Officials offer pedestrian event


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Tricia Triana walks through Tiny Town, a small set up of streets and sidewalks, with her son Antonio, 10, as part of a pedestrian safety program Wednesday.

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — After a series of pedestrian fatalities on and near Tompkins Street in recent years, local officials arranged a pedestrian safety program for area children Wednesday.
The event came a day after a 23-year-old man died of injuries he suffered when he collided with a car as he rode his bicycle on Tompkins Street Monday.
“I assured the Cortlandville Town Board … that we would do something for children,” said Angie Wyatt, the chairman of the Cortland County Traffic Safety Board, at Wednesday’s event. “Enough is enough with the fatalities.”
The accident Monday follows five pedestrian fatalities on and near Tompkins Street in the past three years.
Lucille Ward of Chelsea Drive, whose sister and nephew were killed in a 2003 accident, had dropped fliers off around her neighborhood and brought her granddaughters to learn some tips Wednesday.
“We desperately need this, because where we live you can’t play ball, and there are a lot of people who work and they only have one vehicle,” Ward said.
The Cortland County Youth Bureau held the event at a lot just south of Uncle Louie’s Backyard restaurant. It was sponsored by the county Health Department, in conjunction with the Cortlandville Recreation Program, the county Youth Bureau, the Sheriff’s Department and the Cortland County Traffic Safety Board.
“My oldest daughter is 12 and she wants to walk on her own, but I’m afraid to let her. Even when we walk as a family, the cars don’t even slow down for us,” said Danielle Walker, a Chelsea Drive resident who had brought her daughter Ty’Breyah Livingston, 7, to practice on the “Tiny Town” that was set up in the field.
Carpet-square sidewalk tiles lined swaths of dark cloth meant to represent roads, with plastic tubing and colored signs representing crosswalks and “No Walk” signals. Plywood buildings filled out the Tiny Town, which was set up in a U-shape.
ReBecca Smith, Cortland County Health Department’s injury prevention coordinator, said the safety course was developed last fall and “still under construction.”
Smith said it has also been taken to several schools, as well as the Cortland Pumpkinfest.
Tiny Town included four stations, and the first introduced general safety rules for pedestrians, as well as basic “stranger danger.”
“Never try to outrun a car — so if you see a car coming, wait for it to go by,” Smith told a group as they stood at the first station.
Another basic precaution is to walk on the side of the road facing traffic. When there is no sidewalk available, pedestrians should stay on the left shoulder, Smith said.
“You always want to face traffic … so you know what’s coming,” she said.
A few of the 19 children in attendance needed some clarification after they had walked through Tiny Town.
Smith said the event usually includes mock-ups of cars to help make things more clear, but two adults stood in just as effectively Wednesday morning.
“You should look both ways,” Livingston said after she had walked the demonstration course. “And you shouldn’t run when a car’s coming, because it could hit you.”
The second station involved simple street crossing, and the third allowed the children to practice crossing at an intersection using a crosswalk, which Cortland County Sheriff’s Officer Bill Bracken said is a very simple way to stay safe.
Bracken was on hand to speak with the children and present them with their safety certificates upon successful completion of the demonstration.
“I was asking the kids where they lived, and after that I asked them if they used the new crosswalk, and if they had fun pressing the button,” Bracken said in between groups of practicing pedestrians. “They did such a good job putting in the crosswalk (at the intersection of Starr Road, Tompkins Street/Route 13 and McLean Road), you’d think the kids would embrace that and want to use the new crosswalk that’s in place there. But we still see kids crossing unsafely near the crosswalk, but not in it.”
The crosswalk was one of several improvements made by the state at the town’s request in response to the pedestrian fatalities. Turn signals were added at the McLean Road/Tompkins Street intersection and streetlights were added on Tompkins Street, but the town has not been able to convince the state to lower the speed limit from 45 mph.
In addition to the certificate, participants received a sticker shaped as a sheriff’s badge, coloring books and key chains after the fourth station, which taught parking lot safety.
Smith said that a tip that parents should abide by is to make sure their children exit from the passenger side of the vehicle when being dropped off, to allow for the shortest trip to the sidewalk possible.
Jessica Vaughan lives in the nearby Chelsea Apartments, and said she had brought her daughters over after summer school.
“I teach my kids that kind of stuff anyways, but I figured it would be something fun for them to do, and I don’t have a car so it gets kind of boring back there in the apartments,” Vaughan said.

