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One way? No way — Petitioners, commissioners weigh in on New York Avenue

REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Town Board met in work session Tuesday discuss dangerous traffic on New York Avenue
REPORTER FILE PHOTO The Town Board met in work session Tuesday discuss dangerous traffic on New York Avenue

There was some gruesome imagery voiced at the Town Board work session Tuesday when the topic of dangerous traffic on New York Avenue was raised.

Councilman Jim Colligan said plans to make the road safer should be taken only after a study by the New York State Department of Transportation and that there’s “no reason to panic.”

Councilman Paul Shepherd responded, “There won’t be action until you’re scraping some kid off the side of the road. And then it will be, “Oh, Jesus, why didn’t you guys [the board] do something.’”

The issue of speeding traffic in close quarters on New York Avenue isn’t new to the Town Board, Mr. Shepherd noted, addressing his colleague: “Jimmy, with all due respect, this has been hashed around for the last 15 years, probably. To accuse us of rushing into anything would be an absurdity.”

Later in the discussion, Mr. Colligan said he “wasn’t waiting for someone to be scraped off the road,” or that the issue should be “put on the back burner,” but that some options for a solution by experts be considered by the board.

A petition signed by 117 residents and business owners urged the board not to make New York Avenue a one-way street, which has been suggested by some over the years, as a method of reducing congestion and making it safer for walkers, cyclists and joggers.

Commercial interests have said a one-way street would reduce access to businesses.

In addition, the Shelter Island Board of Fire Commissioners sent a letter to the board Tuesday morning noting that if New York Avenue was one–way, it would “be a major interference with the department’s mission,” Supervisor Jim Dougherty reported.

Councilwoman Chris Lewis said that the signers of the petition “need to be acknowledged,” adding that times have changed on Shelter Island “with some very poor drivers” driving bigger vehicles who are “more aggressive.” Ms. Lewis added that “it’s a social issue as much as a traffic issue.”

She said she looked forward to a board meeting when the traffic on New York Avenue will be on the agenda and residents will “come in with an enlarged argument that isn’t evident in a petition.”

“There’s not one of those arguments,” Mr. Shepherd said, “that are going to hold any water when you’re scraping someone off the road.”

Supervisor Jim Dougherty, winding up the discussion, agreed with Mr. Colligan, noting that “we’ve got to call in a pro” to conduct a study on the conditions of New York Avenue.

On another Heights traffic note, the board voted Friday, August 26, to put new stop signs on Bay Avenue and Waverly Place where they meet Grand Avenue. Pedestrian crosswalks will be drawn on Grand Avenue near the intersection of Bay Avenue and on Grand Avenue near the intersection with Waverly Place.

In other business: Councilwoman Mary Dudley presented a town plan to vet clean water projects if a ballot amendment to spend part of Community Preservation Fund (CPF) revenues on those intiatives passes in November.

The CPF is funded by a 2 percent tax on real estate purchases that goes to buy open space to preserve. The new amendment to the CPF, if passed, would allow each East End town to spend up to 20 percent of CPF money collected on:
• Wastewater treatment improvements
• Aquatic habitat restoration
• Pollution prevention
• Operation of the Peconic Bay national Estuary Program.

Ms. Dudley outlined projects that would meet the town’s criteria to spend CPF money, using a system explained in the acronym “STEEP,” or projects meeting social, technical, economic, environmental and political factors.

A detailed presentation will be on the town’s website soon, Ms. Dudley said, and a brochure will be available to residents explaining the new law, if it passes, and how the town will implement it.

Mr. Colligan reported that the town’s Grants Committee had identified 24 projects that are candidates for grant applications, listing the top five prioritizes. Topping the list is a new septic system for the Youth Center at the American Legion Hall, followed by new Crescent Beach bathrooms, groins at Shell Beach, the bulkhead at Volunteer Park — where a new bathroom could be installed as early as November — and the Wades Beach septic system.