By Siela A. Bynoe
For elected officials at any level of service, traffic safety – and efforts to marshal the resources necessary to preserve and enhance it – will always be among the most pressing of our assignments. In both the present and future iterations of the Second Legislative District, the need has shown itself to be especially acute.
In the summer of 2022, Vision Long Island released a walking and design study illustrating how traffic safety in multiple communities, including those within the Second District, is imperiled by “busy intersections without sidewalks or crosswalks, wide roadways seemingly designed for speed, and a lack of pedestrian walk signals or medians.”
We are all painfully aware of what these conditions can cause. In Lakeview, motorists swerving around manhole covers jutting out of Woodfield Road has resulted in crashes and properties being struck by vehicles. In portions of West Hempstead immediately outside the Second District, Woodfield Road has been the site multiple tragic incidents in which pedestrians were struck by motorists. Two of victims who lost their lives in those crashes were students.
There is a clear and urgent need for action, and while enforcing traffic laws is an important element of the solution, enforcement alone is not sufficient. The roadways themselves must also be designed in a manner that encourages safer driving and creates an optimal setting for pedestrians and bicyclists to traverse these thoroughfares. By doing so, we also benefit in many cases from the creation of an inviting downtown atmosphere that stimulates economic activity and strengthens local small businesses.
Guided by community input, this is a model for improving safety and stimulating economic growth that can be replicated in downtowns throughout our region, and to that end, Nassau County’s capital plan is a critical tool for effectuating change in our community. It is one I have leveraged throughout my tenure for that purpose.
In Lakeview, I have worked closely with Nassau County’s Department of Public Works to correct the raised manhole covers on Woodfield Road in advance of a full traffic calming initiative. The combined $8.232 million for the Woodfield Road and Lakeview Avenue traffic safety initiatives will incorporate Eagle Avenue near the community’s Long Island Railroad station through Lakeview Avenue. Responding to constituent concerns in the Village of Hempstead, I worked to secure the inclusion of more than $40 million for improvements to Franklin Avenue, Washington Avenue, Peninsula Boulevard and Clinton Street.
Westbury, where we recently celebrated the completion of the New York State-funded mixed-use, transit-oriented Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), is a shining example of how smart road design is crucial to economic vibrancy. Nassau has buttressed these efforts with $18.5 million in capital funding for forthcoming streetscape and traffic safety improvements to address Maple Avenue from Union Avenue to Post Avenue; a streetscape and traffic safety project addressing Union Avenue between the railroad and Brush Hollow Road; and traffic safety improvements on Brush Hollow Road. Westbury’s success has demonstrated that is a model that can be replicated throughout our region with the benefit of ample community guidance.
After personally witnessing several near collisions while speaking to residents and walking the district’s newly apportioned areas of Uniondale during the summer campaign season, I requested the inclusion of millions of dollars in new improvements to Jerusalem Avenue, Uniondale Avenue, and Nassau Road in Uniondale. To ensure the project benefits from the full breadth of Vision Long Island and AARP’s expertise, I requested a walking audit focused on Jerusalem Avenue, which we completed in mid-October.
Although I will no longer have the privilege of representing Lakeview or certain portions of Hempstead in the newly reapportioned Second District, I remain deeply committed to ensuring the timely delivery of these essential resources. My office has convened key stakeholders to form Traffic Safety and Streetscape Initiatives focused upon the forthcoming projects in the Village of Hempstead and in Lakeview. Both committees held their first meetings in October and are already hard at work overseeing the progress of these projects.
Negotiations for Nassau County’s Fiscal Year 2024 capital plan with our counterparts in the Legislative majority and the County administration are another important accountability tool. Because the capital plan requires a 13-vote supermajority for enactment, no action can be taken without the support of the Legislative minority. That firewall will remain in place when the Legislature convenes its new term next year.
Attending related seminars and applied learning experiences of the walk audits led by nationally renowned expert David Burden has fueled and informed my quest to deliver safer roadways. Past experiences confirm that we can achieve our objectives efficiently and effectively by working collaboratively with all levels of government and community stakeholders to identify both dangerous flooding and driving conditions and opportunities for improvements to our business districts.
These are permanent solutions that can be achieved by re-configuring roadways and applying varying inexpensive materials and methodologies toward yielding positive driving habits for safer transportation.
Siela A. Bynoe, of Westbury, has represented Nassau County’s Second Legislative District since 2014.