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Sag Harbor Parents Express Safety Concerns Over Pick up and Drop off at Pierson Middle/High School

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By Tessa Raebeck

Last Friday afternoon at the end of the school day, Dr. Carl Bonuso was on Division Street waiting to make a left turn into the Pierson Middle/High School parking lot, with his left signal blinking. A Mini Cooper came behind him, swerved to the left and illegally passed Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent of the Sag Harbor School District.

Several Pierson parents have expressed concern over such incidents during pick up and drop off at the school’s southern entrance, saying poor design, lack of supervising personnel and drivers’ rush to get kids to school combine for a haphazard and potentially dangerous scenario.

“I’m a parent, not an expert,” said Robbie Vorhaus, who has had two children attend Pierson — one is now in college and the other is still a student at the school. “But I’m still very much aware of the fact that there is a very flagrant potential safety hazard that’s been going on for a long time. And it would seem as though the police department would want to work with the school to prevent something horrible from happening.”

During the morning drop off, parents circle around the Division Street parking lot loop, dropping kids off at a curb by the entrance. Principal Jeff Nichols and other administrators are often present to move traffic along the curb.

John Ali, a Pierson security officer, monitors the buses and is positioned at the Marsden Street intersection in the afternoon. The buses park south of the intersection on Division Street and exit down Marsden Street. Cars line up down Marsden Street, despite a No Standing sign, and up and down Division Street.

During the morning, drivers pull around the loop to drop their kids off; cars approach the parking lot entrance from all directions. The four-way traffic created by the intersection is about 20 feet from the three-way traffic created by the lot entrance.

“There are different problems in the morning than in the afternoon,” Vorhaus said.

In the afternoon, students must find the car picking them up. If it hasn’t yet pulled into the loop, kids often go down the road in search of it.

On Friday afternoon, in addition to directing the intersection, there were students to be monitored. On the loop, a student on a razor scooter had to be directed to stay out of the road. A girl in a red jacket ran across the street, dropping a cup in the middle of the road and stooping to pick it up. During both pick up and drop off, which lasts about 20 minutes each, several cars ran the three stop signs at the Marsden Street intersection.

“It was absolute mayhem there today,” Vorhaus said Tuesday, speaking of the afternoon pick up, which came early due to inclement weather. “With the snow and the early pick up, there were more people and there was nobody there [aside from Ali]. There was no other public safety officer anywhere to be seen.”

Dr. Bonuso said Monday the school is hoping to implement several practical safety changes when the parking lots are renovated as part of the district bond capital projects.

“We’ve also in our school and community meetings talked about the details regarding the design for the parking lot,” he said Tuesday. “One of the things we’re tossing around is whether or not we could expand that curb length, so that people could pull up much further and [thus] not have as much of a line of people spilling out into the street.”

“And of course,” he added, “we also welcome working with and partnering with the village.”

“The answer is,” Vorhaus said Tuesday, “that the police department — as in any other community — works in cooperation with the school and puts either a patrol officer or a safety officer, certainly, at the corner of Division and Jermain.”

Although that intersection is priority, Vorhaus would also like to see a second officer at the northern intersection of Division Street and Marsden Street, especially during pick up.

Dr. Bonuso said he would welcome it if the village’s traffic experts spoke with the district’s architecture firm, BBS Architecture, “to get a sense of traffic flow and what the best design is both from the school’s perspective and the village’s perspective. We absolutely welcome having both the village and school share as much information and expertise as is available.”

“Honestly, I think that’s a school issue,” Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride said Tuesday, adding that he sometimes accompanies his son to drop off his grandson.

Mayor Gilbride said there is a Traffic Control Officer (TCO) at the Sag Harbor Elementary School’s Route 114 entrance “who does an excellent job.”

Sag Harbor Police Chief Tom Fabiano said Tuesday he could not comment because he is unaware of the problem, but anyone with concerns should come to him to discuss a possible solution.

 

Town Considers Limiting Truck Size On Noyac Rd.

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By Claire Walla

When it comes down to it, 10,000 pounds isn’t really that much.

Sedans, SUVs and light-duty pick-up trucks would make the cut. But, according to Southampton Town Traffic Coordinator Tom Neely, heavy-duty pick-ups, larger vans, dump trucks and tractor-trailers would have to go.

That was cause for concern for many who came to Town Hall speak out on the issue of banning vehicles over 10,000 pounds at a Southampton Town Board meeting on Tuesday, April 24.

The proposed legislation, put forth by Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, would effectively prohibit vehicles over 10,000 pounds from driving along Noyac Road between County Road 39 and the Village of Sag Harbor. A few exemptions would include school buses and vehicles doing business on Noyac Road.

