A joint task force formed earlier this year to address potentially dangerous conditions for pedestrians on Littleworth Lane is recommending that the Village of Sea Cliff increase signage, extend sidewalks and educate the public to improve safety on the road. The findings were presented by Mayor Edward Lieberman at a public comment meeting Monday night.
Several parents said they were worried that pedestrians — specifically children — could get hurt on Littleworth Lane because the street, which is adjacent to Sea Cliff Elementary School, is closed on weekdays, but open on weekends. Parents expressed concern that since children are accustomed to the road being closed, they might walk or run into the street without thinking about oncoming traffic.
The village began working with the North Shore School District in January to resolve the issue with the help of a task force comprising village and school officials, parents and traffic ex-perts focused on short-term solutions and signage, long-term solutions, and traffic education and communication.
Lieberman said that the task force did not reach a consensus on a possible long-term solution, such as prohibiting traffic on Littleworth Lane seven days a week or moving the school’s playground to the Franklin Avenue side of the school, as had been suggested by residents in the past.
The village does plan to extend the sidewalk on the playground side, and to restripe the road and repaint its crosswalks, which the task force recommended. Lieberman said that before the sidewalk could be extended, however, the playground’s gate, which is the property of the school district, would have to be moved back.
Lieberman emphasized the need for child-resistant locks on the gate connecting Sea Cliff Elementary’s two playgrounds and the gates leading to Littleworth Lane as an added safety measure. “Without a child-resistant lock on that gate, it provides no protection,” he said.
The task force also recommended adding signage around the school to indicate the presence of a “school zone” as a visual cue to drivers to use caution.
Village Trustee Dina Epstein, a liaison to Sea Cliff’s Traffic and Safety Committee, stressed the importance of implementing the short-term solutions before the start of the next school year.
Lieberman said that the school district is exploring the possibility of including New York State Association of Traffic Safety Boards programs in students’ phys. ed. classes. Additionally, the task force recommended that school administrators hold outdoor assemblies on Littleworth Lane to educate students and staff members about the road’s restrictions, show videos on the dos and don’ts of pedestrian safety, and hold presentations about developing “safe routes” to school.
Moving Sea Cliff Elementary’s playground to the Franklin Avenue side of the school was “never entertained,” said Elena Villafane, a task force member. “It was categorized as beyond the reach of the district’s finances.”
In 2001, the playground was moved from behind the school across Littleworth Lane to its current location, and the old playground became a faculty parking lot. Village Administrator Bruce Kennedy estimated in February that moving the playground back onto Franklin Avenue would cost the school district roughly $500,000.
Closing the road seven days a week is not possible either, village trustees argued. Under state law, a municipality cannot pass a local ordinance to prohibit the use of a public road. In the past, trustees expressed concern that Sea Cliff could be sued if it were to do so.
During public comment, Liz Baron asked whether village trustees had been approached by “litigious residents” threatening to sue if the ordinance were changed to prohibit traffic. Three trustees nodded.
Resident Roger Friedman said he appreciated the amount of time the village had spent on this issue, but recommended that traffic be prohibited seven days a week, as it was three years ago.
“We moved here with that condition in place, and we were very comfortable with the way it was,” Friedman said. “The playground on a summer weekend is a completely fluid situation that you cannot control no matter how hard you try.”
Resident Amy Sanborn agreed that the old ordinance should be reinstated, as did Adam Friedberg, who circulated a petition last November in favor of closing Littleworth Lane.
“The kids are conditioned to treat that road as a safe space,” Friedberg said. “I think [the old ordinance] is a compromise people are willing to live with.”