Written by Dagmar Fors Karppi, firstname.lastname@example.org Tuesday, 06 August 2013 15:44
Drivers going north and south on Route 106 have been watching the progress of new traffic lights placed outside of Heatherwood, the former Norwich Gates. At first, on Monday, July 29 flashing yellow lights appeared. The red and green traffic lights will be on shortly, said Legislator Judy Jacobs. The state likes to give motorists a chance to see that something is changing.
The apartment complex has always been owned by the Heatherwood Corporation so the change is in name only. The current manager, Joseph Scibelli and his wife Cathy have been there for nine years. “It’s like a little village,” he said. “We even have our own postman, Matt, who brings the UPS boxes. On Thanksgiving morning he came to help a senior citizen put a turkey into the oven.”
There are a lot of senior citizens living at Heatherwood, and even people who don’t have cars. There are 22 buildings, a swimming pool, several playground areas for the about 300 residents. Those without cars often cross Route 106 on foot to go shopping: something that is dangerous and resulted in two deaths over the last few years, all ruled as accidents.
“It was the death of Margaret Bolanos that speeded up the light process,” said manager Joseph Scibellis. He said that Matt was helpful at the accident that caused Margaret’s death. She was killed by a car going south on Route 106, but there was no liability found on the driver’s part.
The Scibellis were out Wednesday, July 31 to meet with Legislator Judy Jacobs to officially announce the new traffic light the corporation paid for. Legislator Jacobs said traffic lights are very expensive to install. They can be from $100,000 to $250,000 depending on the complexity. She said this one should be reasonable since there is a dead end at the opposite side of the road, and one left hand turn into Heatherwood from the northbound lane.
She said the state puts down the guidelines on the work when putting in a light. At first the Heatherwood contractor, Waltham, deviated from them a bit, but, “The guidelines cannot be tampered with and they had to change the curbing to follow the instructions. It was a very short process, a day, from Thursday to Friday.
“The light is good news for the community although it was bitter sweet with the death of Margaret,” said Jacobs. “It is sad when it takes a tragedy for the system to wake up. Joe and Cathy have been wonderful and we have been in constant touch.”
Scibelli had the same thing to say about Jacobs. He said she and her staff were great to work with. “They have been great, they responded immediately,” he said.
The light was suggested by town hall but permission was needed from the state.
It was the state, which said the light was required, the manager said. The first the public heard about the light was at an East Norwich Civic Association meeting when they said the light was “coming soon.” That was in August of 2009. “We received an email from the state in March 2010 saying they gave permission for the light. There was a long process to follow.”
Pete Sheehan wrote the story in the Feb. 22 issue of the Enterprise Pilot saying, “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.” Margaret Bolanos was struck on Jan. 8, 2013, while walking back from a trip to Stop & Shop, It is across the street from the apartment complex.
At the time, Eileen Peters, public information officer for Region 10 of the NYS DOT explained, “The state transportation department cannot install a traffic control device at a private driveway.” Heatherwood had to both install it and must maintain it.
For several years the Oyster Bay and East Norwich Civic Associations have been working to traffic safety on Route 106. Rob Brusca, a traffic safety committee member said the new light was all to the credit of Heatherwood and Jacobs. While they get the credit, the public gets what it has long wanted, another place to slow down traffic on the busy Route 106 corridor.
Jacobs said the residents of Heatherwood will surely be delighted about the traffic stopping light. She said, “It is hard to exit the area. It took a while to make a left turn to leave there in my car, I can imagine what it is like trying to walk across the lanes.”
It was also hard to turn right on the road with the steady stream of traffic that seems to keep Route 106 busy. There are few roads that access the North Shore areas from Glen Cove through Oyster Bay Cove along 25A. It keeps traffic centered in several areas while it maintains a suburban treed area that makes for great quality of life.