The legislation was put together in an effort to further address traffic-calming measures, which have been hotly debated for years with regard to Noyac Road, specifically the curve that runs along Cromer’s Market and the Whalebone Gift Store.

Discussions have mainly revolved around road repairs, like installing a concrete median or adding striping to get cars to slow down. But at a community meeting last month, which was attended by over 100 Noyac residents and every member of the Southampton Town Board, a couple of people brought up the ban.

“We were thinking about fuel-delivery trucks, ones that seem to use [Noyac Road] as a thoroughfare rather than a delivery route,” Throne-Holst said. She added that the major threat comes from the large trucks that tend to use Noyac Road to bypass traffic on Montauk Highway, and proceed to speed through the bayside hamlet.

“There’s risk and danger for oncoming traffic,” she said. Let alone the noise factor.

“The noise is significant,” said Bill Reilly, who lives on Oak Drive near Noyac Road.  He explained that because road conditions have improved over the years, it’s effectively increased the amount of traffic caused by large trucks.  While banning all trucks over 10,000 pounds might not be the solution—Reilly admitted that vehicles prohibited from driving down Noyac Road would just travel elsewhere—he said, “we’ve got a significant problem.”

However, the legislation, as it now stands, may have some unintended consequences, as members of the Sag Harbor community pointed out on Tuesday.

“If you took the trucks off Noyac Road, my opinion is that you would also increase the speed on Noyac Road,” said Mickey Valcich of garbage-collection company Mickey’s Carting.

East Hampton Highway Supervisor Steve Lynch added that prohibiting certain vehicles from using Noyac Road would add time onto their routes, which would be costly in the long-run.

John Tintle, who owns and operates the Sand Land Corporation, which has a facility on Mill Stone Road, agreed.

“The unintended consequences passed on to the tax payers would be enormous,” she said. Tintle explained that he already charges higher prices for deliveries that are further away because of fuel costs. By averting Noyac Road, and thus adding extra time onto truck routes, he said costs would inevitably rise.

And they would not only rise for those living in Southampton Town.

Jay Card, superintendent of highways for Shelter Island, and Jim Dougherty, Shelter Island Town Supervisor, both spoke out on the issue, saying it would make commuting on and off the island for commercial trucks very difficult.

“It would essentially cause us to go all the way to East Hampton to get back to Montauk Highway,” Card said.

“We basically think that in a soft economy like this, this is no time to be burdening our residents with additional costs,” Dougherty said.

Neely explained that the town used the 10,000-pound benchmark only because it had used that measurement in the past. He further noted that this would prohibit F350 trucks and Ram 3500 trucks from taking Noyac Road.

“If this were to go forward, looking at heavier weights would be something we’d want to put out there,” he said.

The other big issue is enforcement, a topic many speakers brought up.

Neely explained that in order enforce the law, police officers would be responsible for pulling vehicles over and physically checking the inside of the passenger door, where the maximum weight is listed. Officers would also be responsible for checking any documentation the driver might have to prove he or she is making a local delivery or service call.

“You would have to put a number of vehicles on that road to do enforcement,” said Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano. “And I guarantee that once you put this into effect, you’re going to get a lot of calls [from people saying], ‘there’s a truck on Noyac Road, do something about it.’”

Throne-Holst said she recognized there were many concerns, particularly for the business community. And while she said the town does not have accurate statistics on just how many of the vehicles that drive down Noyac Road are large trucks, she suggested the town put together a study in order to secure that information.

“In the end, we need some sort of understanding of what the actual traffic looks like there,” she said, adding that this is just one component of what she hopes will be a bigger plan. “What this town needs to do is a comprehensive truck route.”

The board closed the public hearing on Tuesday, but has opened up a 30-day comment period on the proposed legislation.

Village Cops Embrace Youth Court

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This past January, four Sag Harbor youths were arrested and charged with making graffiti in the village.

But instead of attending Family Court and going through a routine probationary process, they went to Youth Court, where their cases will be heard not only by a jury of their peers, but by a bench of legal council and even a judge who’s still a teen.

Sag Harbor Village Detective Jeff Proctor said he wasn’t aware Youth Court was an option until an attorney for one of the youths involved in the graffiti incident recommended it.

“This is actually good for us,” he said.  “For many years, there have been crimes committed by 13-, 14- and 15-years olds that aren’t severe enough for Family Court [because they are only violations], but they shouldn’t go unnoticed.  This gives kids some type of consequence for their actions.”

According to Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano, this is the first time that a case that’s originated in the village has gone to Youth Court.