Fatalities since 2003

Jason L. Hurlburt, 23, of Tompkins Street died Tuesday night at University Hospital in Syracuse. He had been riding east on the shoulder of Tompkins Street when he hit a car turning west out of the Time Warner parking lot about 11 a.m. Monday.
In April, John White, 42, of Tully, was hit and killed while driving his motorcycle on Tompkins Street.
In November 2005, Gary White, 26, was killed on Tompkins Street when a drunk driver hit him as he walked home from a night of bowling at Cort-Lanes.
In July 2005, 11-year-old Alayna Robinson was killed while walking across McLean Road Extension in the daytime near its intersection with Tompkins Street.
In May 2003, Geraldine Palladino and her grandson, James White III were hit and killed by a vehicle on Tompkins Street just east of Fairview Drive while walking home from a movie.



Bell Drive flooding concerns discussed

Staff Reporter

CORTLANDVILLE — Flooding in the Bell Drive area, highway issues surrounding the proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter, and the lease of records storage space during the upcoming Town Hall renovations were among issues discussed at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.
Following flooding in April and last week, residents of the Bell Drive area have become increasingly concerned with drainage problems in the area. Board member Ted Testa said that although no basements had been flooded last week, many of the residents were concerned because the water in the retention ponds had drawn very close to homes.
“The system that Carl (Bush, town highway superintendent) designed seems to be working,” said Town Supervisor Dick Tupper, although he noted that the solutions are only temporary. “The problem is the cost. Anything we do now will be undone when they (the state DOT) do (Route) 281. It’s awfully hard to spend the taxpayer’s money when we know the state will correct the problem — We just have to wait four years.”
Tupper said that residents had already submitted a petition to the state asking for the problem to be corrected, but had been denied and are now circulating a second, “strongly worded” request.
“They’re going to go through that whole neighborhood and try to get signatures from those people, and ask the state of New York to move the 281 project up. They’re going to ask that the state do that section first, instead of last,” Tupper said.



Homer plan for house questioned

Some neighbors object to the possibility of the town tearing down the structure for parking.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — About a dozen village residents at a Town Board meeting Wednesday night objected to the idea of tearing down a North Main Street house adjacent to the Town Hall.
The loss of the house would detract from the town’s tax base and its overall character, residents said. The town has proposed using the space for parking and an addition to the Town Hall.
“I just don’t see the logic in buying this house and tearing it down, all at the taxpayers’ expense,” Elsa Ferguson, who lives on Clinton Street two doors down from its intersection with North Main Street, said after the meeting.
The Town Board approved the purchase of the house at 33 N. Main St. in June. The town is in the process of closing on the property for the amount of a $34,220 unpaid tax bill.
The house, located on a quarter-acre parcel, has remained vacant in the recent past and has seen damage from neglect.
Plans are preliminary, Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said, and tearing down the house and placing a wheelchair accessible elevator on the northern side of Town Hall along with handicap parking was only one option the Town Board was looking at.




Gay marriage not allowed in New York

High court points to Legislature to change law.

Associated Press Writer

ALBANY — New York’s highest court ruled today that gay marriage is not allowed under state law, rejecting arguments by same-sex couples who said the law violates their constitutional rights.
The Court of Appeals in a 4-2 decision said New York’s marriage law is constitutional and clearly limits marriage to between a man and a woman. Any change in the law should come from the state Legislature, Judge Robert Smith wrote.
“We do not predict what people will think generations from now, but we believe the present generation should have a chance to decide the issue through its elected representatives,” Smith wrote.
Cortland resident Jim Pelton and his partner, Jason, were among the 48 couples serving as complainants in the case, was disappointed by the judges’ decision.
“I thought New York had a reputation for being a trailblazer, so I’m officially disappointed,” Pelton said. “I don’t believe you should ever put civil rights to a vote, and that’s what these judges decided to do by putting it in the hands of the Legislature.”
Pelton said same-sex marriage advocates would lean on the state Legislature, but noted that his wait for marriage rights just got longer.
“Obviously it’s going to take quite a few more years but we’ll get there,” he said. “This was the right thing to do at the right time, and it’s disappointing that New York decided to dodge the issue.”
Gov. George Pataki’s health department and state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s office had argued New York law prohibits issuing licenses to same-sex couples. The state had prevailed in lower appeals courts.