Earlier this month, the the Rockland County Legislature against Clarkstown for closing Samuel Road in Nanuet without proper approval from the county's superintendent of highways.
In response to this, by several Clarkstown officials speaking out against the county's actions and recently, Clarkstown PBA President John M. Hanchar about the legislature's resolution in which blame was placed on police officers for "unlawful actions of some motorists."
This—along with from the public—led to a discussion last night at the county’s Public Safety Committee meeting. Clarkstown representatives, residents and a Ramapo councilman attended and spoke on the issue.
After more than two hours of discussion over the Samuel Road closure, some legislators made a motion to rescind the lawsuit resolution. However, it did not pass with a 3-2 vote against it.
From those on the county public safety committee, Legislators Jay Hood, Toney Earl and Aron Wieder voted no, Chris Carey and Ed Day voted yes and Aney Paul and Alden Wolfe were absent.
Clarkstown closed the road after pleaded with the Clarkstown Town Board to put a stop to the speeders driving through their Nanuet neighborhood. the excessive speed and volume of vehicles puts their children and them at risk each day.
“I appreciate that (Clarkstown representatives) came out this evening to try and resolve this,” said Legislator Pat Moroney, who represents both sides of the barricade—Nanuet and Chestnut Ridge.
Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack was joined by Principal Town Planner Joe Simoes, Code & Zoning Enforcement Officer Joel Epstein, Police Chief Michael Sullivan and several others.
Many legislators said that the decision to pass the lawsuit resolution originally was due to public safety reasons.
“We were looking at it from the public safety side of it—not who owns what road; that’s why the vote was pushed so (urgently) and it couldn’t wait for the next formal meeting,” said Carey
Legislator Ilan Schoenberger said that he believed that barricading the road was the wrong decision, whether it was done by a temporary barricade and plow or a metal gate.
The temporary road closure used . That was tehn replaced with a metal breakaway gate.
“All my life, all emergency providers … we were always told that seconds save lives, minutes save lives,” said Schoenberger. “An ambulance getting to someone’s home who’s having a heart attack, a few minutes could mean life or death.”
He quickly ran through the process for emergency personnel with the current gate, which is padlocked and keys have been distributed to emergency units:
Drive up to the barrier, stop, get out, find the key, unlock the gate, open the gate, secure the gate so that it doesn’t close back on the vehicle, drive through and do you lock the gate behind you or not?
“It undermines the whole theory of public safety,” he added. “I don’t think it’s in everybody’s best interest to blockade the road. If there is one life lost on either side or a building burns down because minutes are delayed … I just don’t think it’s the right way to go. I wish there was another resolve.”
Moroney also spoke strongly against the barricade.
“I was taken aback because of the way (the blockade) was done. I was really, really concerned at the fact that it was a safety hazard for both sides,” he said. “If (an emergency) happened on the Pascack Road side, there would be no access to Lillian Drive. There was also my concern with the Newport Drive side. If you had a real emergency, you have no access whatsoever coming from the Chestnut Ridge side. We’re here to protect all the residents of Rockland County.”
Clarkstown had from several emergency units addressing the public safety concerns.
“We said all along that once the gate was permanently installed, we would distribute the keys,” said Gromack. “In addition … (if there’s an emergency and there’s no time to unlock the gate) the gate will break away quickly. You can pretty much open it up in a few seconds or you can plow right through it (if needed).”
Gromack added that after speaking with members of the ambulance corps and fire departments, those members did not see the gate as a threat to anyone’s security or timeliness.
“(Nanuet Fire) Chief Knapp did raise the concern of the trucks but did say that if the gate was there, it was very acceptable and standard practice in the industry,” he added. Gromack also brought up a similar breakaway gate in the town of Ramapo as an example.
“The main concern out of the (Clarkstown) planning board was emergency access,” said Simoes. “I think the emergency access is being addressed.”
However, Ramapo Town Councilman Patrick Withers sided with some of the legislators speaking out against the gate.
“Seconds do matter,” said Withers. “As a former police officer … I know the men and women of the Clarkstown Police Department work well with the Ramapo Police Department. I believe in them (the police officers), but I don’t necessarily believe in the barricade.”
Check back with Patch for articles on other parts of the discussion:
- Temporary Barricade—some legislators said that part of the reason why the lawsuit resolution was rushed was because the temporary barricade did not match the one Clarkstown described in its resolution
- Samuel Road—The history of its dead-end status and past court proceedings that relate to this issue
- Clarkstown Police—legislators cleared the air of any misperceived criticism on the police department
- Public Input—Legislators said that they received a letter on Tuesday dated Aug. 25 to Scott Vanderhoef from Rockland County citizens against the blockade with a petition from 160 people demanding they remove the blockade.
- Lawsuit—the consensus among most was that a lawsuit should not be needed to resolve this issue
- Town VS County—some believed that this was strictly a town issue and that the county need not be involved
Correction: Legislators Jay Hood, Toney Earl and Aron Wieder voted no, Chris Carey and Ed Day voted yes. In an earlier version, it was written that Legislators Jay Hood, Toney Earl and Aron Wieder voted yes, Chris Carey and Ed Day voted no