Bridgehampton Community Waits for Safer Roadway
By Stephen J. Kotz
It has been more than two years since Anna Pump, the cookbook author and owner of Loaves & Fishes, was struck and killed as she tried to cross a dark Main Street in Bridgehampton. Although Southampton Town received promises of approximately $700,000 in state aid for traffic safety measures in the wake of that tragedy, the project remains in the planning stages.
On Monday, members of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee, expressed some concern about the slow pace of the project and noted the irony that an employee of Ms. Pump’s daughter, Sybille van Kempen, was struck and injured while crossing Montauk Highway on the west side of Butter Lane on the afternoon of December 23.
The woman, Cerene DeSilvia, 45, of East Hampton, is the innkeeper of the Bridgehampton Inn. Ms. DeSilvia was walking south when she was struck by a northbound car driven by Matilde Grisales of Hampton Bays, who was turning west onto Main Street, according to Southampton Town Police.
This week, Ms. DeSilvia said that she had pushed the pedestrian crossing light and was in the crosswalk when she was struck by the car, which also had a green light. “I was hit hard enough that I bounced from one side of it to the other,” she said.
Although she said she was not hospitalized after the accident, Ms. DeSilvia said she has suffered nightmares. “I don’t think I processed Anna’s death,” she said. “And that’s coming back up.”
The CAC’s chairwoman, Pamela Harwood, voiced her frustration over the slow pace of progress in a project that is supposed to provide better crosswalks, improved street lights and other traffic safety measures along Main Street, or the Montauk Highway, from the Bridgehampton Commons shopping center east to the Bridgehampton School.
“I can assure everybody…,” she said, “that there is nothing happening.”
But on Tuesday, Tom Neely, Southampton Town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety, said progress, albeit slow, is being made, and that he anticipated new street lights to be in place as early as this summer, with new crosswalks coming not long afterward. He said he expected the latest plans to be brought to the Southampton Town Board as early as the end of the month.
Mr. Neely said he understood residents’ frustration over the slow pace of the project, but said the town had to follow the necessary steps. “To qualify for the funding, you need a budget and that has to be based on a plan,” he said.
Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle secured the $700,000 in funding for the project shortly after Ms. Pump’s death. Under the arrangement, the town is required to design and complete the work and submit bills for reimbursement.
Mr. Neely said he planned to meet with representatives of the New York Power Authority to discuss streets lights on Wednesday afternoon. The town has been planning to replace its street lights with new, low-energy LED lights. As part of that project, Mr. Neely said he was trying to get NYPA to agree to install some lower, lamppost-style lights in downtown Bridgehampton as part of the larger project.
He said two LED lights have already been erected placed on the north side of Main Street between the Bridgehampton Museum and the Bridgehampton Post Office to gauge public reaction to them.
Acknowledging that “part of the community wants to see something done sooner than later” when it comes to crosswalks, Mr. Neely said if the town board signs off on the idea, temporary warning lights could be placed at the post office crosswalk this spring. The installation would be similar to one in front of the Hampton Library, but without lighted pavement markers, he said. The signs would be kept in place when the town completes the main project, which would involve adding pedestrian islands and other improvements.
Mr. Neely added that the state Department of Transportation has agreed to foot part of the bill to reconfigure the intersection of Main Street and Ocean Road, at the war monument, to make that a more pedestrian-friendly corner. “Anything they pay for frees up more money” for other projects, Mr. Neely said.