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Jul. 3—Mike Papa has been watching the intersection of Branch and Central streets in the Woodlands Manufactured Home Community for two years now and he hasn't liked what he's seen. Eventually, he said, someone is going to be hit by a speeding car.
Last year, he petitioned for — and won — a four-way stop for the intersection from the Town of Lockport. His rationale, supported by his neighbors, was that one of their children was going to be hurt badly or killed by traffic and taking no action was not the answer. The stop signs went up, but, unfortunately, the speeding continued.
That being the case, Papa said he asked the Woodlands office to install speed bumps, but was told that would be too costly. He offered to pay. He was told any modification of the property would result in the police being called.
At wits end, Papa decided to write down his grievances and pass them out until something was done.
"I live on a corner lot on Branch and Central, but my corner was not a four-way stop," Papa wrote. "There were stop signs on Central, but not on Branch Street. I quickly began to notice that Branch Street was apparently a race track. People would fly down the street well in excess of the 25 mph (miles per hour) speed limit. In my estimation, most cars were driving at 40 to 50 mph."
Papa doesn't just expect people to take him on his word. He has several videos taken from the corner of his home of cars slowing down at the stop sign, but not stopping, and others simply ignoring the sign altogether and speeding through. He emailed many of them to the US&J, as well as correspondences between himself and the Woodlands, Town of Lockport Supervisor Mark Crocker and the Niagara County Sheriff's Office.
"Hello Mike, I understand your issue," wrote back Crocker. "My only answer is to work with the Woodlands management and sheriff's office to add more patrols."
Crocker told the US&J that he was concerned about the traffic issue Papa was facing and that is why the town had installed the stop signs. Unfortunately, he said, there's nothing he or the town can do to put speed bumps on the property.
"It's an issue for Woodlands management and local law enforcement," Crocker said in a phone interview.
Jennifer Ludovice of Equity Lifestyle Properties, the Chicago-based corporation that owns The Woodlands and other real estate, responded to inquiries from the US&J by email.
"The safety of residents of The Woodlands is very important to us, which is why we supported the additional stop signs at the intersection in question," she said.
Ludovice wrote on to say that there was a, "very good working relationship with the Niagara County Sheriff's Department" and her organization often "discuss traffic control needs within the community" with it.
Ludovice concluded that the company welcomes any resident with concerns to speak with a member of the community management. She also said that evaluation of options for traffic control will be made with NCSO.
However, Sheriff Michael Filicetti said he has never spoken to anyone from the organization from either their local or corporate locations, though they may have spoken to a shift supervisor.
What Filicetti did say was that as the warm summer months continued, his deputies would be covering a wide range of area throughout the county and he could not have anybody sit at any given intersection for a long period of time. He noted that speed bumps will help slow down traffic, though maybe not stop the problem.
Filicetti gave three dates of May 3, May 18 and June 24 as to when one of his deputies was able to put a car at the intersection of Central and Branch streets in the Woodlands. In the end, he told the US&J that it was something the management of The Woodlands would have to decide.
"That's the responsibility of The Woodlands," Filicetti said.
In the meantime, Papa continues to work toward a safe neighborhood for his two step-children, and the rest of the community at the Woodlands. He talked about speaking in front of the Lockport Town Board a year ago and how powerless he felt, a feeling that he continues to feel today now that the signs he'd fought for are not solving the problem.
"I was emotional. I can't bear the through of my two step kids, or anybody else's kids, getting injured, ending up in a wheelchair or getting killed. I just couldn't bear the thought of it," Papa said. "The Lockport Town Supervisor called me (later) and said they'd considered my proposal and they'd granted it. They were going to put up the stop signs in a week or two, and I thanked him. I was so happy! I thought, 'This is going to solve all my problems! It's going to be safer!' ... People saw them, but it didn't do any good.They were just flying right through, and now, you would think a year later people would pay attention, but they don't."