A recent discussion at a Village of Mamaroneck work session has had a polarizing effect on Mamaroneck's government and residents.
On Monday evening, the village board discussed the possibility of removing the pedestrian-only phase from the Barry Avenue and East Boston Post Road intersection. Currently, traffic from all four directions is halted to allow pedestrians access to the crosswalk.
Mayor Norman Rosenblum noted the discussion arose out of several complaints received from residents, the Traffic Commission, and the Fire and Police departments. Complaints were tied to the congestion caused by the pedestrian-only phase.
One such grievance came from Dean DeLitta, chief of the village fire department. In a June 9 e-mail to the mayor and board, he wrote that the change in the traffic light pattern, which took place last year, has resulted in a dangerous situation for the Fire Department when responding to emergencies.
"The additional time in getting through this intersection has created extended delays in getting our drivers to the firehouses to respond with the fire apparatus as well as the response for our emergency vehicles," DeLitta said.
DeLitta also noted that in the past he has had to dispatch officers to the intersection due to traffic backing up to Rye and Harrison. Sometimes, he said, it takes three cycles to get a car past the intersection, a wait time of 5-6 minutes. During emergencies, he has had to travel on the wrong side of the road, forcing the cars to pull up on the sidewalk, he added.
But some residents see the potential revocation of the pedestrian phase, which complainants have requested, as dangerous. The intersection is next to F.E. Bellows Elementary School and a few blocks away from Daniel Warren Elementary School, and in the morning and afternoon, several children cross the intersection unaccompanied or with adults to get to school.
Due to the many children that use the pedestrian phase, Mamaroneck resident Chari Topol-Allison is opposed to its removal, a sentiment she made clear in an e-mail to the mayor and board.
"Our children and residents' safety is much more important than giving impatient drivers back their 20 seconds," she wrote on Tuesday.
In another e-mail sent Thursday, Topol-Allison noted many of the Fire Department's traffic problems happen at night, when pedestrians are not using the phase.
"It seems that the turning signals are too short to allow a line of cars through the intersection in one rotation," she wrote. "This seems to be a traffic signal timing issue that needs to be changed, not a pedestrian crossing issue."
Topol-Allison added that traffic issues at other intersections on the Boston Post Road contribute to the problem.
Lorraine Lunapiena, the crossing guard at the intersection, has worked as a Mamaroneck traffic controller for seven years, and like Topol-Allison, she is opposed to removing the pedestrian phase.
"It's wrong," she said. "I've worked here for years, and I see how important it is to the kids who cross here. There are so many nearby schools... It wouldn't fix the traffic problem either—there's always going to be congestion."
The village is currently in talks with the state and Rye Neck School District to see how the intersection can be improved, according to Village Manager Rich Slingerland. Withdrawing the pedestrian phase, which was what the departments and commission requested, would be a last resort, he said.
A discussion on this matter is expected at the Board of Trustees regular meeting next Monday, and a final decision on how to proceed could be reached by the June 28 meeting, according to Rosenblum.