Residents Of Hampton Street In Sag Harbor Say Something Has To Be Done To Reduce, Slow Down Traffic

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Residents of Hampton and Division streets want Sag Harbor Village to slow down traffic on their streets. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

When a pickup truck driven by a man Sag Harbor police say was intoxicated nearly slammed into a house on Hampton Street last October, it was the last straw for a group of neighbors.

The group, which calls itself the Sag Harbor Traffic Crisis Committee, has been lobbying the village government to demand that New York State take steps to deploy traffic-calming measures when it begins a major repaving job of Route 114 from the beginning of Ferry Road in North Haven to Stephen Hands Path in East Hampton.

The committee is led by Peter Acocella, who has owned his house at 14 Hampton Street for about 30 years, and Alistair Hawker, who recently moved into a house on Division Street with his family.

Mr. Acocella, who spoke on the group’s behalf before the Village Board earlier this month, said the committee now includes about 100 neighbors.

“Usually, there are conflicting views on village issues,” Mr. Acocella said this week, “but nobody is going to argue against the fact that traffic on Route 114 has increased exponentially over the years.”

And during that time, either his house, his car, or trees along the street have been hit directly or by flying debris at least five times, he said, with the most serious accident involving a van whose driver lost his foot.

“When we canvassed the neighbors, everyone had the same story,” Mr. Acocella said. “It’s just a matter of time before there is a tragedy.”

Most of the traffic is caused by the trade parade of workers coming to and leaving job sites in East Hampton Town, Mr. Acocella said. That traffic used to be concentrated on Route 27, but as that road has become more congested, it has spread to Noyac Road and Route 114.

The group has a handful of simple demands, Mr. Acocella said. It wants the village to ask that New York State lower the speed limit on Route 114 to 20 mph throughout the village. With the 20-mph limit in place during school hours in front of the former Stella Maris building, now called the Sag Harbor Learning Center, and the Sag Harbor Elementary School on the route, Mr. Acocella said extending the area covered by the speed limit and the time it is in force should not be that big a deal, although, he acknowledged, the state seems reluctant to lower speed limits.

The committee also wants the state to install decorative bollards, or traffic barriers, along portions of the route, but especially in a tiny triangular park formed by the spot where Division and Hampton streets diverge to prevent out-of-control vehicles from ramming houses. Finally, it wants the state to take other traffic-calming measures in the way of striping and flashing lights to alert drivers.

It is also asking the village to install speed bumps on Division Street and a stop sign on Division Street just beyond the Mexican restaurant Cilantro, so vehicles don’t veer off Route 114 at too fast a speed.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said he had been in contact with the group and would help its proposals get to the state Department of Transportation. “They are supposed to go out to bid on that project this fall,” he said, with the first portion it due to be completed by the spring of 2022 and a second portion, which includes new turn lanes on Good Friend Drive near the Ross School and at the intersection of Stephen Hands Path, slated for the following year.

“There is an opportunity to include things as part of these projects,” Mr. Thiele said, although he added such improvements would likely be limited to signs, lights, and road striping and not “structural changes” to the layout of the road.

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Austin J. McGuire said committee members and village officials alike might be surprised by the data police collected from a compact traffic counter and speed recorder that was recently placed on Hampton Street. Unlike typical speed reminders that include a flashing sign if a driver is going too fast, this device is smaller than a suitcase and escapes the notice of drivers.

“It’s a volume problem, not a speed problem,” the chief said, adding that an astounding 54,058 vehicles traveled on Hampton Street from February 27 through March 6. Traffic in both directions averaged 21-22 mph, he added, although about 8 percent of motorists did exceed the posted 30 mph limit.

“With one week’s worth of data, we can’t draw conclusions,” he said, “but we aren’t talking June, July and August. The landscapers aren’t working yet, the pool guys aren’t working yet.”

He said if he moved the device to the village boundary, the total number of vehicles might double because traffic coming down Jermain Avenue and Hempstead streets would augment the totals.

When Mr. Acocella spoke to the Village Board on March 9, Trustee Robert Plumb said he sympathized with his cause, but said it was a case of easier said than done.

“Traffic calming is the answer,” Mr. Plumb said. “We want to slow them down to the point where people figure it’s not worth going through Sag Harbor. When you are involved with a state road, it’s not that easy.”

Nonetheless, the groups have agreed to try. Representatives of the traffic committee, the Village Board, Chief McGuire, and Mr. Thiele plan to meet in the coming weeks to try to hammer out some recommendations that can be forwarded to the state DOT.

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