Residents and officials discussed the pros and cons of reducing the speed limit in Greenport Village from 30 mph to 25 mph at a public hearing last Thursday night before the Village Board.
And while Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley didn’t support the idea, feedback from some speakers convinced him to take a second look at speeding issues in the village.
“The reason I am here is to listen to your complaints and to listen to what your concerns are,” Chief Flatley said. “I thank everybody for getting up and telling me. That’s the kind of information I need, so we can address it.
“I always accept criticism or critiques of our department because we always need to improve,” he added, “and it seems like there’s a lot of different areas we have to improve in with regard to speed.”
The idea of a lower speed limit was suggested late last year by Greenport residents Bridget and Eric Elkin, who collected more than 100 signatures on a petition in support of reducing the limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.
Because the two main roads in the village, Front and Main streets, are state roads, a change in the speed limit would require state approval, officials said. But the board can lower the speed limit on other village roadways independently.
Chief Flatley, who has said he feels enforcement is the best means of patrolling speed, said at the start of the hearing that he doesn’t get a lot of complaints about speeding in Greenport Village and feels the stop signs at most intersections on the longer roads in the village have served to control speed. He said he didn’t have any accident data on village roads, however.
Trustee Doug Roberts asked if there are any risks or downsides to lowering the speed limit.
There are no downsides or risks, Chief Flatley said.
Trustee Mary Bess Phillips said traffic coming from Route 48 and entering the village on Main Street is often speeding. She feels there should be better signage to indicate where the speed limit drops to 30 mph in this area.
Chief Flatley agreed, saying this is one stretch of road in the village that’s not “restricted by stop signs.”
Main Street residents Jeanette Lamothe and Peter Clarke described serious accidents that have happened on that street in recent years, including one in 2011 when a truck crashed into a church.
Mr. Clarke said he’s asked the last three village administrations to do something about it, with no success, and feels there’s a reason the police don’t get complaints.
“Most of us are burned out from reporting it, so police probably don’t have an accurate picture of what’s going on,” Mr. Clarke said.
“Adopting a 25 mph speed limit will send a strong message to residents and visitors that they are not on a highway,” Mr. Clarke said.
Residents John Saladino and JoAnne Kehl said they don’t think lowering the speed limit will help.
“If they are going faster than 30, they’re going to go faster than 25,” Mr. Saladino said.
Ms. Kehl said that stop signs on 5th Avenue haven’t stopped speeding.
She said people drive the whole length of the road going 45 mph and running all the stop signs.
“Even if you changed the speed limit, those people are going to go the same speed regardless,” she said.
“More enforcement has to happen.”
Chief Flatley said that before stop signs were put up on First Street, “it was a raceway.”
Mr. Elkin said lowering the speed limit has other benefits, quoting statistics that show that a pedestrian hit by a car at 30 mph has a one-in-10 change of survival, whereas a pedestrian hit by a car at 25 mph has a one-in-five chance of survival.
The Greenport Business Improvement District sent a letter in supporting a lower speed limit.
“Speed can be the difference between an avoidable incident or a traffic accident,” it read.
Ms. Elkin said that radar speed signs, which show drivers how fast they are going, also cause people to slow down.
Chief Flatley said the police can place this type of sign in Greenport.
The department placed such a sign near Mattituck High School recently.
Last year, the chief said, the department did a speed survey on Manor Place, by Eastern Long Island Hospital, where there had been speed complaints. An officer in a unmarked car with a radar gun measured speeds for about an hour, he said.
“The majority were at or below 30 mph,” he said. “But the complaint was that they are going 50 mph.”
While some cars do go over 30 mph, that’s an issue in every community on the North Fork, the chief said.
Mayor George Hubbard said it’s difficult to drive at 25 mph.
“I go 30 mph coming home from work and people are on my butt, beeping the horn, saying I have to go faster,” he said. “When I go 25 mph, they’re on my butt all the time.”
The Village Board voted to keep the hearing open for additional comments at future meetings.