Editor's note: This letter was originally sent to State Sen. Kemp Hannon and is being reprinted here at the author's request.
Dear Senator Hannon,
My name is John J. Nikiel and I live on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue and First Street in East Meadow. For years we have had issues with the patients and visitors at Nassau University Medical Center parking on our streets for hours and sometimes days at a time. I know you are aware of these issues because you have been in contact with Ms. Yvonne Amato of First Street.
Today I was told by the owner of Center Island Automotive that a survey team was working on the center median of Hempstead Turnpike across from the front of NUMC.
He was told that according to the plan they were given, a fence is to be installed on the median to keep pedestrians from crossing Hempstead Turnpike. This is in response to the spate of pedestrian fatalities on the turnpike. Sounds good in theory. In fact, at a neighborhood meeting at NUMC a year or so ago, this very idea was proposed by one of the neighbors here on Roosevelt Avenue. He was told at the time that it was not possible because it is a state roadway, and that free access across the turnpike had to be left for emergency situations.
However, a gap is planned to be placed in this fence at Hempstead Turnpike and First Street to allow pedestrian access across the turnpike to the hospital. In future, it is also planned to have a TSL (Traffic Signal Light) installed as well to stop traffic for the pedestrians.
In the 11 years that I have lived here, not one single pedestrian has been struck by a vehicle at this point. There was a fatality on the turnpike a few yards from Franklin Avenue, a double fatality on the turnpike near the intersection of Conti Square Blvd. (but again, not at the traffic light) and recently a few teenage students from East Meadow High School were struck by a vehicle at Hempstead Turnpike and Carmen Avenue, at the intersection. In the time that I have lived here however, I have seen an increase in the number of cars parking on the streets in front of and on the side of my residence, and the people from these cars cross Hempstead Turnpike to the hospital.
All day long I see patients, visitors and hospital staff parking on our streets for hours and sometimes days at a time while they take care of their business at the hospital. Numerous meetings with Art Gianelli, CEO of NUMC, have extracted promises of relief and plans of action. To date, these promises and plans have done nothing to ease the situation. The number of staff parking lots and spaces have allegedly been increased, but I have seen no decrease in the number of people clothed in hospital scrubs walking down my street to cross to the hospital.
This, coupled with the plan of NUMC to expand their inpatient and outpatient substance abuse facility will, I fear, result in an increased number of patients and visitors to this section parking in front of and around my home. On a weekly basis I find on my lawn, empty drug packets, patient wrist bands from NUMC, hospital waste (EKG attachments, surgical masks and even bloody gauze bandages like from blood tests), empty condom wrappers, alcohol and beer bottles, and fast food bags. These are dropped by the clientele of the hospital.
If this fence is placed on the turnpike with a break at this point for a crosswalk, this situation will surely escalate out of control. Placing a crosswalk and traffic light at this location will not discourage hospital staff from parking in this residential neighborhood, in fact just the opposite. This proposed crosswalk will encourage staff, visitors and patients to park in this immediate area. The people who live here have no place to park on the streets of our own neighborhood.
When I have guests come to my home, they are forced to find parking spots a block or sometimes more away from my home. My only other option is to watch out my window, wait for a parking spot to open up in front of my home, and place my own car there so that my guests don’t have to park a distance from my home and can park in my driveway instead. Do you think that Mr. Gianelli is forced to do this when guests come to his home? I doubt it.
I also am concerned that the expansion of the substance abuse clinic at NUMC, together with this crossing, will result in funneling certain types of individuals and their followers right past my home. I have nothing against people getting help for their problems and recognize that a substance abuse facility is needed, but do I have to be subjected to cleaning their debris and drug paraphernalia off my property?
The Hempstead Hospital closed its Emergency Department many years ago with the result that people needing ER treatment are forced to come here. Why can’t a substance abuse clinic be placed in that hospital. I have driven past it on many occasions and there is a large parking lot in front of the hospital that is mostly empty on any given day. Patients could park there and not have to walk through the surrounding residential neighborhood.
I am tired of picking up the debris dropped by visitors and patients to NUMC. I am tired of having my guests park a block away from my house because my block is clogged with the overflow from the hospital. I am tired of having people walk across my property thinking my lawn is nothing more than a shortcut to Hempstead Turnpike. Placing a pedestrian crosswalk at this location is the height of stupidity. As I said, it will do nothing to relieve a current problem, but instead will only exacerbate and increasingly intolerable situation.
There are already two crosswalks across Hempstead Turnpike in front of the hospital, one on Franklin Avenue and one at Carmen Avenue. Why is another one needed at this location? I have looked at the location, and if the surveyor’s marks are any indication, this proposed crossing will be place less than 50 feet from the start of the left turn lane into the Hospital. Another consideration is the impact a fence and additional TSL would have on ambulances and emergency vehicles having access to the Emergency Room of the hospital, which is now in the front of the building.
I am writing to request your intervention and assistance in this matter because I know full well that once this fence opening and crosswalk are installed, it will take nothing short of an act of God to remove it. I most fervently request that it will not be installed in the first place and I am hoping myself and my neighbors can obtain your assistance in this matter.
John J. Nikiel