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Guilderland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, February 19, 2009
Residents divided over Empire Avenue barrier
By Anne Hayden
GUILDERLAND The barrier placed on Empire Avenue was supposed to benefit the people in the surrounding subdivisions, but instead has become a point of contention.
Close to 30 residents of Essex Woods, Crimson Park, and Logan Manor subdivisions turned out at the Feb. 18 planning board meeting to make their voices heard; some want the barrier taken down to make the way clear for emergency vehicles, and others prefer it to be left in place for traffic control.
When the suburban homes were built in 2002, the barrier was put up to block excess traffic from flowing from Jean Place out to Ronald Place. Planning board Chairman Steve Feeney said neighborhood residents typically protest connecting roads due to the extra traffic they cause. Feeney said the town put up the barrier to mitigate the impact on this neighborhood. The barrier was actually put in place before any of the houses were built.
In 2008, public concerns were raised about the safety of the barrier after a fire broke out at 6285 Empire Ave., and backup emergency vehicles came in on the wrong side of the barrier, delaying their arrival at the scene. The truck had to break through the barrier. Residents say there were two other incidents in which emergency service vehicles were called and came in from the wrong side.
After the 2008 fire, the Traffic Safety Committee worked with emergency services to come to a compromise. Those in emergency services would rather have the barrier removed permanently to avoid future confusion. Robert Pagnotti, chief of the Fort Hunter Fire Department, told The Enterprise that the barrier was definitely a hindrance during the fire at 6285 Empire Ave.
“I would love to see the barrier permanently removed,” he said. “I made a concession to the town and agreed to have a swing-gate barrier put up, because the town had committed to leaving the barrier up until the road was extended.”
The safety committee replaced the destroyed barrier with a swing gate, which locks, but can be opened with a security code. Feeney noted that all three incidents in which emergency vehicles approached the wrong side of the barrier occurred before the swing gate barrier system was in place.
All emergency personnel in town are trained on the gate and provided with the code, in the event that a vehicle comes in on the wrong side, said Feeney. They are also informed to break right through the barrier if a delay would be inadvisable.
Pagnotti confirmed these facts and noted that the swing-gate barrier would still slow them down a few seconds, but was better than the solid old barrier. When a vehicle is dispatched, its driver should know which side to approach the barrier from, according to Feeney. “It shouldn’t be an issue in this day in age, with all the technology we have,” he said.
At the Feb. 11 planning board meeting, board members discussed holding, but did not set, a public hearing on the issue, after hearing from neighborhood residents, who want the barrier removed to prevent another emergency response delay.
Diane Muccigrosso told the board she felt it was in the best overall interest of the town, in terms of public safety, for the barrier to come down, citing the three emergency vehicle incidents as reason enough.
She told The Enterprise “The town’s position is that the barrier won’t be an impediment, but it already has been. A barrier is a barrier, and the whole purpose of it is to restrict.” Muccigrosso said she believes the extra traffic issue is more fear than reality, and it can’t be proven that the concerns would actually materialize with the removal of the barrier.
“The town has said it’s a temporary barrier,” said Muccigrosso. “The question is how many years that will be. It’s been up all five years I’ve lived here. Will it be 10, 15, 25 years before it comes down?”
Vinny Riguso stepped to the microphone and made a suggestion to the board to change the street names on each side of the barrier to East Empire Avenue and West Empire Avenue. He said he believed this would allow for easy identification for dispatchers, thereby eliminating the potential safety issue of emergency vehicle delays, while keeping the traffic under control.
Riguso’s idea was met with applause from other neighborhood residents in attendance; board members said they would bring it to the attention of the appropriate authorities.
Riguso would like to see the barrier stay up to prevent through traffic from flooding the neighborhood. He has two young boys and appreciates the fact that they can safely ride their bikes and play in the area.
“I’m worried about traffic,” he said. “A lot of kids play in the streets, and if you remove the barrier, I think you create another safety hazard. I like my neighborhood quiet, and it’s pretty darn quiet right now.”
Feeney remarked at the close of the session that no information he’d heard that night indicated a need to revisit the issue. For now, the barrier will remain in place.
In other business at the Feb. 11 meeting, the board
Unanimously approved site plans to allow half of the original wine and liquor store at 3637 Carman Rd. to be used as a card and gift shop, and
Tabled a site plan review to allow a customary home occupation for an officefor the Capital Concrete business.