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Oct 14, 2015 11:06 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

In Light Of Anna Pump's Death, Pedestrian Safety Is Highlighted In Bridgehampton

The westbound side of the Bridgehampton Post Office crosswalk just before 7:30 p.m. Monday night. On October 5, Loaves & Fishes founder Anna Pump was struck by a vehicle and killed in that crosswalk around the same time. ALYSSA MELILLO
Oct 14, 2015 11:06 AM

In May 2006, Debra Simon was hit by a Maytag appliance van while crossing Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.

She was heading south in the crosswalk in front the Candy Kitchen, near Corwith Avenue and School Street, in broad daylight, when the vehicle struck her. And while she personally has no recollection of the incident, Ms. Simon said that from what she has been told, she is lucky to still be alive.

“The truck hit me and flew me 35 feet,” splitting her head open, breaking her left arm and leg, and lacerating her lungs, the Water Mill resident said in a phone interview this week. After waking up from a 10-day coma, she spent two months in the hospital and then underwent a year of physical therapy to learn how to walk again.

She also hired a lawyer to sue Maytag, and to lobby the State Department of Transportation to implement some kind of restrictions that would make that intersection safer. Left turns onto Montauk Highway from Corwith Avenue have since been prohibited.

Still, nearly 10 years later, little progress has been made—a point made again, tragically, last week when 81-year-old Anna Pump, the founder of Loaves & Fishes, was struck by a vehicle and killed in the crosswalk near the Bridgehampton Post Office on October 5, just a few feet west of the crosswalk where Ms. Simon was struck.

She said the news both shocked and spooked her, not only because of the senseless and tragic way in which Ms. Pump died, but because it was a painful reminder that pedestrian safety continues to be an issue on that stretch of Montauk Highway.

“It makes me angry. It makes me hysterical,” she said. “I had a post-traumatic response to it—I was just very, very shaken. You just relive it.”

Letters, meeting agendas and minutes show that as far back as 2003, Bridgehampton residents having been calling on Southampton Town and the state, which manages Montauk Highway, for all sorts of measures to make the roadway safer for pedestrians. From creating more crosswalks and installing in-ground lighting, to lowering speed limits and better enforcing them, there is not much residents have not asked for.

But now, after the death of Ms. Pump, many said they will continue to push harder for something to be done, and they will continue to take matters into their own hands as necessary.

“The crosswalk situation in Bridgehampton is frightful,” said Nancy Walter-Yvertes, co-chair of the hamlet’s Citizens Advisory Committee. “It would be a big help if the crosswalks in Bridgehampton were lighted. I’m not a traffic expert, [but] nobody should use the post office crosswalk at night. But it’s there. Should it be there?”

The co-chair said the CAC will organize a meeting for sometime in December, bringing in town and state officials to discuss available options, even though it is “too little, too late, in a way.”

“It was a freak accident waiting to happen,” Ms. Walter-Yvertes said of Ms. Pump’s death. “Nobody’s listening. It’s frustrating.”

Town officials say they are limited as to what they can do to improve conditions, though.

At Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst acknowledged Ms. Pump’s death and expressed her condolences to the late chef’s family, and also took the opportunity to brief people on what is planned for Bridgehampton.

On the week of October 26, work will be begin on the hamlet’s first lighted crosswalk, near the Hampton Library, which is slated to be operating by the end of the year. Library Director Kelly Harris had advocated for one for about two years before State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle secured about $90,000 to pay for it.

The supervisor added that the town will further examine the post office crosswalk to see if it, too, requires in-ground lighting, and then it will make any necessary suggestions to the DOT, which ultimately has to sign off on any work.

“We will also look at this crosswalk to see if it might qualify for any more remediation,” Ms. Throne-Holst said, adding that the accident “does serve, perhaps, as a timely reminder of a public safety piece of advice … and that is for people to be mindful that when you step into a crosswalk, to make eye contact” with motorists.

The town’s Parks and Recreation Department also conducted an inspection of the overhead lights on Montauk Highway for several hours last Thursday, October 8, as there were complaints about the lack of illumination. Department Supervisor Christopher Bean said that workers came to the conclusion that lighting on the street is scarce because tree branches are in the way, and some electrical wiring had been damaged. A report will be sent to both PSEG and the DOT making recommendations to fix the wiring and trim the trees.

“There’s only so much we can do,” Mr. Bean said. “The trees are blocking a lot of the lighting. As far as safety is concerned, some of those trees have to be trimmed back considerably.”

In response to Ms. Pump’s accident, the DOT will be conducting a pedestrian safety study, according to spokesperson Carol Breen, which is something that has not been done since 2013. Ms. Breen said that last study resulted in upgrading the large yellow pedestrian warning signs planted on the sidewalks near each crosswalk, and adding “no stopping” signs to provide better sight distance for drivers.

Additionally, the DOT will wait for the accident report to come from Southampton Town Police so it can evaluate the factors that caused the crash, including weather conditions and time of day. Town Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph said Tuesday that the report is not ready yet, nor will it be released to the media, because it is “urgently under investigation.”

“We’ll see if there’s anything else along this stretch we can do to further increase safety for pedestrians … again, looking at the current signage,” Ms. Breen said. “Safety is our top priority.”

