Southold teens rally for bus shelters

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | These teens are on a quest to provide shelter for bus users. Standing, from left: Vivienne Glasser, Thomas Spackman, Gwyn Foley, John Batuello, Connor Morrison. Front row: Ethan Sisson and Sam Shaffery. Not pictured: Ashley Alexander.

Devoting time to civic causes is a common resolution this time of year, but for a group of teenagers who grew up attending youth meetings at First Universalist Church in Southold, bettering the community is the foundation of their friendship.

Their latest volunteer effort, Project Bus Stop, furthers their mission.

The seven high school students organized PBS more than a year ago after noticing that riders on the county’s S92 bus line — which runs from Orient to East Hampton — were left unprotected from the elements at stops along Route 25. Their goal is to convince the county, state and town to establish six new bus shelters.

“The bus is easy and convenient and there is no reason people should have to stand out in the snow or rain,” said Mattituck High School sophomore Sam Shaffery. “It is a matter of taking care of the people around us.”

Students said youth mentor Regan Batuello of Southold inspired them to educate themselves and have a stake in their community, and encouraged them to start Project Bus Stop last year.

“It bothers me when people just complain about stuff and don’t do anything about it,” Ms. Batuello said. “I was driving in my car one day complaining there were no bus shelters and I realized that I was doing what I hate.”

“When she brought it up to us we all thought it was a great idea,” said Southold High School junior Ashley Alexander.

The group’s first order of business was mapping out a four-year plan that included site planning and lobbying local, county and federal government officials to take action.

To keep their goal on track, PBS members said they follow their mission statement of “helping friends and neighbors stay warm and dry by getting some new bus shelters installed on the Main Road in Southold Town.”

The statement translates into the goal of constructing six bus shelters on Route 25 in Southold Town, located as follows: on the eastbound side across from Mattituck Plaza; on both east- and westbound sides in Cutchogue, by the King Kullen shopping plaza; on the eastbound side near the Empire gas station in Southold; on the eastbound side in Peconic, across from the current shelter near the highway department yard; and on the westbound side in Greenport, across from 7-Eleven.

This is not the first time a plan has been launched to install bus shelters throughout Southold Town.

In 2007, Village Liquor Store owner Margaret Conway successfully protested the installation of a bus shelter in front of her Main Street, Southold, store by physically standing in front of the construction — making the Town Board reconsider the project.

Ms. Conway said the shelter would be an eyesore and would create parking congestion and she would not support the renewed effort to place one outside her business.

“It is a nice, little, quaint Main Street and it is not big enough for a bus shelter,” she said. “I don’t see the need.”

Project Bus Stop would also need to get the proper approvals from the county, which operates the buses, and the state, which has jurisdiction over the roadway, town officials said.

PBS members have already met with town officials and Legislator Al Krupski. They’ve also spoken at a county Legislature meeting.

“All these youngsters have the ability to think and act like adults,” said Project Bus Stop adviser Mark Sisson of Mattituck. “They have the tools to make this idea happen.”

Group members are confident they will reach their goal before college.

“It needs to get done and we’re the people to do it,” Sam Shaffery said.

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