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After fatal accident, Woodmere residents want a traffic signal

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Calls for a traffic signal at the intersection of Edward Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard in Woodmere have grown louder since resident Melanie Kail created a Change.org petition on Dec. 31 that, as of press time, had 4,285 supporters.

Because of the death of Woodmere resident Stewart Hecht, who was struck by a vehicle at the intersection the same day, the need for increased traffic mitigation has moved Nassau County officials to conduct a study on the possible installation of a signal at what many residents consider a hazardous intersection. Peninsula Boulevard is a county road.

After leaving Congregation Bais Tefilah, an Orthodox synagogue at 409 Edward Ave., Hecht, 73, was crossing Peninsula at 6:55 a.m. on Dec. 31 when he was hit by a 2019 Infinity sport utility vehicle that was traveling south, police said. The driver, a 36-year-old woman, remained at the scene.

“As of now, there are speed [monitors] set up and we’re waiting to hear back from the county,” Kail said. “We’re going to keep on it.”

One speed monitor is on the west side of Peninsula, by Harvard Avenue. Another is on the east side of Peninsula, by Howard Avenue. There are three traffic signals in the immediate area of the Edward Avenue-Peninsula Boulevard intersection: At Church, Howard and Longarce avenues. There is also a curve on that stretch of Peninsula that adds to the danger for pedestrians and motorists. The posted Town of Hempstead speed limit is 30 mph.

In the aftermath of Hecht’s death, his son Elliot called Nassau County Executive Lauran Curran’s office, he said. “I heard the bang and thought, ‘Another fender bender,’” Elliot said. “My question to them is how many people you want dead before you put up a light? It’s not about me being angry. It’s about getting a traffic light.”

On the Change.org page, Kail wrote, “As there have been countless motor vehicle accidents and pedestrians struck in and around this intersection it has become abundantly clear that we need to do something to help ensure the safety of our community, friends and neighbors. Over the last 10 years it is clear that a traffic signal is the only way to ensure safety at this dangerous intersection.”

In the past decade, the volume of vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the community has grown as more synagogues have opened, and the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach moved into the former Number Six School on Church Avenue nearly three years ago. Students at the Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys, on nearby Ibsen Street, add to the more than 70 children who cross at the Church Avenue-Peninsula Boulevard intersection when school is in session.

Kail added that in a conversation with a friend a few months ago, Stewart Hecht mentioned that someone would have to be killed at the intersection before the county did anything. “How his words shall now ring true!” she wrote on the petition page. “It is imperative that we join together to assist when people attempt to cross what has become a dangerous and hazardous intersection for ourselves and our community both young and old. Please sign this petition to make our busy streets safer for all of us!”

On Dec. 31, Edward Avenue resident Allen Lieberman posted, “Cars and 18-wheel trucks zoom at high speeds along Peninsula Blvd. between the school zones like it’s an expressway. . . . Many children often walk/run across the 4-lane boulevard narrowly missing oncoming vehicles. A traffic light is an absolute must at this very residential intersection.”

State  Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat who represents the Five Towns, said he planned to move the process along. “This is a matter of the most urgent concern and a terrible tragedy,” he said. “I have been in contact with the county and understand they are doing a traffic study to weigh the feasibility of installing a traffic light at this intersection. I will use the full weight of my office to expedite this process and advocate for a light at the dangerous intersection.”

Have an opinion about the installation of a traffic signal in this area of Woodmere? Send your letter to the editor to jbessen@liherald.com.