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Calls for traffic light grow after third Bellmore Avenue crash

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Since moving into the corner house at Bellmore Avenue and Davenport Place last August, Ashley Umanzor has become aware of the intersection’s notoriety for car accidents. But she never anticipated that a car could crash-land on her front lawn, until it happened two Sundays ago.

“I was totally speechless,” Umanzor told the Herald Life last weekend. “I fell in love with the potential of this house . . . Now, I’m scared.”

The first-time homeowner, who lives with her fiance, has joined neighbors to call for a traffic light at the corner. A Change.org petition, which was started two months ago and chronicles the various accidents that have occurred, had garnered 855 signatures as the Herald Life went to press.

The Sept. 15 crash was the second at the intersection since Nassau County Police Department officer George Day was hit while riding his motorcycle on July 6. Another accident occurred in early August, the day the Herald Life published a previous story on the homeowners’ plight.

At the corner, which also intersects with Alice Avenue and is just south of Newbridge Road Elementary School, Bellmore Avenue curves, obstructing sight lines for drivers who turn on to the busy four-lane street. They often must pull into the main road, blocking a lane before making a left turn.

“This doesn’t just affect residents, it affects everyone that drives down that street,” said Fredda Schildt, a Davenport homeowner who has been fighting for a traffic light for more than 20 years. “We need to make this safer for everyone.”

Joe Verdi, owner of Income Tax Plus at the corner of Alice, likened Bellmore Avenue to a highway, with many cars traveling faster than the posted 40-mph speed limit. “Two people have come into the side of my building — $5,000 worth of damage,” Verdi said. He added that he hears the screeching tires of near-hits “all the time.”

“In one week, I saw two near-misses,” Schildt said. “I actually braced for the impact.”

In the past, Nassau County, which has jurisdiction over Bellmore Avenue, has tried to alleviate the problem. There is no parking in front of Verdi’s business or on the corners, and trees have been removed to improve sightlines. Speed traps can also be found on Bellmore Avenue, but “none of that has made a difference,” Schildt said.

Residents hoped the renewed calls for a traffic light after the incident with Officer Day — who suffered several broken bones, and was released from a Port Jefferson rehabilitation center on Sept. 6 — would move the process along quickly. Now, with two more accidents, they want the intersection to be top priority.

“The time for action is now,” said Anthony Eremitaggio, another Davenport resident who joined Schildt to start the petition. “They’re waiting for something bad to happen — they’re waiting for a fatality.”

According to Nassau County Legislator Tom McKevitt, a Republican from East Meadow, the Town of Hempstead has recently conducted traffic studies for the residential streets. The county’s director of traffic engineering, Harold Lutz, is conducting a study for Bellmore Avenue, but could not be reached for comment by press time.

McKevitt set up a meeting in August between various departments within the town and the county to get the process moving. “I want to get this done as quickly as possible,” he said. “I don’t want anybody getting hurt.”

Once published, the county’s traffic study will tell residents if a traffic light is applicable, as there is another traffic light just south on Bellmore Avenue, where it intersects with Bellmore Road.

“The only solution would be a light,” Umanzor said, adding that she has anxiety just leaving her driveway. “What extremes have to happen?”