Shortcut Gets Bumpier

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The trip through the Village of Russell Gardens has gotten a lot bumpier lately for motorists who use the village as a shortcut to either Northern Boulevard or South Middle Neck Road—but it’s by design, according to Mayor Steve Kirschner.
The village, made up of 248 private homes and four apartment buildings on South Middle Neck, has recently added five speed bumps to its 11 roads in a continuing effort to slow motorists who speed through its 2.4 miles of streets. The village, which has about 1,200 residents, now has nine bumps. And there could be more in the future.
Kirschner recognizes that some drivers have figured out which of his streets have speed bumps and which don’t and have already altered their regular routes accordingly.
“By the time I’m finished it’s going to be harder and harder for anybody to drive through our village and not go over at least one speed bump,” he promises. “I’m going to do whatever it is I have to do to slow down the traffic.”
The mayor, now in his fourth term, has served the village in various capacities for almost 35 years. He stepped down after three successive terms in 2009 and decided to run again last year.
Kirschner admits that deciding where to place a speed bump (and its accompanying warning sign) is an unscientific process but each placement is carefully considered.
“It’s about listening to residents, seeing whether or not motorists are stopping at our stop signs and seeing where we’re having the most problems,” he explains. “Any time you do something, there are pros and cons and you weigh them and you have to say, ‘Do the pros outweigh the cons?’”
Despite the inconvenience to motorists and the danger of running over bumps too fast—possibly causing the driver to lose control—Kirschner is adamant about traffic-calming measures. He even acknowledges the slight delay that the bumps can cause for emergency response vehicles.
“I understand that emergency vehicles have to slow up for a second or two,” he said. “But it doesn’t compare with the number of people who might get hurt, whether they’re walking or running in the village or driving within the village. I’ve seen an increased amount of walkers in the village. Everyone anticipates that a car is actually going to stop at a stop sign. Drivers just blow by stop signs all the time.”
For Kirschner, it’s an unqualified success.
“If you speak to most people they will tell you that it has improved,” he said. “The speed bumps don’t seem to slow [big SUVs] down as much as we would like, but I think that most of the people who drive regular sedans are slowing down. It may not be a perfect ‘stop’ but it’s better.”
“I think that 85 percent of the cars are now slowing down within the village,” he emphasized. “And that’s what we wanted.”
Because major roads surround so much of the village, Russell Gardens has been struggling with outside traffic problems for many years. The incorporated village does not have its own police force as larger villages such as Kings Point, Lake Success, Kensington and Great Neck Estates do and must rely on Nassau County police for enforcement.
Kirschner solved a previous traffic problem involving illegal parking on Northern Boulevard, a road not controlled by the village, securing installation of traffic delineators that physically prevent cars from parking, thus eliminating a dangerous blind spot.