Recently, County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi and Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman traveled to Greenvale to unveil a plan to deal with the traffic and congestion problem at Glen Cove Road and Northern Boulevard.
The plan, which calls for an implementation in three phases, seeks to solve the traffic problem basically by widening Glen Cove Road.
In the meantime, a local resident who has lived in the area for 20 years, has his concerns about the implications of the plan and whether it will make life for residents any safer.
John Duffy is a resident of Hicks Place, which is located near the intersection. He faults both the county and the town for not earlier engaging in long-term planning over the intersection's problems, especially those caused by commercial development.
Duffy said that earmarking just $1 million for renovation is like "putting a band-aid on an artery." A more significant problem, he also said, is what commercial development has meant for the area. The town, he added, should declare a moratorium on all future commercial development near the intersection, since "unchecked development," in his view, is responsible for the current predicament.
When County Executive Suozzi and Supervisor Kaiman made their joint announcement on Feb. 9 at Ben's Delicatessen in Wheatley Plaza, they also visited the homes of several residents where the intersection is located. One of the homes was John Duffy's.
As he recalled, Duffy said that the county executive told him that the county and town planned to "create a park" in the area. More specifically, they planned to construct a parking lot with a buffer zone, so as to separate the homes from the businesses. According to county officials, at least one business on Glen Cove Road will see its parking lot significantly reconstructed.
Duffy claims that as a result, entrances to the parking lots of certain businesses will be in the residential neighborhoods themselves. "Customers will be driving down Park Avenue to the restaurants, a street where children play and ride bicycles," he said. One of those businesses, he added, may be a bar and restaurant establishment.
In all, Duffy not only worried that the plan would make the neighborhood unsafe, he also criticized town and county officials for drawing up a plan without any input from the neighbors "directly affected."
Kevin Mulligan, the director of capital programs for the county's Department of Public Works tried to answer some of Duffy's concerns.
He said that the main purpose of the renovation plan is to get more cars through the intersection at a faster pace. Mulligan admitted that making a balance between pedestrian safety and quicker traffic volume isn't easy, but he maintained that when the renovation project is completed, it would result in greater overall safety for the entire area.
Another main objective of the project, Mulligan added, is to both keep cars on Northern Boulevard and Glen Cove Road and off the side streets, including Hicks Place. Mulligan said that because of current traffic conditions, automobiles are circumventing the intersection and traveling along residential roads. Once renovation takes place that should no longer be happening, he claimed.
Phase one of the renovation includes road widening on Glen Cove Road. In one instance, road widening will take up 8 to 10 parking spots at an establishment on Glen Cove Road, Mulligan said. Consequently, the county, he added, would have to move parking to the side of the business.
At the Feb. 9 meeting, the county executive presented a three-phase plan, with phase one planned for a start this spring, and finish by the end of the year; phase two could be initiated in 2005. The county executive's office is still working on phase three, hoping perhaps to combine it with phase one, calling it phase 1-3.
The proposed phase one would begin on the northwest side of the intersection. Heading south on Glen Cove Road, two right turn lanes onto Northern Boulevard would be added as well as a longer approach lane in the left, to allow the street to qualify for a left-turn lane.
Phase two would involve the southwest side of Northern Boulevard, heading south on Glen Cove Road. Suozzi sees three lanes, gradually merging back into two.
Phase three is a more involved, and to the county executive's thinking, the preferred solution. In the last phases, turn lanes built in phase one will be extended north to the Barefoot Peddler, sidewalks will be redesigned and parking lots moved behind buildings. As the new parking lot will border a residential street, a buffer zone and a decorative wall planted with evergreens would make the periphery of the residential area an attractive alternative to looking at parking lots or, as Suozzi pointed out, "the Blockbuster sign."
"We want to improve the traffic flow and make this area safer for local residents, motorists and pedestrians," Suozzi also said at the Feb. 9 meeting. Addressing a concern later raised by John Duffy, Suozzi also promised residents that he will solicit community input every step of the way through the program to keep local residents involved in the process.
According to county officials, 50,000 vehicles, on a daily basis cross the intersection, going north/south on Glen Cove Road. At the intersection of Glen Cove Road and Old Country Road, 30,000 cross north/south. Adding in east/west traffic only increases the numbers. The Old Country Road intersection then sees 100,000 vehicle crossings, while east/west traffic on Northern Boulevard increases to 70,000 vehicles.