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Greenport residents mixed over two-way change for Wiggins Street

04/30/2016 2:00 PM |

North Ferry traffic

Ferry traffic has been a nagging issue for some Greenport Village residents over the last few years.

But after a public hearing Thursday about whether to make Wiggins Street a two-way street again drew mixed reactions from residents, Greenport Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said the Village should get more feedback on possible ferry traffic solutions before making a decision.

The village made Wiggins Street one-way toward the North Ferry in December 2001, and the road currently has an east-only lane from Fourth Street to Third Street and a designated lane for traffic heading to the ferry.

But the Village Board has recently considered turning it back into a two-way street, with two lanes of traffic and one ferry lane.

Mr. Hubbard said a two-way street would give traffic exiting the ferry the option of going north on Third Street or turning left on Wiggins Street. Third Street has a traffic signal at the Front Street intersection, potentially clogging traffic there, especially since new developments proposed at the intersection of Third Street and Front Street — including a proposed hotel and a proposed redevelopment of the former Meson Ole site — may only further increase traffic.

Mr. Hubbard said the proposed change was suggested by Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley.

“When a big boat unloads, traffic goes all the way back to the ferry,” Mr. Hubbard said. “You can’t go in and out [of stores on Third Street].”

This way, when traffic comes off the ferry and sees that Third Street is jammed up, “they can go right up Wiggins Street like they used to,” the mayor said.

Only one of the four speakers at Thursday’s public hearing, Ron Nelson, was a Wiggins Street resident. He didn’t like the idea.

“It seems to me that this is not an inspired solution,” Mr. Nelson said. He thinks the problem is with the two-way traffic on Third Street, and suggested either making Third Street one-way or cutting off the two-way part of the road south of Sterlington Commons.

Mr. Nelson said if the plan is approved, traffic will likely get off the ferry and see the traffic jam on Third Street, and then head up Wiggins Street, adding more traffic to that road.

Former trustee and village board regular Bill Swiskey opposed the idea, saying the village was just “kowtowing” to the North Ferry, something Mr. Hubbard, who works on Shelter Island, denied.

Mr. Swiskey thinks the traffic on Wiggins Street will be backed up to residential neighbors in Firth and Sixth Street, and that the cars will be get off the ferry and go “like a bat out of hell” down Wiggins Street.

However, Greenport resident Chatty Allen supported the idea “100 percent.”

Ms. Allen, who works as a school bus driver, says cars now don’t stay in the ferry lane and end up blocking traffic.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been held up because cars are on both sides of the road,” she said.

They also come down Third Street and try to get into the ferry line, she said, rather than following the road signs and approaching from the west on Wiggins.

John Saladino, another regular speaker at Village Board meetings, said the opinion of the  people who live on Wiggins Street should bear more weight than his opinion on this issue, although he believes a designated parking area for Wiggins Street residents will be unenforceable.

Mr. Hubbard said this is an issue that’s been talked about for four decades and believes the bigger ferries — which hold more cars — is part of the problem. The mayor also had some other proposals that weren’t technically part of the public hearing, including setting aside a separate area for Wiggins Street residents to park, and making a curb cut from the south side of Wiggins Street into the parking lot just south of that.

The Village Board will hold the public hearing about Wiggins Street open in the hopes of getting more feedback.

Correction: Wiggins Street was made a one-way street in 2001, not 2011.

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