Turnpike fence draws concerns

Workers from the state’s Department of Transportation are building a fence in the center median of Hempstead Turnpike, approximately 1,000 feet long, between Carman and Franklin avenues.

The fence’s installation, which began last week, is part of a safety-improvement initiative along the entire 16-mile Hempstead Turnpike corridor. The fence, directly in front of the Nassau University Medical Center — an area where there are no crosswalks, and widespread jaywalking is an ongoing problem — is expected to be completed by the end of January, said Jennifer Post, a spokeswoman for the DOT.

While East Meadow homeowners who live near the turnpike agree that by discouraging jaywalking, the fence can only improve safety, its installation has raised concerns about access for emergency vehicles, and about its aesthetics. And the project has angered residents who live south of the turnpike, who claim that it does nothing to solve a problem that has plagued their community for more than a year — the lack of parking.

In 2011, East Meadow resident Yvonne Amato, along with several homeowners near the turnpike, began a campaign to request residential signage on streets south of Hempstead Turnpike. They say that for almost two years, NUMC employees have parked their cars on residential streets, crowding their neighborhoods and even blocking their driveways — and the addition of a fence will do nothing to solve their problems.

After circulating a petition and collecting 82 signatures, Amato said that a bill, currently being written by Town of Hempstead Attorney Charles Kovit and State Assemblyman Tom McKevitt, would require permit parking on residential streets and prevent NUMC employees from parking on them.

“The fence will deter people from crossing in the middle. And it will save lives,” said Amato, who has lived on 1st Street for 31 years. “But we still have the problem of people parking in our neighborhood.”

Amato and John Nikiel, who lives one block south of Hempstead Turnpike, both expressed their fear that the fence is a precursor to a crosswalk to be installed in the area. However, Post said that there are no plans to add any crosswalk or traffic signal within the fenced area. Still, Nikiel said, “It just feels to me that it’s not the right solution to the problem.”

Improving safety on the turnpike

The Hempstead Turnpike safety initiative commenced last spring, said Post, and includes the remarking and widening of crosswalks along the roads, the addition of new features to pedestrian crossing buttons — they light up when pushed — and the retiming of traffic signals to increase pedestrian crossing times.

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