On Tuesday evening, Nanuet residents, Clarkstown officials and Rockland County legislators discussed the issues surrounding the Samuel Road closure.
Clarkstown closed the Nanuet 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.
The Rockland County Legislature then 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 filed petitions from the public—led to a discussion last night at the county’s Public Safety Committee meeting.
Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack asked that the legislature “consider rescinding the resolution” now that the town has presented their research and showed that the service department they reached out to confirmed that the breakaway gate is not a safety concern.
“I think we can all agree that towns and county suing each other is not in the best interest of our residents,” he said.
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.
“I appreciate that (Clarkstown representatives) came out this evening to try and resolve this,” Legislator Pat Moroney, who represents both sides of the barricade—Nanuet and Chestnut Ridge.
Gromack was joined by Principal Town Planner Joe Simoes, Code & Zoning Enforcement Officer Joel Epstein, Police Chief Michael Sullivan and several others.
In a , Patch looked at the subject of Public Safety that was discussed at the meeting. Here are a few other topics that were brought up regarding the Samuel Road Closure.
The Lawsuit Resolution
After Clarkstown put up the temporary barricade on Samuel Road, the Rockland County Legislature against Clarkstown for closing access without proper approval from the county's superintendent of highways.
On Tuesday evening, the general consensus among most was that a lawsuit should not be needed to resolve this issue.
Legislator Ilan Schoenberger was against a lawsuit of any kind because of its effects on taxpayers.
“If the county sues the town, you (the taxpayer) are going to be paying legal fees to the town to defend that lawsuit and pay legal fees to the county to sue your town,” he said. “Can’t our tax money be used in a better way?”
Legislator Pat Moroney also felt that a lawsuit was not the way to go.
“Since I represent both sides of the equation, Chestnut Ridge and Nanuet … it wasn’t my resolve to involve a lawsuit,” said Moroney. “I didn’t want this thing to be dragged out. I didn’t want this to become a lawsuit. I don’t believe in lawsuits. I think the best way to handle things is to have discussions outside of a lawsuit and outside of a judge. But my conscious was bothering me about the safety of the people, especially the people on the Chestnut Ridge side, (which is why I approved that resolution).”
However, he added that he was against rescinding the resolution that night because the legislature had already passed it and that nothing is being solved by rescinding it.
"I'm not saying we shouldn't withdraw the resolution at some point in the future, (but) there is a resolution that was passed by the full legislature and (it shouldn't be rescinded) until we have some more dialogue with (Clarkstown, Ramapo and Chestnut Ridge). At this point, I'm hoping that this can be resolved peacefully ... and come up with a resolution that will satisfy, not only the people of Newport Drive, but the people of Duryea Lane too."
Moroney added that they also needed to wait for County Executive Scott Vanderhoef to return from his .
Legislator Ed Day was the one that made a resolution to rescind the lawsuit completely. He added that with Chestnut Ridge and Ramapo also suing Clarkstown for the road closure, the legislature need not add to it.
"We had very little information at the time," said Day. "We need to amend the resolution or rescind it. There’s no reason we should spend one penny of taxpayer dollars on (a lawsuit).”
Despite this, the resolution allowing the county to sue Clarkstown still stands although no lawsuit actions have been made.
Legislator Joseph Meyers said that, although he wished he could have voted against the lawsuit originally, now that the lawsuit is passed, the legislature should not make the same mistake by rashly rescinding the same resolution they so quickly passed.
"It's premature to (rescind) it," he said. "It could have been viewed as a mistake to bring (about) ... a lawsuit without having this dialogue."
Carey supported rescinding the lawsuit because he felt that there was no longer a public safety concern based off of the emergency unit letters submitted by Clarkstown.
Moroney quickly responded by stressing that he felt there was still very much so a public safety issue.
“Convent Road is a county road. Suppose we have a problem with that county road and we have to close it. How do (the people of Newport Drive) get out, how do they get emergency services? There is a public safety issue here. Don’t estimate what we’ve done here. Now whether you resolve it here or resolve it in the courts is another matter."
During the public forum, Town of Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence added that "I don't think you (the county) should be suing the town of Clarkstown ... As long as public safety is taken into consideration, I think that suing is not the way to go."
Some legislators said that part of the reason why the approval of the lawsuit resolution seemed rushed was because the temporary barricade did not match the one Clarkstown described in its resolution.
It was voted on 15-1 with Legislator Frank Sparaco voting against it and Legislator Doug Jobson being absent.
The temporary barricade was made of up plastic barriers filled with water and later, large trucks and plows were added.
Gromack explained that the plastic barricade was not intended to be permanent.
“We should have put the metal gate there from day one, so if we made a mistake it was probably that we didn’t put the (metal) gate there (to begin with. We (Clarkstown officials) all said that the (temporary) barricade that was there was not the preferred barricade,” said Gromack, adding that residents kept throwing the plastic barriers into the woods “so we had to go with something that was heavier. That’s why we thought we would put the trucks up there temporarily. Maybe a bad decision on our part to put the trucks there, but we knew that after we did traffic counts, we knew it would show that … if you dead-end a road, you would get much less traffic.”
Schoenberger and several other legislators said they were taken back by the photos of the temporary barricade, when the town’s resolution stated that it was to be a “breakaway barrier.”
“This issue came up at the last minute. We were all very moved by the photographs of the road being closed with (the plastic) barriers and plows,” said Schoenberger. “I understand that in your town, amongst your residents, there are certain pressures under which you (Gromack and town council) live and we here at the county may not feel that same pressure. I’m not accusing the supervisor of acting in bad faith, but I think this could have been resolved some other way. It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this point.”
Chairwoman Harriet Cornell echoed what Schoenberger said. She said that the legislators were not pleased with the photos of the temporary barricade.
“We knew we didn’t have all the information. That’s why … we decided to have a meeting like this, so we can get some of the background information,” she added. “We’re not solving the problem tonight, but it will be solved.”
Other legislators said that although there was a lack of facts on the table the night of that decision, they chose to pass the lawsuit resolution because they felt the public safety of residents were compromised.
“When I read the resolution, they didn’t carry out what was stated in the resolution they voted on. I’m not blaming anybody, but I’d like to see that (gate) removed,” said Moroney. “In case anyone wonders if this is a political move, cross that out. That’s not why I’m here. I have never before in 23 years brought a resolution before this legislature that shouldn’t have gone through, but I thought that time was of essence with this particular issue.”
Epstein added that the town waited until school ended before putting up the temporary (water-filled) barriers at the end of June.
“The residents … knocked out the water and tossed them. We didn’t have anywhere to hook a chain to at that point (to keep the plastic barriers in place),” said Epstein. “That’s why Wayne (Ballard, superintendent of Highways) put two trucks there. In between the two trucks were empty plastic barriers and a chain. The width of the lane between the two trucks was 10-12 feet. There was never any restricted access. It didn’t look good, but there were no concrete barriers.”
"And like you said, I did say at that time that that was a very ugly barrier up on Samuel Drive,” said Sullivan, referring to the temporary one. “Chief Knapp was also there and was concerned about getting through that particular barrier. With that said, there’s a breakaway gate (there) as the supervisor explains it. You open it with a key and in a true emergency, it can be broken open.”
I’ve spoken to (emergency units) and we do not see it as a safety issue.
Check back with Patch for articles on other parts of the discussion:
- 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.
- Town VS County—some believed that this was strictly a town issue and that the county need not be involved