The Town of North Hempstead has announced that a public hearing has been set for May 19 on a proposed amendment to repeal the traffic restrictions on Longview Road. This ordinance was adopted in November of 1994 and stopped motorists from using the road as a shortcut to points north via Port Washington Blvd. by prohibiting left and right hand turns onto Port Blvd. from Longview Road. Many view this action as an opening of a wound that is barely healed. Several recall how the issue created division and animosity in the community of Beacon Hill because residents from other streets in the area, especially those who lived on Beacon Hill Road, felt that their streets would be forced to bear the traffic overflow from Longview which had been a shortcut for decades.
Commenting on the intensity of the conflict in the Nov. 24, 1994 edition of the Port News, Town of North Hempstead Supervisor May Newburger is quoted as saying, "this issue has taken up more of my time than any other issue in my 12 years of public service."
The history of this issue that divided the community of Beacon Hill dates back to 1991 when the residents of Longview Road approached the town board asking for relief from excess traffic on their block. The residents noted that Longview Road is unusually narrow (only 18 feet wide), with horizontal curves and road grades that create poor sight lines. It also has no sidewalks. Residents reported that when two cars traveled east and west, there was "no margin for error."
From that time until 1994, when the town board finally enacted an ordinance banning right and left hand turns on to Port Washington Boulevard from Longview Road, five highly charged public hearings had been held, in addition to a few different traffic studies being conducted.
Although both sides state they want to avoid another rupture in their community's relations, the controversy is already heating up, though certainly not to its initial intensity.
Beacon Hill Road resident Edda Ramsdell said she's glad to see that the issue is being revisited. "It's placed a terrible burden of increased traffic on Beacon Hill Road. It's not route 101 and just as much a residential street as Longview is." Continuing, she said, "To put the entire traffic burden on Beacon Hill Road was at best rather arbitrary." Ms. Ramsdell recalls that TONH Supervisor May Newburger said that if it didn't work, it could be revisited.
The TONH councilman who authored the amendment, Angelo Ferrara, offered the following reasons for his request:
* The complaints he's heard consistently from residents from Port center around traffic issues, especially traffic on Beacon Hill Road.
* He reports that the police and fire departments were opposed to the ordinance enacted in 1994.
* With the prospect of the development of the golf course and senior housing at the Morewood site, Beacon Hill will have an increase in traffic.
Councilman Ferrara noted that he wasn't on the town board at the time the ordinance was passed. He says he wants to review the issues and concerns of the residents and obtain feedback from them. When asked about the prospect of reopening a wound, he replied that "perhaps there are reasons the wound never really healed," suggesting that the solution wasn't amenable to some residents.
Councilman O'Connor and Banks, who also were not on the board when the ordinance was adopted, approved the resolution to adopt the date and time for the public hearing (a majority vote of the board is required to put a public hearing on the calendar). When asked to comment, O'Connor said that he's "all ears. I'm waiting to hear what the public has to say." Banks said that she believes the issue deserves another hearing.
TONH Supervisor May Newburger, who voted against placing the public hearing on the town's calendar disagrees. She said, "I'm stunned. We've received no complaints. It's very quiet there and no real incidents have occurred. We explored the matter very carefully (at the time)." Adding that it was a "very painful ordeal," Ms. Newburger commented, "We tried as hard as we could and resolved the issue in what we felt was an equitable fashion, based on the facts as we saw them. It's surprising to me that it's being raised again."
Councilman Tony D'Urso also voted against revisiting the issue at a public hearing: "I'm personally not aware of any letters, telephone calls or an increase in traffic accidents in the area. Perhaps some other factor may have promoted this kind of review. If it's the golf course and senior housing at Morewood, I'd want to wait and see what traffic will be before we revisit the issue."
Longview Road resident Nancy Lanis pointed out that since the ordinance was passed in 1994, the town has been responsive to the increased traffic on Beacon Hill Road : "The traffic flow on Campus Drive was changed so that cars dropping off students no longer exit through Montfort Hills onto Beacon Hill Road. This significantly reduced the number of cars at the intersection of Beacon Hill Road and Port Washington Blvd. during commuter hours heaviest congestion period."
Nancy Lanis stresses that she and the other residents on Longview Road supported the reduction in speed on Beacon Hill Road and would support additional safety measures on Beacon Hill Road. "We hope the community can bind together and support each other in the larger issues that face our community, like Morewood for example," she states. "The issue was excruciatingly debated for two years and tore the community apart. We don't want to have to go through that kind of pain again."