By Ellen Frankman
Progress made in the Noyac Road traffic calming project has again hit a speed bump, as local residents press the town to adhere to their concerns about the size and scope of the plan.
Southampton Town highway superintendent Alex Gregor attended the Noyac Civic Council (NCC) Meeting on Tuesday, July 16 to present a further modified plan to calm traffic on the stretch of Noyac Road in front of Cromer’s Country Market and the Whalebone General Store. Though compromise has been made to balance safety with the rural aesthetic of the community, residents are not sold on the latest rendition.
“Anna Throne Holst gave her word that she was going to start small, and this is not small, this is big,” said Noyac resident James Dink.
The plan laid out by Gregor, titled 7A, Option 1, has only been slightly adjusted since it was last put forth at the Southampton Town Board work session at the end of June. The only change is the removal of a bulge of brick and concrete in the area that separates the parking lot from the roadway.
The majority of the plan remains the same as it was last proposed at the end of June. It includes a widening of the road in front of Cromer’s and the Whalebone, and increased use of painted lines to show that the road is narrowing, designed to slow traffic. A raised center median will be installed to separate the parking lot from traffic, and Bay Avenue will be turned into a one-way street leading into Pine Neck. For residents that live on Bay Avenue, they will use Elm Street to get back out onto Noyac Road. Gregor believes that first and foremost, the travel lane must be defined to separate it from the roadway and there must be two spots for vehicles to enter.
“I think that people have said that they don’t want it to look like Nassau County, they want it to look softer and more rural and Alex has really worked on that,” said Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming at Tuesday’s evening.
But residents said they don’t feel that their voices are being heard, despite persistent reassurance from the town that their suggestions are being taken into account. Gregor feels that the issue is becoming increasingly politicized, and concessions that residents once approved they are no longer satisfied with.
George Heine, owner of the Whalebone General Store, came forward in the meeting to offer an alternate plan with no median.
“I do not approve of the plan, and I am not supporting the plan; what I am trying to do is mitigate it,” said Heine. “If anybody in the last month-and-a-half has attempted to get out on Noyac Road from the Pine Neck side, there are times I have waited 10 minutes to get out of my driveway.”
Heine also advocated for phasing the project in, step-by-step and starting small, to see what works and what doesn’t work.
Heine’s wife Linda also expressed discontent with the plan as it stands.
“In 55 years, there has never been any problem with people coming out of both streets and I don’t see why everyone who lives on Bay Street has to go up Elm Street to get onto Noyac Road,” she said.
But Gregor rejected these proposals, and expressed frustration that Heine, who was previously on board with the direction of the plan, has since rejected it. Gregor believes safety is the number one priority of the project, noting there have been 46 accidents and one fatality recorded on the stretch of curving road over the past three years.
“I do believe I have a moral obligation to try to make the safest project possible taking into consideration all of your input,” said Gregor. “It’s not that big of a change, but we have a responsibility as elected officials who took an oath to protect the people.
The Southampton Town Board has most recently tabled voting on the plan in order to continue to hear the voices of residents before making a final decision.
But Gregor, with exasperation in his voice, believes that after three years of working on this project there just may not be a solution that everyone is looking for.
“The board might just take no action,” said Gregor. “That’s the easy way out.”