets, but you have to look at each single case on its own merit.”
“Yes there is speeding on Newport Drive, but over the course of the year, we have reduced the amount of speeding,” said Sullivan. “What we were looking for was a long-term solution. Our feeling is that if we have an officer assigned there every day 24/7, and if all of those 2000 cars were driving by at 30 MPH, they’d be within the law and we’d still have a safety issue and quality of life issue on Newport Drive.”
Sullivan stressed that the main problem was the volume of drivers and people using it as a cut-through from South Pascack Road to Convent Road.
“We have to assess the quality of what we did. We’re asking for everyone’s patience. Let this barrier stay up for a little while, let us do traffic counts and let’s see what the quality of life is,” said Sullivan. “I believe we may find that the people on Samuel Drive are just as happy as the people on Newport Drive. Let’s hold off on this (discussion) for a little while, let’s see how this works out and then let’s talk about this in a month or two.”
He added that they are also going to do traffic counts on Pascack and S. Pascack Road and see what the effect is there.
Town VS County
Some believed that this was strictly a town issue and that the county need not be involved
“The issues that have surrounded town and county governments for this last year or so that have caused such an uproar between towns and between county and towns,” said Schoenberger. “We should all be working together. We shouldn’t be fighting this way. We shouldn’t be involved in these types of disputes.”
“I have a deep respect for the different levels of government. It’s always best when we work together,” said Gromack. “I chair the five town supervisors association … I want to work cooperatively. There are things we (the five towns) need to do to work cooperatively (with the county).”
Gromack added that the reason why they didn’t include the county in the conversation was because they “felt very confidently that this was strictly a town issue … did not need to get county government involved.”
“It’s a community issue,” said Legislator Aney Paul. “We have to work together and move forward.”
Legislators Chris Carey and Frank Sparaco said that the county should step out of the issue.
“Let the two towns resolve it,” said Carey. “There is no value added for (the county) to enter the fray.”
"This is something that obviously falls on the town board responsibility," said Sparaco. "This is not a county responsibility. The county government has its own problems and we need to get our own house in order first."
Moroney suggested lowering the speed limit.
“There are things you can do on Newport Drive,” said Moroney. “On one side of the street it says to go 15 MPH. Right behind that sign, you have a town speed of 30 MPH. That just doesn’t make sense. In my opinion, that 30 MPH town limit (sign) should be removed.”
Gromack added that he believed that the 30 MPH speed limit cannot be reduced to 15 MPH unless it can be shown that it’s in a school zone.
“There are also three intersections on Newport Drive,” said Moroney. “They could put stop signs put up on those (intersections).”
“This was not a knee-jerk reaction,” said Gromack. “This was an ongoing issue that we have been discussing with members of the community for probably close to two years. We systematically went through the different ways of trying to provide a greater level of safety.”
He added that some of the things that Clarkstown Police have done to combat the speeding and volume is increased patrol, put solar signs up that flash the speed, other signage and decoy cars.
“In large part, most of those things were successful, but … it’s the volume,” said Gromack. “You can reduce the speed, but the volume is just as important.”
Gromack added that speed bumps do not reduce the volume.
“Cars will race up to the speed bump, slow down, go over the bump and then race up to the next speed bump,” said Gromack. We thought the gate would be the best (option).”
Don and Patricia Habas of Enterprise Court were the first to speak during the public forum. Enterprise Court is a cul-de-sac off of Newport Drive.
“Newport is a half-mile stretch with a dangerous curve,” said Don Habas. “Over the last number of years, one neighbor has had six cars on her lawn, one neighbor had a car go through her dining room at 3 a.m. Police said that the car was going an estimated 80 MPH. One car hit a fire hydrant which launched it onto a porch.”
He added he works from home with his office facing Newport Drive.
“Since the barricade has been up, I see a significant increase in safety,” he said. He said that many speeding cars that he used to see routinely throughout the day are no longer using Newport Drive.
Schoenberger said that the barricade still doesn’t fix the speeding, it just redirects it.
“That 80 MPH guy is going 80 MPH still, not on your street, but somewhere else,” said Schoenberger. “I’m not saying it’s wrong to give you the safety, but I’m saying it’s not right to pass it (the danger) off to somebody else.”
Patricia Habas added that since the Chestnut Ridge development was designed prior to the Newport estates, it was designed with the intention that traffic go down the county road, S. Pascack Road, not a “town side street.”
Jason Cohen of Essex Court (another small cul-de-sac off of Newport) and Jeff Small of Newport Drive, both attested to the fast speeds and dangerous quality of life they and their neighbors experience. Maryann Small added that although "Legislator Moroney seems outraged, he has not returned one email or phone call. Cornell and Gromack have always responded." She said that she has sent Moroney two emails and four voice messages.
He and Barbara Wallenstein, president of the Nanuet Ambulance Corps, cited incidents in which human lives came close to being compromised due to speeders and the high volume.
“I’ve had six to seven cars on my lawn and my driveway and it’s amazing no one has gotten killed,” said Wallenstein who lives on Newport Drive. She added that emergency service units would not use Newport as a cut through. “If Nanuet was responding to Chestnut Ridge, they wouldn’t be using Newport Drive; they would go on Pascack or Duryea. There are several other places to go.”
However, on the other side of this are residents of Duryea Lane who say the high traffic volume that used to use Samuel and Newport are now using Duryea Lane.
Legislators said that they received a letter on Tuesday that was dated Aug. 25 to Scott Vanderhoef from Rockland County citizens against the blockade with a petition from 160 people demanding they remove the blockade.
Nicolas Miller of Duryea Lane said that those 2,000 cars from the traffic count have not disappeared, but rather, “they’re using different streets,” one of which is Duryea Lane.
“My children’s safety is just as important. I don’t want to take anything away from Newport Drive. They deserve safety, but we all do,” said Miller. “Until I submitted that 50-person petition … you (Gromack) had no intention of doing anything … The decision was already made to close the gate before considering where the traffic was going. There’s more traffic on Duryea and it’s faster. We need to do a survey on the whole area. We need a community solution.”
“What are we doing passing the buck to another neighborhood?” said Ramapo Town Councilman Patrick Withers, who spoke up against the gate. “Until we (get all of the information), we should pull back the reins. Let’s not pit neighbor versus neighbor, town versus town.”