Village pours federal grant money into making busy road safer


The village will pump $300,000 of federal funds into efforts to improve the way cars and pedestrians navigate Hendrickson Avenue, from North Corona Avenue to Fletcher Avenue, by installing a number of traffic-calming features.

The money comes from the federal Community Development Block Grant program, which funds projects that tackle a community’s urgent housing and development needs and focuses on the special needs of low- to moderate-income residents.

The program allows cities, towns and villages to use the money to cover a wide scope of local demands, ranging from installing LED lighting on public streets to larger-scale projects like park and playground reconstruction. 

This year, Valley Stream’s approved grant application calls for road reconstruction, including five-inch-thick concrete sidewalks, new concrete curbs, new traffic signs, a stamped concrete crosswalk, and a bike lane extension.

The project also aims to give the street a face-lift with cosmetic add-ons like steel benches and vegetated ditches known as bioswales, designed to slow the flow of rainwater.

The project is expected to be complete by June of 2023.

Hendrickson Avenue is a commuter-heavy stretch of road. It cuts straight through dense residential neighborhoods, flanking Memorial Junior High School on one side and ending at Wheeler Avenue School. The road is frequently used by families and students heading to and from school.

School administrators and families living on the road have long had serious traffic and safety concerns.

Traffic congestion starts near Fletcher Avenue between 7 and 8 a.m., according to Junior Memorial High School Principal Bret Strauss. 

While congestion has long been a commuting headache on Hendrickson, it has gotten worse in recent years, Strauss said, due to increased enrollment and more parents working remotely, leading to more students getting dropped off at school.

By the time the dismissal bell sounds, cars clogging Hendrickson and Fletcher Avenue wind up clogging the school parking lot, frustrating parents and staff trying to safely leave the building.

Congestion isn’t Strauss’s only concern. Students trekking to school on foot on Hendrickson and nearby roads face dangers from “unsafe driving practices” including speeding cars, drivers failing to stop at stop signs, double parking and illegal U-turns.

“It’s busiest at certain times, but cars are always coming at a fast speed, so a crosswalk would be helpful,” said Memorial Junior High School student Umair Zafar.

“Students in our district who use that section of road to walk to and from school will significantly benefit from these safety enhancements,” said District 13 Superintendent Judith LaRocca. 

Strauss is less convinced.

“More crosswalks and concrete sidewalks would certainly assist in keeping students safe,” he said.

“I do not believe benches or beautification serve to solve the problem. I believe traffic studies and architect and engineering reviews of the lot, and the street would allow us to find a beneficial solution.”

Neither Village Media Liaison Barbara deGrace nor Tom McAleer, director of the village’s Community and Economic Development Committee, directly responded to questions on whether a traffic impact study was conducted to determine if the project’s traffic-calming features would make noticeable improvements to the road’s major traffic problems.

María Mazalkova, who lives near the busy streets, said she believed that any investment in traffic safety is desperately needed and long overdue, but she would have preferred that the village spend the money on traffic-calming measures on her side of Hendrickson, directly west of Fletcher Avenue, and in particular, adding a speed bump at the road’s intersection with East Avenue.

“It’s very dangerous at the intersection,” Mazalkova said. “Cars don’t stop for the stop sign, so we have a lot of accidents here. That’s my biggest concern.”

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