He said the police department has tried to make use of the youth court in the past, but the partnership has not always panned out. For one thing, all misdemeanors are first sent to Family Court before they are considered for Youth Court.  And as for violations, for which the department itself can send a child to Youth Court, parental consent is required.

“That’s the part I’ve ben trying to work with the police department on,” said Karen Hurst of the Southampton Town Youth Bureau who runs the Youth Court. She said arrests are quite tricky when it comes to children under the age of 16. In fact, minors cannot technically be charged with violations.

“But, if we get the parents’ consent, then [the kids] can come through the Youth Court,” she continued. “For example, if they have marijuana”—possession of marijuana is a violation—“an officer can say: We have this program available. That way, the kids are still being held accountable.”

Previously, Fabiano said juveniles arrested in Sag Harbor, ended up being sent to probation through Family Court Intake in Riverhead.  But, the department is making more of a concerted effort to utilize the teen court system.

“I hear a lot of good things about your court, because kids are judging other kids,” Fabiano said. “And they’re learning how the judicial system works.”

The Youth Court combines a range of participants stretching from Westhampton

“Youth Court is not mock trial,” Hurst explained. “The kids are looking at actual court cases.”

The way it works is there are kids who are involved in learning how the court system functions, and then there are youths who have committed a crime—either a violation or a minor misdemeanor (like making graffiti)—whose cases can be brought to Youth Court.

The kids who are participating in the Youth Court educational program take a 12-week training course with attorney Kevin Gilvary, through which they learn about the judicial system by reviewing actual court cases, and ultimately participating in Youth Court trials. Three students each will play the roles of prosecution and defense attorneys, and one student will even act as the judge presiding over the court proceedings.

To prepare for trial, Hust said the kids study different cases, practice their own depositions and even learn how to present opening and closing arguments. They even study different ways of administering consequences for certain actions.

“They have a lot of freedom with it,” she explained. Previous “sentences” have involved volunteer work, writing and art projects that benefit the community.

“They take it very, very seriously because they know it’s one of their peers sitting there,” Hurst commented.  “These are real cases, we’re working with real kids’ lives,” she continued. “I stress that to the kids all the time: If you were the one sitting in the respondents’ chair, how would you want your attorney to be acting?”

This is Only A Test…

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By Claire Walla


Next Wednesday, November 9 at precisely 2 p.m. don’t be alarmed: your television and your radio will lose programming for approximately three minutes. The same will be true of every single television and radio across the country. For the first time ever, the national Emergency Alert System (EAS) will test its full scope by broadcasting simultaneously from New York to Hawaii that infamous cacophony of monotone beeps and text that reads: “Emergency Alert Notification has been issued.”

“A new era in alerting will commence,” wrote Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau Chief James A. Barnett, Jr. in a statement published on the website of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In the 15 years since the EAS has been in existence, it has issued emergency tests multiple times throughout the course of a single year. However, this is the first time the signal will be tested nationwide.

“This test is vital to ensuring that the EAS, the primary alerting system available to the American public, works as designed,” the statement continued.

Emailed messages circulated throughout Southampton Town have indicated local police and management circles are concerned that this test might induce a level of anxiety for some residents. While audio messages peppered throughout the three-minute broadcast will clearly state “this is a test,” the written text will not necessarily indicate the same.

However, local officials seem calm.

“I’ve made dispatch aware of it, in case someone calls in,” said Sag Harbor Police Chief Tom Fabiano. “It’s just the usual test, except it’s happening across the country. Most people probably won’t even notice it.”

And Lieutenant Robert P. Iberger of the Southampton Town Police wrote in an email response: “Folks have been routinely listening to the EBS [Emergency Broadcast System] since as long as I can remember, and now the EAS.”

So as long as the nation refrains from re-broadcasting Orson Welle’s radio drama “War of the Worlds,” Lt. Iberger indicated, “We should be ok.”

The EAS is typically used to spread warning signals throughout regions of the country affected by the onslaught of severe weather, for example. Wednesday’s test is important to ensure that the system would work should anything more devastating affect the nation as a whole.

“If public safety officials need to send an alert or warning to a large region of the United States — in the case of a major earthquake and tsunami on the West Coast, for example — or even to the entire country, we need to know the system will work as intended,” Barnett said in his statement. “Only a top-down, simultaneous test of all components of the EAS can tell us this.”

“Early warnings save lives,” the text continued. “This was demonstrated recently and dramatically during the major earthquake and tsunami that devastated Eastern Japan. Except for Japan’s early warning systems, loss of life would have been much higher.”