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Crash in Montauk Renews Safety Concerns

Thu, 02/23/2023 - 11:56

D.W.I. arrest near school underscores safety issues

A school bus navigated around a downed utility pole on Second House Road on Feb. 14 after a driver crashed his pickup truck in that area around 4 p.m.
Kimberly Esperian Photos

“I heard a big pop, and I didn’t really think anything of it because we hear a lot of things,” said Clint Bennett of Montauk, describing a car crash last week not far from his house and seafood store at Second House Road and South Debusy Road. “I looked out the windows and up toward the big tree in the yard, and that’s when I saw a truck that looked like it was parked on the sidewalk. . . . It was not good.”

A utility pole in a school zone was down, the front end of the pickup truck was dented pretty deep, and a 32-year-old East Hampton man was charged with driving while intoxicated and unlicensed driving shortly after 4 p.m. on Feb. 14.

It’s not every day that a person is charged with D.W.I. there, Mr. Bennett said. But it is every day, he said, that cars and trucks barrel through that school zone, disregarding the 20-mile-per-hour speed limit and the fact that Second House Road in that area is separated from a Montauk School playground and sports field by a fairly narrow strip of grass and a chain-link fence.

Last year, Clint Bennett of Montauk stood in the school zone on Second House Road holding a sign encouraging drivers to slow down.

Mr. Bennett and his fiancée, Kimberly Esperian, have been lobbying East Hampton Town for several years to install flashing yellow lights at both ends of the school zone. The alcohol-related crash has renewed their concerns.

“This is out of control. It’s really bad. . . . There is signage here, but it’s not enough,” he said. “This is about the kids and public safety.”

“People are walking in the street. The sidewalk ends,” Ms. Esperian added. “The traffic has got to get slowed down.”

John Kanavy, a parent of two elementary school kids who lives on Second House Road not far from the accident site, agrees with the couple. In good weather, he walks his children to school, often feeling uneasy about it.

“I think it’s extremely dangerous,” he said of the speeding cars. “It’s sort of a nightmare situation there.” He concurred that flashing yellow lights would help. “At this point, anything would help — any sort of warning. People seem to completely disregard the speed limit. I don’t know why.”

Mr. Bennett and Ms. Esperian suspect that many of the vehicles passing through are driven by tradespeople who may not be familiar with the roads. The street connects Industrial Road and Montauk Highway and is also near a few popular dining destinations, including Ruschmeyer’s and Solé East.

Town police officers have caught people speeding in that area, but it’s not logistically feasible for them to sit there every day to enforce the speed limit, as is the case elsewhere in town. A 2022 traffic study of Second House Road provided to The Star last week by Chief Michael Sarlo shows speed recordings ranging from a school-zone compliant 18.5 miles per hour to 29.4 m.p.h. The limit is 30 m.p.h. outside the school zone.

“While this is definitely a heavily traveled roadway . . . there has never been any specific data link to indicate a speed problem along this route,” Chief Sarlo said in an email to The Star. “We would, of course, like to see the numbers lower during morning and afternoon school pickup and drop-off times, which is when we seek to have more of an enforcement presence. . . . There is not a regular flow of pedestrians or school-related traffic through that area. We have kept in touch with Montauk School officials regarding all of this.”

Jack Perna, the school superintendent, said by email this week that the assistant principal, Brigid Collins, met with Mr. Bennett and Ms. Esperian last week and is looking into the issue.

Complaints about speeding on Second House Road date at least as far back as Oct. 10, 2013, when police — including Chief Sarlo, who was a captain at the time — promised residents extra patrols to enforce the speed limit.

According to the official report of the Valentine’s Day incident, the driver, Tanner Bertrand, told police he drove off the road and struck the pole after trying to retrieve his cellphone, which had fallen onto the floor. The report lists his charges as D.W.I., which is a misdemeanor; unlicensed driving, a violation, and an open-container offense, also a violation. Mr. Bertrand, who was not injured in the crash, was arraigned the next day by Town Justice Steven Tekulsky, who released him on his own recognizance.

Chief Sarlo said speed did not appear to be an issue in this particular incident.

“We take the complaints seriously,” he said, “and have expended a tremendous amount of resources seeking to mitigate the safety concerns expressed by the residents of the area.”

On the Police Logs 05.30.24

A Rolex watch was the subject of a dispute late Saturday night between a man and a woman, both intoxicated, on Main Street in front of the Point Bar and Grill. Each of them claimed to own the watch, so an officer took it to the Montauk precinct until documentation could be provided. The watch turned out to belong to neither of them. The man’s father showed up in the morning with a copy of an insurance policy showing the Rolex was in fact his.

May 29, 2024

On the Police Logs 05.23.24

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State Grants to Boost Police Technology

New York State has awarded a total of $127 million to county sheriffs and town and village police departments across the state, with thousands of dollars expected to land in the hands of police agencies here.

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Two Face Felony Drunken-Driving Charges

Town police have leveled new drunken-driving charges in separate incidents against two East Hampton men who were convicted of the crime within the last 10 years, which elevates the charges to felonies.

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