Neighbors question whether new lot would have prevented crash
Nassau County police received a call at 8:28 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30, regarding a vehicle that overturned on Beach Road. The student driver was on her way to Great Neck North High School.
By the time Alert Fire Company arrived at the scene, Nassau County Police had already extricated the driver from the vehicle.
Vigilant Fire Company was also on the scene and transported her to the hospital.
“Luckily she wasn’t hurt,” said Carlos Gallo, Alert second assistant chief. “She said she doesn’t know what happened and doesn’t remember. The car flipped because of how she hit the curb.”
On Friday, Feb. 1, around the same time, another accident occurred at the intersection of Beach and Polo roads, just as students were arriving to school. Fortunately, it was just a fender bender, with minor damage to the cars.
Within minutes of Wednesday’s crash, nearby resident Ruth Gabay, who has been vocal about her opposition to a new student parking lot at the high school, sent the picture that appears on the cover.
“This horrifying accident just occurred in front of the North High School parking lot,” said Gabay. “Can you imagine if the many students walking to school were injured? Emergency vehicles had difficulty accessing. This is exactly why we fear the parking lot expansion, adding 100-plus cars to the mix. We need to halt this parking lot and use Parkwood, which is spacious. Keep Great Neck safe.”
Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, who lives five houses from the school and is in favor of the new lot, expressed the exact opposite.
“We need the parking lot to get these cars off the street,” said Wiesenfeld, whose retaining wall was hit by the car before overturning. “The high school kids race on our street, Beach Road, for the few available spots. Once again, this is the result. Enough of these silly letters [to the editor] objecting to the parking lot and speaking about ‘kids safety.’ What the heck is more dangerous than high school kids racing to get one of the dozen spots on Beach Road? Anyone could have been hit by this speed wreck. Let’s get moving on the lot now!”
Several years ago, when each district school was asked to develop a list of priorities for its building, North High’s Shared Decision Making Committee, comprised of administrators, teachers, parents and students, listed the proposed parking lot as a priority to the NHS community, explained Barbara Berkowitz, president of the Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education.
“The list was reviewed, modified, discussed and greatly reduced,” said Berkowitz. “The proposed parking lot was, and remains, a priority item to the NHS community, consisting of administration, staff, parents and students. We understand that there are some individuals who are not happy with this one particular item and hope that in time they will change their opinions.”
During the 2016–17 school year, the school district administration and the Board of Education hosted more than 30 public bond referendum presentations, which included a visual description of the proposed North High parking lot project as well as other items represented in the bond referendum, Dr. Teresa Prendergast, superintendent, told the community last February.
“On May 16, 2017, the community voted to support the bond referendum with a 77 percent pass rate,” noted the superintendent.
In February 2018, the North High’s Shared Decision Making Committee provided insight into the significant planning behind the project and explained its need to ensure the students’ safety: “This lot was not requested by students; this project was identified as a need by building administration to provide a safer environment for our students. This isn’t about indulging our young people, it is about protecting them.”
In May 2018, the Board of Education confirmed the plans for the proposed North High parking lot would be moving forward without reconsideration, despite the objections raised.
“Having been a NYC senior transportation official, I know that increased vehicular storage is desperately warranted at Polo and Beach roads,” said Wiesenfeld. “The parking lot must be built ASAP to provide vehicular storage for working students and to get 100 cars contesting for the rare spaces in the area off the street. Enough is enough with the specious debates.”