"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."
Three years ago, the residents of Longview Road thought they won a small victory. The use of the road was diminished by traffic restrictions making it a slightly safer place to walk. That has now been reversed by the Town Board of North Hempstead. Today, the residents of Beacon Hill Road probably feel as though they have won a small victory.
The residents of Beacon Hill Road were unhappy with their traffic situation before the Longview restrictions went into effect, and regrettably they will find that any improvement that results from this "victory" will be trivial in terms of the usage of their road or quality of their lives.
All of the residents of the Beacon Hill Community are now worse off than when this began. Not only has the traffic situation been restored to the status quo, but there has been five years of divisiveness, hostility and pointless waste of time, energy and money. These things have diminished the quality of life in Beacon Hill irreparably in a way that is otherwise unrelated to traffic. The entire episode was nothing more than a diversion. Neighbors were pitted against one another while the development of the Morewood property has proceeded apace, promising to increase the burden upon us all.
But the biggest casualty of all this is not the cohesiveness of the Beacon Hill community. In our view, the loss of confidence in our local government's ability or willingness to make and enforce proper decisions that affect the safety of our children and the quality of our lives makes us all losers.
It is now apparent that the Town Board of North Hempstead is either powerless or unwilling to find or even seek a solution to our neighborhood's problem. There is obviously a conflict between "progress" in the form of urbanization, and the desire of at least some of us to maintain the residential character of our neighborhood. The board has now demonstrated several undesirable qualities in response to this conflict, which transcend the problems of Beacon Hill and should concern every citizen of the town. Clearly the board will do nothing to protect the residents in its jurisdiction from encroaching urbanization. The best that they will do is adopt stop-gap measures designed to pacify residents while their property rights and the quality of their lives are being forever altered in an unfavorable way.
Three years ago, the board conducted five public hearings, solicited at least two independent traffic studies and enacted these restrictions. That decision was then challenged in court, where the town's representative defended it stating that the choice was between safety on the one hand and convenience on the other.
How can we have confidence in a government institution that reverses itself three years later? And on what basis? The only change has been in the composition of the board. Councilman Ferrara disregarded the evidence presented by a traffic expert because of a personal experience, but had nothing to support his decision other than which side of the issue had the most people in favor of it. Councilwoman Banks came to the Public Hearing on this issue with a three page typewritten decision. Neither of them would meet with anyone on the Longview Road side of the issue prior to the hearing. Councilman O'Connor also came to the hearing armed with letters from the police and fire departments, indicating that his decision had also been made in advance. The hearing therefore is a sham. It is a limited opportunity for concerned citizens to express themselves, but under the circumstances, the seats at the head of the room might as well be empty.
Residents of the town may not care about Beacon Hill. However, these same people and this same process are used to make decisions with greater consequences for all of us. If the process and/or its participants are flawed, so is the quality of their decisions. That should concern us all.
David S. Pollack
Elizabeth F. Tobin