Last week’s column dedicated to safety throughout the village elicited more inquires and needed clarifications about practices throughout the village.
When a pedestrian enters a designated crosswalk, the law requires not only the car in the immediate lane to stop, but also the cars traveling in the opposite direction. As illustration, at the crosswalk near Botticelli Bridal Shop and Houlihan Lawrence, the law requires that all four lanes of traffic stop when an individual enters the crosswalk. However, it is important to remember that a crosswalk is not an extension of the sidewalk and pedestrians must exercise careful judgment before stepping off the curb and when crossing in mid-street. According to New York state law, “every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
In the business district, residents get frustrated observing our parking enforcement oficers seeming intent on their meter duty and oblivious to driving infractions, most notably vehicles crossing the double yellow lines to enter a parking place.
By law, our parking enforcement officers, or PEOs are not police officers, nor even peace officers, and are only authorized and trained to issue parking tickets. New York state vehicle and traffic laws can only be enforced by trained police officers. Traffic stops of any kind are actually the most dangerous duty for a police office because stops often lead to more serious charges/crimes such as weapons possession, stolen vehicles or outstanding criminal warrants. PEOs have none of the training, equipment or weapons to handle these unpredictable situations.
With the weather so nice and our youngsters taking advantage of the daylight hours to play outdoors, many residents have asked for “Children at Play” and/or “Slow Children” signs in child rich neighborhoods. State and federal traffic standards reject the use of these signs because they openly suggest that playing in the street is an acceptable safety practice. The signs also give parents and especially children a false sense of security as the sign is assumed to provide protection, when in reality, it does not. Studies demonstrate no evidence that these signs result in reduced pedestrian accidents or lower vehicular speed. If the village placed these signs, it would imply that the village condones children playing in the street and expose us to greater liability.
On the other hand, signs that alert drivers to nearby playgrounds are extremely beneficial because these parks, such as our own Sagamore Park, are often located in areas where a reasonable driver would not expect a large group of children to be present.
The warm weather also brings out our older youth who often gather on the school grounds. Residents often inquire why they do not see our police vehicles patrolling school property. The school fields and all the adjacent school property is private property and analogous to one’s own backyard. If police, in the normal course of village patrol, see suspicious activity while passing the school or any business or residential property, they have the authority and duty to enter the property and investigate. However, they cannot come on property uninvited, for no reason. General responsibility for peace and order rests with the property owners and that is why the school, Lawrence Hospital and Concordia College hire their own security teams as necessary.
Also under the umbrella of safety, we are in the process of improving some of our green spaces throughout the village. Our refurbishment of Sagamore Park is 99 percent complete, featuring new soft cushion surfaces, handrails and protective gates making it a much more child friendly environment.
The same contractors have now moved down to Maltby Field to upgrade the soil as a first step and create attractive passive open spaces with benches and walkways.
Once a former ash pit, the current soil has been tested and deemed non-toxic in any form, but it does contain particulate matter and even the occasional glass shard. It will be replaced with quality top soil so children can safely play on it and residents can relax on a blanket in comfort.
Concurrent with this project is an upgrade of Leonard Morange Square, the green space adjacent to the downtown side of the Metro North station. Dead trees are being removed, broken sidewalks replaced and plantings enhanced. Safe passage in and through the park is paramount due to the number of commuters who traverse it every day as well as the large number of residents who take advantage of the shady benches.
Upon completion of these endeavors, our focus will turn more toward the Kensington Road area. Many groups of trustees in the recent past had hopes that private funds would be used to beautify that area in conjunction with residential development. As example, the most recent development project which faded along with the economy, required the builder to install new sidewalks, curbing, landscape and even bury all the electrical wires in the area.
However, given the tepid interest in the site for development at the current time, we are discussing an improvement plan that would be undertaken by the village in stages based on our financial condition and the ability to perhaps secure state grant monies. We know work in that area needs to be done and is clearly overdue.
Our open spaces are so few and thus so precious to the character of the village that their safety, maintenance and beauty must remain a high priority.