Written by Pat Grace Friday, 05 March 2010 00:00
Years ago North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman hosted the community in the high school cafeteria, as he did once again Tuesday, Feb. 23, to discuss improvements to Plandome Road. Years ago the community was asked what they envisioned for Plandome Road and while safety and appearance were main concerns, Kaiman remembered, both funding for the project and what specific changes to make were never determined.
Last year, in partnership with the school district, the town received a grant under the Safe Routes to School program throughout the Town of North Hempstead, to make Plandome Road safer. The grant is for about $400,000, with an additional $100,000 secured by Senator Craig Johnston. And mention was made of a transportation bill which, if it passes, could possibly be worth $1-2 million that could be used to complete the project. Kaiman said the town has gone to the federal government for this funding and is on their list.
Kaiman strongly believes it is important to have all levels of town government on board for the project and introduced Councilwoman Maria-Christina Poons, Councilman Fred Pollack, Legislator Wayne Wink and Legislator Judi Bosworth, as well as school personnel, Manhasset Superintendent Charlie Cardillo, Principal Dean Schlanger and Director of Facilities Armand Markarian.
A steering committee has been working with the town and school district to develop a plan. The steering committee includes, Kaiman said, representatives from the Coalition for a Safer Manhasset (CSM), Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, Greater Council of Civic Organizations, Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department and the Nassau County Police.
Many ideas were discussed and debunked by the committee, Kaiman noted, and would not be presented. For example, a turning circle on Plandome Road was discarded because it is not possible from an engineering standpoint.
AKRF, project engineers hired by the town about a year ago, made the presentation. The idea was to develop a plan to present to the community, ask for their input, then have the steering committee meet again and go forward with specific designs.
The entire Plandome Road corridor is on the plan, from Northern Boulevard to Webster Avenue, but, importantly, the grant received covers only the portion of Plandome Road from Memorial Place to Park Avenue, the Safe Routes to Schools grant area. Kaiman explained that they limited the area to get the grant, and while that strategy was successful, they now must spend the grant money within that specified area. So, the current plan will not resolve all issues, and he noted little change is planned for the road south of Memorial Place. The entire Plandome Road corridor was examined in order to develop a master plan for when monies become available.
The AKRF civil engineer explained the goal was safety and function on Plandome Road, a plan developed in multiple phases, more or less what Supervisor Kaiman had explained. Phase I being the Safe Routes to School area, with other phases to be developed as monies become available. The engineers divided the road into three centers: civic, near town hall; commuter, around the train station; and commercial, going north on Plandome Road.
Some suggestions for the civic center were bulb-outs to lessen the crossing distance for pedestrians, and an extra lane eastbound at Manhasset Avenue in addition to the already existing straight and left turning lanes. Property would need to be taken from Mary Jane Davies Park. A resident suggested making an entire third lane there, not just a right turning lane where Manhasset Avenue meets Plandome Road.
Suggestions for the commuter anchor were more pedestrian space to again shorten the crosswalks. Also create a pedestrian refuge in the center of the road by using a different texture for a flat meridian. Raised meridians are not possible in certain areas of the road due to the formula for adequate turning ratios for buses, trucks and emergency vehicles.
In the commercial center there was discussion of widening the sidewalks on the east side of the street about three or four feet. Many agreed Plandome Road at Colonial Parkway is a confusing space and the town could, Kaiman said, paint a grid there even though improving that area of the roadway is not included in Phase I.
The width of a travel lane is usually 10 feet, according to the engineer, but on Plandome Road it is 17 feet causing motorists to double park and swerve around stopped vehicles.
The landscape architect on the project viewed the area from a design perspective. She noted: greenspace—cemetery, MaryJane Davies Park; street walls—vertical buildings that also define the space; signs of stewardship—street lighting, trash receptacles; semi-public places on the street — private businesses that have provided benches or otherwise improved their facades; vegetation and trees—soften the views. She too focused on bulb-outs, flat meridians and making Plandome Road less confusing to both pedestrians and motorists.
During the question and answer period residents wanted to address the parking issue. They were concerned parking might be unfavorably impacted by the bulb outs and other proposed improvements. They wanted assurance that work performed during Phase I was not counterproductive to improvements “down the road.” Kaiman acknowledged parking is a big concern but that the proposed changes did not alter the existing parking, explaining the bulb-outs occur at the corners where parking is already prohibited.
A resident was very concerned about Andrew Street and Manhasset Avenue, about any location where motorists need to make a left turn across traffic. Bulb-outs, he believed, would snarl up traffic letting no other traffic pass as one car waited for oncoming traffic to let up in order to make the turn. He suggested a very simple test: narrowing the space where bulb-outs were planned with cones, something temporary, for a few days to see how the traffic would flow, or not. A local doctor said he had worked in Manhasset for 37 years and parking is the biggest problem. He said parking needs to be addressed in the early phase of the improvements on Plandome Road. Another asked what else is in the toolbox to alleviate train traffic.
Parking, Kaiman said, is not part of Phase I, adding that many concerns voiced were not within the grant parameters, from Memorial Place to Park Avenue, and would need to be addressed at a later time.
Another questioner brought up drainage problems on Plandome Road saying pedestrians will not cross at designated crosswalks if that area is under water. Has there been a drainage study? And what about plowing roads with bulb-outs, won’t they just make it more difficult?
Also mentioned were sewer lines, but there are no resources for that, it was said, although it might make sense to install them up to town hall.
Many questions concerned parking, and many believed there needs to be a group formed to study it.
The stakeholders’ concern for the community is to make it better than it is today without changing the character of the town, to make the town safer and more attractive.