Douglaston community leaders blasted the city's decision to place a median at the corner of Sandhill Road and Little Neck Parkway that they say is creating considerable safety and traffic problems.
The city's Transportation Department installed the median last month to prevent drivers from turning left off Sandhill Road, which Douglaston and Little Neck residents have long used as a shortcut between the communities, onto the Little Neck Parkway. The agency also put up signs telling drivers not to turn left onto the parkway.
"You can put up all the signs you want, but that damn island is causing all types of problems," state Sen. Frank Padavan, R-Bellerose, of the DOT's signs. "School buses can't make a turn."
DOT Spokesman Monty Dean said the agency added new signs last month to notify drivers not to turn left. The city is monitoring conditions at the site and will make additional adjustments if needed, he said.
The community's residents have long complained about train whistles blowing all hours of the day as they approach a crossing at Little Neck's Long Island Rail Road station.
Federal law stipulates that trains must honk their horns as they approach railroad crossings. The DOT originally planned to place new gates at the crossing near Sandhill Road because drivers turning left onto Little Neck Parkway often veered dangerously close to the LIRR's tracks.
But the installment of electrical wiring at the crossing could have cost as much as $1 million and the DOT eventually decided the project was too costly, Community Board 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece said.
"A train whistle being blown at a high decibel level 100 times per day can be disturbing," he said. "But DOT, in their infinite wisdom, came in and put a sidewalk on the north side of the railroad. It's blocking up traffic and not letting people back up in an emergency. It's a poor design."
The area near the tracks is now designated as a "quiet zone."
Both Iannece and Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, said they were frustrated that the city did not notify them before constructing the median.
"We didn't get a heads-up at all," Iannece said. "They should not be implementing safety measures without consulting the community board."
Sandhill Road, which runs along the LIRR's tracks in Little Neck and weaves through Udalls Cove near Douglas Road, is the only route north of Northern Boulevard that connects the neighborhoods. But the city does not officially recognize the road and refuses to mark it.
Eliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association, said residents from both communities living near the road or using it as a shortcut are upset.
"Douglaston residents feel they are being inconvenienced with no left turn," he said. "Little Neck people north of the tracks feel there is a potentially hazardous situation."
Emergency vehicles could have difficulty gaining access to the crossing if electrical power was lost on the tracks and the gates were stuck, Socci said.
"It's a right turn only now, but it's still dangerous," said Steven Stites, a spokesman for Halloran. "It's a heavily used street. People come here to drop off people at the train station. If people want to turn left onto Little Neck Parkway, they make the illegal turn anyway. One morning, I saw six or seven cars nearly come into contact with a train. I'm certain there will be an accident there, especially if someone is not paying attention."