Mr. LaValle said that if town officials do determine that another lighted crosswalk is needed, the state will work to ensure it happens.

“I always take into consideration the input from the local officials on how we might move in a better direction. So, the state will do its review, and the town will give us input, which they did for the [crosswalk] across from the library,” he said. “That made the process a little longer, but as long as we get to a point where we’re having discussions and we end up in a safer position … I think we need to make an evaluation to see what we need to do to make that corridor safer.”

Residents have tried to take up that task themselves. Last December, Dick Bruce purchased two green pedestrian crossing signs, totaling $633, that he installed himself at the crosswalks near the post office and at Thayer’s Hardware & Patio. On Friday, Mr. Bruce said he purchased two more signs to place once again in the post office crosswalk—the existing one was found lying on the side of the road earlier last week—and in the library crosswalk. He added that he also had to purchase another sign in May, because the original one he placed at the post office crosswalk had gone missing in March and was never replaced.

Mr. Bruce said he understands that town officials have a large area to govern, so Bridgehampton’s needs may not always go to the top of the list right away—but he suggested that residents might consider incorporation as a village once more so they can focus on their issues themselves.

“Someone should have known that sign was missing. The only defense I can have for the town is, it’s too big an area,” he said. “It’s the quality-of-life issue, which I think the town has to be more aware of.”

Aside from Ms. Pump and Ms. Simon, there have been several vehicle-versus-pedestrian accidents on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton.

In 1998, Tiffane Walker, a student at the Bridgehampton School, was struck and killed by a vehicle when crossing the road after she left the school. Her death led to improvements targeting pedestrian safety in the area near the school.

In 2002, migrant worker Henry Anthony Yarrell was struck and killed by Leslie W. Jennemann, who had claimed there was poor lighting on the road. William Fitzsimmons was struck and killed in 2005, and, just over the summer, an 18-year-old girl was struck when crossing in front of the library. She was not seriously injured, but suffered bruises and a contusion to her knee.

But, as Bridgehampton resident Ceal Havemeyer said, accidents like those “shouldn’t just be something that happens.”

“It’s been deadly here in Bridgehampton. We can’t gamble on being fortunate anymore. This is a dangerous highway along here,” she said. “Traffic does not honor one person standing in the road.”

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Thank you Ms. Melilio for a well-researched article about the MANY unfortunate pedestrians who have been hit in BH, some famous and some not so, due inaction of ALL the governmental agencies.

Sad that we seem to have to wait for the body count to rise before something constructive is done to correct obvious design defects . . .
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Oct 14, 15 6:05 PM
2 members liked this comment
The obvious defect is drivers going too fast . .if you are having trouble seeing SLOW THE F*** DOWN!
By nazznazz (276), east hampton on Oct 14, 15 8:40 PM
2 members liked this comment
Yes, drivers need to obey the speed limit (which should be reduced to 25mph in BH village) and most importantly, obey state law that says pedestrians in crosswalks have right of way. On the other hand, I have seen many times pedestrians whom, to there peril, "assert" their right of way by walking into oncoming traffic both in crosswalks, and not in crosswalks, assuming that they are seen, and that the driver will stop, which obviously, doesn't always happen. Some extra hesitance and caution on ...more
By Buck (1), East Hampton on Oct 15, 15 12:26 PM
3 members liked this comment
SUGGESTION: Place signs at each end of the crosswalk for Pedestrians to see, that read " LOOK BOTH WAYS AND WAIT FOR TRAFFIC TO PASS BEFORE ENTERING AND CROSSING ROADWAY! DO NOT WALK IN FRONT OF MOVING VEHICLES" The main problem in every town/village is that the pedestrians do not look both ways before entering the crosswalk. They basically step in front of moving vehicles as they are within feet of approaching the crosswalk expecting that the cars will stop on a dime. Pedestrians need to wait for ...more
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on Oct 15, 15 2:00 PM
3 members liked this comment
Well said! I cant tell you how many times people just jump off the sidewalk and just keep walking! Happens to me all the time in Bridgehampton and Southampton. Pedestrians have the right of way but you are not bullet proof.
By squeaky (291), hampton bays on Oct 15, 15 3:28 PM
4 members liked this comment
You simply can't take a ten acre field with one small house and subdivide it into twelve six-bedroom Farrell homes, then act puzzled over what the heck is happening to our idillic community between South Hampton Village and Montauk. As development and sprawl continues at an uncontrolled pace, the traffic and drain on municipal resources will become an even greater issue than it is today. Residents will insist upon things like supermarkets, more chain stores and convenience stores, and even more ...more
By Open Book (11), EH on Oct 15, 15 9:19 PM
3 members liked this comment
Appreciate the article - Do not appreciate the co-chair of the Citizen's Advisory Committee's comment intimating that it was the pedestrian's fault for crossing at night...or that ANY cross-walk should not be used at night. Please let us be reminded that the DRIVER had a revoked license due to a prior offense of driving while intoxicated and had also circumvented a lock device he needed to blow into to determine the level of alcohol consumed prior to driving. DRIVER clearly at fault or EMPLOYER ...more
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Oct 21, 15 3:59 PM