For years, Valley Streamer Munahil Sultana, 18, needed to cross the intersection where North Central Avenue meets the Southern State Parkway on her way to and from Elmont Memorial High School.
The messy, six-way convergence of roads, including one entrance and two exit ramps for the parkway, is widely regarded as dangerous, and even for a veteran like Sultana, who crossed from her home on Arkansas Drive and headed north on Central, she recalled, “It was confusing, to say the least.” She is now a freshman in college in Pennsylvania.
Wearing headphones was out of the question, she said, “because the cars can come out of nowhere,” and she noted that the section where North Central Avenue passes below the parkway often flooded, forcing her to call a taxi.
Sultana is not alone. In 2014, 14-year-old Mohamed Tarek was walking home from a basketball game at EMHS when he was struck by a car while crossing the intersection, leaving him in a coma — and prompting the New York State Department of Transportation to consider studying the area around the parkway’s Exit 13 ramps.
The study, however, languished until early 2019, when State Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages and State Sen. John Brooks submitted legislation directing the department to study all the parkway’s entrance and exit ramps, not just those around Exit 13.
With the results of that study pending, lawmakers say they are gearing up to lobby both state and Nassau County governments to include safety measures and reconstruction of the intersection in their respective capital plans.
Solages, a Democrat from Elmont, said she expects results from the study in December, and she is pushing to have a complete redesign of the intersection included in the state’s five-year Department of Transportation capital plan. A DOT spokesman, however, said a report of the study’s findings would be issued to state and local leaders in May 2021. The previous plan was adopted in April 2016.
Like many top-dollar projects, such a major infrastructure overhaul could be pushed off as the state faces an historic budget crunch because of the coronavirus pandemic, Solages said. The state currently projects a $30 billion budget deficit without federal aid.
Regardless, Solages said, “There shouldn’t be any excuses, because this is a matter of life or death.”
Because the surrounding streets are county-owned, the traffic study legislation calls for collaboration between the county and state governments in reconstruction efforts. “We need a complete redesign, and that requires a financial investment from the state,” Solages said, noting that the county has provided short-term solutions such as the posting of a crossing guard before and after school.
Nassau Legislator Carrié Solages, a Democrat from Valley Stream, said that he has lobbied the county Department of Public Works and County Executive Laura Curran’s office to move forward with measures such as a left-turn signal on Stuart Avenue and a sidewalk on the southbound side of the Central Avenue underpass, and that budget line items were secured for such measures in the county’s capital plan.
Much like the state, however, the coronavirus has brought unprecedented financial stress to the county, and Curran has vowed to avoid borrowing through the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, which Solages said he worries will lead to a scaling back of county infrastructure projects.
Curran’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
“It’s very dangerous,” Solages said. “I’ve sent numerous letters and took pictures. The county is fully aware of this . . . For God’s sake, if someone died there . . .”
-Melissa Koenig contributed to this story.