Senator Ken LaValle introduced legislation recently that would rename a portion of New York State Route 24 "Peconic Highway."
Not everyone applauds the initiative, however. Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said he was not in favor of the new moniker for the roadway.
"I would personally oppose it," he said, noting that he had not yet discussed the concept with FRNCA members.
According to Taldone, a meeting was held recently with New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele and others, including representatives of the New York State Department of Transportation, to discuss long-range efforts to create more of a "neighborhood" feel in Flanders. The goal, Taldone said, is "to make it less of a highway, because it is a dangerous road for pedestrians."
Residents, many elderly, trying to leave their homes, in areas such as Bay View Pines, find that cars whizzing along Route 24 pose a danger. "Forget it; it's a nightmare," he said.
The segment of the road to be renamed would include the portion of Route 24 located in Southampton and Brookhaven towns, beginning at the junction of interstate 495 and ending at the easternmost junction, where the roadway connects with Route 27 in Hampton Bays.
New York State Route 24, an 11 mile stretch of highway beginning at Exit 71 off the Long Island Expressway, ends at Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays and links downtown Riverhead with the South Fork.
“Route 24 follows the Peconic River, a New York State protected and ecologically significant wild, scenic and recreational river," LaValle said. “Route 24 also hugs the shoreline of the federally recognized Peconic Estuary; an estuary which is a driving economic force for the Peconic region,” he added.
Accidents have gone up since road improvements were made, Taldone said. "Yes, we've got a lot of cars moving faster -- but there's a downside."
The aim is to work to create a more walkable corridor in Flanders, with a possible traffic light and pedestrian crossways -- and to create a heritage center that would celebrate the area's history and buildings through adaptive reuse, Taldone explained. Visitors who come to see the Big Duck and other scenic areas in Flanders should be able to safely cross the street, he said.
"You can't even take a walk on the main road or cross the street without risking your life," Taldone said. "Ever since this became a road to get people to the Hamptons, people forget what they're driving through," Taldone said. "We're trying to learn how we bring back historic buildings and create a place where they are comfortable crossing the street -- anything but a highway."
Taldone said Thiele, representatives of Southampton Town, and the NYSDOT have been involved in discussions on ways to make the road a locally focused boulevard with pedestrian and safety enhancements, including traffic calming measures, while maintaining necessary vehicular movements.
Thiele said the idea to rename Route 24 actually came from members of the community--not from LaValle or from himself -- and grew out of larger efforts to focus on traffic calming efforts on the roadway.
Gary Cobb, president of the Flanders Village Historical Society, initiated the process to change the name of the roadway 15 years ago and has worked with officials including Thiele and Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi on the project. He said on Wednesday that he is heartened to see his concept become reality.
Cobb thought "Peconic Parkway" would have been an ideal name, due to the fact that roadway passes through parklands along the Peconic River. Originally, Thiele said, the name "Peconic Parkway" was discussed, but traditionally, trucks are not allowed on parkways, and that is not the case on Route 24. "Highway" was the name that needed to be used to describe the roadway, he said.
The hope, Thiele said, is to use similar efforts in Sag Harbor and North Haven as a model -- and create a more pedestrian and bike friendly roadway with reduced speed limits.
A new name will aim to give the roadway "some regional identity," Thiele said. "It runs along the Peconic Estuary and is a gateway to the East End."
Other community groups involved in ongoing discussions to that end include the Riverside Revitalization and Community Corporation, Bay View Pines and Waters Edge Community Associations and FRNCA, Taldone said.