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Traffic Light After Death

A month after the death of a woman crossing Route 106 near the Norwich Gate apartments in East Norwich, the state transportation department has approved a new traffic light.

“We’re heartened with the announcement,” said Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs, following the New York State Department of Transportation’s announcement of approving the permit for a traffic light at the entrance to Norwich Gate, on Route 106 here near the Stop & Shop supermarket.

“This is something that we have been working on for years,” she noted, “though it is sad that it happened after such as a tragic death.”

“We’re delighted but it’s long overdue,” said Matt Meng, president of the East Norwich Civic Association. He cited years of efforts by his organizations, the Oyster Bay Civic Association, and others to slow traffic and heighten safety along that stretch of northern Route 106.

The long-standing effort to install a light there to slow down traffic on Route 106, also known as Pine Hollow Road, and to ease crossing by Norwich Gate residents were heightened following the death of Margaret Bolanos, who was struck Jan. 8 while walking back from Stop & Shop.

“She was a beautiful person,” said Pat Brownell, clubhouse attendant and longtime resident of Norwich Gate. “Many of our residents were so upset.”

Norwich Gate is part of Heatherwood Communities, which develops and maintains apartments and rental communities on Long Island. Heatherwood, along with the local civic associations and various government agencies, have been calling for action regarding speed and safety concerns along Route 106.

The state transportation department approved a permit for the traffic light last month “based on studies and plans submitted by” Heatherwood’s engineering consultant, said Eileen Peters, public information officer for Region 10 of the state transportation department, NYSDOT Region 10, Long Island.

According to state law, Peters explained, the state transportation department cannot install a traffic control device at a private driveway. Because the entrance to Norwich Gate is a private driveway, state law would require Heatherwood to install the traffic light and maintain the signal in the future. State approval is required before hand.

“Now the ball is in Heatherwood’s court,” Jacobs said. “I’m confident that they will follow through after having worked on it for so long. The reasons for delays have been eliminated and the way for action is clear.” Heatherwood officials have declined to comment.

The requirement that the property owner install and pay for maintenance of the traffic signal, Jacobs said, was one of the complicating factors that delayed efforts to install the light.

“And with government, things take longer,” Jacobs said.

Before the transportation department’s announcement, the East Norwich Civic Association at their regular meeting at the United Methodist Church here considered the situation. After discussion, the association voted to have Meng contact the transportation department to call for measures to enhance road safety, including a traffic light at that spot.

Meng noted that the local civic associations for years have worked with the state transportation department to encourage action on traffic issues. “They have been fairly cooperative.”

For example, said Robert Brusca, a board member of the East Norwich Civic Association and attorney for the Oyster Bay Civic Association, NYSDOT officials approved a flashing beacon sign on Route 106 near Vernon Middle School here to remind drivers of the school zone speed limit and to encourage more cautious driving.

At the East Norwich Civic Association meeting various speakers pointed out that the lack of a traffic light makes crossing from Norwich Gate to Stop & Shop difficult. In addition, the absence of sidewalks on the stretch of Route 106 in front of Norwich Gate makes it difficult for residents to walk to the traffic light a half a block north and closer to Stop & Shop.

“I’ve lived here 25 years,” Brownell said, including her 10 years as clubhouse manager of Norwich Gate and the concern “comes up frequently.”

“We’re happy” that the state approved the traffic light, Brusca said. “Whatever will make that road safer is best for everyone.”