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Lawrence to seek New York state grant for Nassau Expressway light repair

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To fix the roughly 30 streetlights that are not working along the Nassau Expressway it was decided in an Aug. 2 meeting between the Village of Lawrence, New York State’s Department of Transportation and State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat from Long Beach, that more than likely state funding is needed.

Lawrence Deputy Administrator, Gerry Castro, said the consensus was that a project of this magnitude requires state money. “We all came to the conclusion at the meeting that this is a tremendous capital project,” he said. “We will be going for a state grant.” 

On June 25, Atlantic Beach resident Barry Ringelheim counted 27 unlit streetlights along the expressway, which is also known as Route 878, on his drive home from work at 10 p.m. Ringelheim has written letters concerning this issue to the Town of Hempstead, the DOT and the village since 2014. The Herald conducted its own count and found nearly 30 lights not working.

Castro said that the village is in the process of getting estimates for the potential work. There is no set timetable for any work. “I can’t give a timeline until we have an estimate,” he added. “What I can say is that we are working on this everyday and are aiming to get a cost as soon as possible.”

Long Island DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said that the DOT will cooperate with the village and Kaminsky on any plan to fix the lights. “Officials from the State Department of Transportation and the village recently had a productive meeting discussing the village’s future project of restoring its street lights on Nassau Expressway,” Canzoneri stated in an email. 

Kaminsky confirmed the process of obtaining the grant starts with the village. “We had a good meeting with the village and the DOT that I hope gives us a solution to a problem that’s been going on for nearly seven years,” he said. “It’s now up to the village to give us a cost for the work.” 

There have been multiple instances of the streetlights on 878 being out since Hurricane Sandy. In October 2015, the Town of Hempstead replaced 83 streetlights — from Route 878’s intersection with Rockaway Turnpike to the intersection with Bayview Avenue — with light-emitting diode, or LED, bulbs. The village also spent nearly $100,000 in 2016 to repair 70 streetlights. Last November, after a car crashed into the streetlight pole that controls the lights on Thanksgiving night, Kaminsky’s office collaborated with the town and Nassau County to get the streetlights fixed within a week. 

Though a state road, 878 technically is the responsibility of the town and village. Margaret Conklin, the state regional transportation director, stated in a Jan. 3 letter to Ringelheim that the streetlights along the expressway “are both owned and operated by the Town of Hempstead and the Village of Lawrence.” Conklin added that the lights from the Long Island Rail Road bridge to Rockaway Turnpike are the town’s responsibility, while the lights from the LIRR bridge to the Atlantic Beach Bridge toll booths are under the village’s jurisdiction.

Kaminsky noted that despite who is responsible for the road, all commuters want is the best conditions on the road. “When your driving on a dark road, you’re not thinking about who’s responsible for it,” he said. “You just want it to be fixed.”