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Feb 6, 2018 6:28 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Eight Years And Still No Sidewalk Along Busy Montauk Highway For East Quogue Students

Dozens of East Quogue children who walk home are dismissed. VALERIE GORDON
Feb 7, 2018 8:59 AM

A number of East Quogue residents have worried for years that their children must walk to school along Montauk Highway, which, in the hamlet, is a busy county road with no sidewalks. Now, some say the situation has only gotten worse.

The issue arose nearly eight years ago, a time when only 30 of the East Quogue Elementary School’s 445 children were required to walk to school. Today, that number has grown: Approximately 90 of the school’s 394 children walk to and from school each morning and afternoon.

District policy states that students who live within a 1-mile radius of the Central Avenue school will not have access to buses, according to Superintendent Robert Long. In 2010, that radius was only a half mile.

He explained that the increase in the number of children walking to school is the result of a referendum approved by voters in June 2013, expanding the radius. “It saved the district [approximately $60,000] in a time that we were really struggling,” he noted.

Today, the rising numbers have created more concerns among parents and school officials alike, especially for students who walk Montauk Highway between Hallock Road and West End Avenue. “There’s no sidewalks, which is a concern,” Mr. Long said.

Parents like William Wright, an East Quogue resident and father of two, argue: “If you’re going to make them walk to school, they should have a safe route to walk.”

Alex Gregor, Southampton Town’s highway superintendent, agreed. “It’s pretty simple,” he said. “It’s the county’s road. It’s the county’s responsibility to put in sidewalks.”

When reached last week, William Hillman, the chief engineer for the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, said it was the first his team had heard of the concern. “Whoever has been complaining has been complaining to the wrong people,” he said.

Mr. Hillman confirmed that the area in question is, in fact, a county road and would therefore be eligible for Suffolk County’s capital reserve sidewalk program––at no cost to the district.

“Sidewalks are such an ongoing need that there is dedicated funding that the Highway Department can draw on,” Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming added, noting that installing a sidewalk along Montauk Highway in East Quogue would not require any special legislation.

Mr. Hillman explained that the first step to get the ball rolling on installing sidewalks is to meet with Mr. Long and assess the need not just along Montauk Highway between Hallock Road and West End Avenue but along any dangerous roads that children use to walk to school.

“It’s strange that it’s only for 300 feet,” Mr. Hillman said. “When we go in and do it, we want to do it the right way.”

Ms. Fleming added: “I think it’s clearly warranted.”

Southampton Town’s director of public transportation and traffic safety, Thomas Neely, also noted last week that he planned to do a “site review” of the area within the next week or so to determine what would be involved in installing sidewalks, such as the positioning of trees, shrubbery and fire hydrants along Montauk Highway, adding, “Those are things that have to be considered.”

Based on a “quick” review of the area, Mr. Hillman noted that there is no existing curb between the two side streets, making it more complicated as well as more expensive to install drainage.

“The devil is always in the details,” he said, adding that the drainage could also conflict with underground utility wires. “There are so many variables.”

Mr. Gregor pointed a finger at Mr. Long last week, arguing that district officials have had a number of opportunities to install the sidewalks over the years. “There have been grant opportunities that they could have applied for, so I don’t know what he’s been doing in eight years,” Mr. Gregor said of the Central Avenue school’s superintendent. “I’m a little disappointed.”

In fact, in 2012, Joan Hughes, a resident of East Quogue, urged the board to apply for a $625,000 federal grant, which would have covered significant costs associated with the sidewalk project, though Mr. Neely, Mr. Gregor and Mr. Hillman could not provide estimates of what the project might cost.

Mr. Neely pointed to several Safe Route to School Grants, or SRTS, offered by the State Department of Transportation, which enable students from kindergarten through eighth grade to safely walk and bike to school. He noted that district officials have yet to apply for any state or federal grants. East Quogue Elementary School houses students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Mr. Long said he is planning to meet with Southampton Town Councilwoman Julie Lofstad and Mr. Wright to discuss the sidewalk issue on Wednesday, February 7.

Mr. Wright added that he can’t understand why the sidewalk between Hallock Road and West End Avenue wasn’t done last September, when the Suffolk County DOT installed new drains and sidewalks along stretches of Montauk Highway as part of a larger $16 million Suffolk County project that targeted a 13-mile stretch of Montauk Highway from Sills Road in Patchogue to Flanders Road in Hampton Bays.

“I just want to see it done,” Mr. Wright said. “East Quogue needs this sidewalk.”

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Mr. Gregor promised to install sidewalks on Old Country Rd between Lewis Road and Central Ave. We are still waiting and that is a Southampton Town road.
By crusader (390), East Quogue on Feb 7, 18 4:42 PM
2 members liked this comment
Who where these people calling? Seems like the ball was dropped some where. Neely tells all the problems of putting in a side walk, he should be in direct contact with Mr Hillman and make it a personal project to be done this spring.
Get done. Alex, you can make a phone call also, couple of minutes to get the ball rolling. No more , NOT MY JOB... Group effort, priority job...
By knitter (1604), Southampton on Feb 7, 18 7:00 PM
Ask DLC to build it for you.
By Draggerman (860), Southampton on Feb 7, 18 8:37 PM
Don't forget to include Old Country Road, which needs sidewalks, as well!! It was short sighted by the school to put the safety, of the minority of students who live within the one mile radius, at risk by taking away the buses in the first place. Bring back the buses, the money is there.
By Michael Tessitore (71), East Quogue, New York on Feb 7, 18 9:29 PM
1 member liked this comment
It's not a minority problem, it's a safety problem. Race is not a factor...
By knitter (1604), Southampton on Feb 8, 18 8:20 AM
1 member liked this comment
Race is never a factor, until you look at similar situations with white people lol
We really need those $700K light up crosswalks for rich old white folks in BH though!
By Brandon Quinn (174), Hampton Bays on Feb 8, 18 11:08 AM
1 member liked this comment
Even where there is no explicit discriminatory intent, one can be inferred when the disparate impacts are clear and cannot be otherwise explained.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5542), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 8, 18 11:23 AM
1 member liked this comment
posted by a professional offended victim
By bigfresh (4044), north sea on Feb 8, 18 11:55 AM
That's not a very nice thing to say about the journalist who wrote this piece.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (5542), HAMPTON BAYS on Feb 8, 18 1:43 PM
A sidewalk on Old Country Road between Lewis and Central is badly needed, it would also be nice to have one on Vail Ave between Old Country and Main Street.
By Born in EQ Local (8), East Quogue on Feb 9, 18 9:04 AM
2 members liked this comment
Are they waiting for a child to get injured or worse die? Then they WILL GET IT DONE!
By greeneyedlady (55), East Quogue on Feb 9, 18 10:04 AM
1 member liked this comment