After two years of petitioning the Nassau County Police Department, East Rockaway resident Dan Caracciolo’s efforts finally paid off on Nov. 8, when the department approved a crossing guard position for the corner of Atlantic and Ocean avenues.
“I’m really happy about it,” said Caracciolo, who realized that his daughter, Rikki, who was 10 at the time he first wrote the petition, would not have a safe place to cross to get to the high school on Ocean Avenue after two people died trying to cross the intersection.
Caracciolo said that his friend’s mother, Carmel Kennedy, died at age 60 when she was struck by a car while trying to cross the intersection in February 2015. His neighbor, Gilorama Esposito, died at age 72 from injuries she sustained in a crash at the intersection in September 2015.
That realization led Caracciolo to create a petition urging the police to instate a crossing guard at the intersection. It received about 200 signatures, and was sent to the NCPD later that year. The petition was ultimately denied, but it piqued the interest of East Rockaway School District Superintendent Lisa Ruiz and Mayor Bruno Romano, both of whom helped with the cause.
Ruiz spoke to members of the fourth precinct about instating a crossing guard at the intersection last year. “They were very supportive, and I believe they endorsed it, but the final word wasn’t up to them,” she said.
Ruiz enlisted the help of Romano and Deputy Mayor Theresa Gaffney, who repeatedly sent the police department requests for a crossing guard at the corner, but were unsuccessful until last month, after Caracciolo re-created his petition on Change.org.
The petition, which was posted in September, was addressed to Nassau County Legislators Denise Ford and Howard Kopel. It described how drivers commonly speed through the intersection to catch trains, and how the traffic at the intersection would only increase with the opening of the Marina Pointe condominiums in the spring of 2018. As of press time, the petition had more than 700 signatures.
“This is well overdue,” wrote one signatory and East Rockaway resident, Ed Wooding, on the petition. “If having a guard saves just one family from the heartache and nervousness of our children crossing the intersection, it’s more than worth the cost.”
Last month, members of the NCPD conducted a study in which they looked at the location of the crosswalk, traffic lights, visibility, varied distractions and the ages of students using the crosswalk. When the study was completed, the members concurred that a crossing guard was necessary, and acting Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder then sent a letter to Romano saying that the position would be effective starting Nov. 13. By Nov. 20, the position was staffed, according to Public Information Officer Richard Lebrun.