Readers Write: Celender’s Welwyn/Shoreward project: feat or folly?

The Island Now

This week’s (July 27) edition of the Great Neck News ran a front-page article about awarding the contract for Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender’s Welwyn/Shoreward transportation enhancement project.

Several village meetings were devoted to the hiring of the contractor: receiving the bids, opening the bids and, of course, awarding the contract — highly uncharacteristic of usual village protocol for previous projects.

Some of the main items included in the transportation enhancement project are bumping out a circular area into the street in front of the post office for a park, creating bike lanes, installing brick sidewalks, and adding a mid-block raised crosswalk.

When the project was initially announced, the mayor invited residents to a village meeting to hear their thoughts and concerns about the proposal.

Some of the residents’ objections to the proposed park in front of the post office included proximity to two beautiful full service parks within a block or two of the area, noise, air pollution from smokers and buses, discarded cigarette butts, and garbage from Shop Delight take-out customers — who already eat on the two benches in front of the post office and leave their leftovers all over the benches, the grass, and the sidewalk — in spite of the fact that there is a large garbage can just a few feet from the benches.

Can you imagine what the area will look like after the mayor provides a park with more benches? Who wouldn’t want to relax amidst toxic fumes from the buses and trucks and ear-piercing noise from the constant blasting of horns!

After listening to the residents’ concerns about the unwanted park, what did the mayor do? She ignored everything she didn’t want to hear, and changed the name from “park” to “public plaza”!

Furthermore, in order to build her park, it appears from the rendering that six to eight parking spaces will be removed from an area where residents already have a dire parking problem, mostly caused by the large number of Shop Delight employees who have been persistent in illegally parking in the Welwyn/Shoreward area daily for 10 to 12 hours at a time — a violation of Shop Delight’s conditional-use permit, which clearly states that Shop Delight employees may NOT park on the streets adjacent to the store.

Every Plaza official knows full well that Shop Delight is in violation of their conditional-use permit, and residents are painfully aware that the village has refused to appropriately deal with either this violation or the multitudes of other violations of said permit; Shop Delight appears to have a free ride to do whatever they please.

Is there something we’re missing here?

The dire parking problem for residents of the Welwyn/Shoreward area is something that the village has been aware of for years but had largely ignored until a story­ appeared in the April 27t issue of the Great Neck News — entitled “Parking spot delivery possible for G.N. Plaza” — which titillated residents about giving them a residential parking garage in the lower level of the post office’s garage, for which the village has received approval to rent from the post office.

The article was published (including the coveted photo-op of the mayor) just after County Executive Laura Curran appointed Celender to serve on the Commissioner’s Community Council, which deals with public safety and quality of life concerns.

What a coincidence that Jean Celender’s appointment coincided with how much she cared for residents’ quality of life concerns, i.e. the need for residential parking, in the Welwyn/Shoreward area. Now, three months later, public discussion about the parking garage for residents has disappeared, with no news forthcoming from the village.

The 50+ buses per day which the mayor insists must use Welwyn Road and the circle in front of the post office as their route to the station are a terrible detriment to the quality of life in this area.

The fumes from at least five buses an hour on Welwyn Road pollute the air, and when the buses try to negotiate the double parked cars in front of Shop Delight (which the village does nothing to prevent) there is frequently terrible gridlock and congestion for long periods of time between the roundabout at the station and the circle at the post office.

When the buses finally attempt to make the turn around the circle in front of the post office, it takes two or three swings before most of them can get around.

Just last week there was another accident on Welwyn Road, where a bus hit a car while trying to negotiate the circle.

Can you imagine the impact of the narrowed turning space at the circle after the mayor’s completed park juts out into the street in front of the post office?

Does someone have to die before the buses are re-routed safely?

Apparently, the mayor doesn’t care.

The enhancement project is going to spend thousands of dollars to build bicycle lanes. I have lived in this area for decades, and I can attest to the fact that there is a dearth of bicyclists in this area because it is too congested, has too many speeding cars driven by those who feel “entitled” to drive at high speeds (in spite of the fact that signs are posted that read “AREA SPEED LIMIT 15 M.P.H.”), and there are too many trucks making illegal deliveries to Shop Delight from the street from before dawn until dusk — another violation of Shop Delight’s conditional use permit which the village also continues to ignore.

In addition, these bike lanes will narrow the street by at least three feet—a perfect solution to ease the congestion in this area!

The village has been contacted by many residents who are rightfully concerned about the dangers of brick sidewalks, but these concerns have also fallen on deaf ears. The existing brick sidewalks all over the village are hazardous in the rain and snow; they contract in the freezing cold, and expand in the heat, creating irregular walking surfaces for potential “slip and fall” pedestrian accidents.

Is it reasonable to believe that the mayor’s self-serving Welwyn/Shoreward enhancement project will enhance the quality of life for the residents of this area?

Decent parking for residents, nice landscaping, proper and safe sidewalks and re-paved roads would certainly be appreciated.

However, this neighborhood does not want or need a park in front of the post office; the bike lanes are an unnecessary expenditure of a great deal of money because they will not be well utilized and will narrow the already congested street; installing brick sidewalks will put pedestrians, especially the large senior population of this area, at risk; keeping the buses on Welwyn Road will continue to have detrimental effects.

It wouldn’t cost the village a penny of capital expense to enhance the quality of life in the Welwyn/Shoreward area by re-assessing their “closed eyes policy” toward Shop Delight’s constant violations and by taking appropriate actions to enforce Shop Delight’s present state of persistent non-compliance of their conditional use permit.

Unfortunately, past experience has shown us how well and how often Jean Celender has ignored her constituents’ concerns in favor of her own agenda.

Muriel Pfeifer

Village of Neck Plaza

(We want our “Great” back!)

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