Community Petitions For Traffic Light On Udall Following Teen's Death

An online petition urges Department of Public Works Commissioner to install a light and crosswalk on Udall Road.

Friends and neighbors of Thomas Labetti, the West Islip 15-year-old killed after he was struck by an SUV while riding his bike on Sept. 11, are lobbying to get signatures on a petition to install a traffic light and crosswalk on the road where the accident occurred.

The Change.org petition, which has 92 supporters as of 3:30 p.m. Friday, requests Islip Town Department of Public Works Commissioner Thomas Owens make Udall Road safer for pedestrians by installing a light and crosswalk near the Sunrise Highway intersection.

Community member Nanci DeLucia initiated the petition following the teen's passing on Thursday.

The petition reads: "Udall road is a danger to our children. The residential strip has become the site of a tragic event and a traffic light with crosswalk can help prevent accidents and keep pedestrians safer."

No criminal charges have been filed against the driver of the Tahoe, 34-year-old Dennis A. Grabhorn Jr., of West Islip.

Related: Facebook Memorial Pays Homage To Thomas Labetti

In signing the petition, supporters state they fear for their children's safety and aim to prevent another tragedy.

"My son was friends with Tom and this was an avoidable tragedy," wrote Desiree Aiello.

"I have teenage kids who ride their bikes and I am concerned for their safety," wrote Mary Kane.

"Udall Road is a long and busy street. An additional light and crosswalk will slow the speed of traffic making this very residential section of town safer for all," wrote Melissa Seaberg. 

Patch will provide updates on the outcome of the petition.

Nanci DeLucia September 28, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Thank you for the story Kaitlyn, hopefully EVERYONE will sign and maybe we can get Udall a little safer to cross.
S DeClemente September 28, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I know everyone is deeply saddened by this untimely loss, as I, but putting a traffic light is really a band aid solution. As an avid cyclist for over 30 years riding the roads of Long Island and NYC, most young cyclists take for granted their road responsibilities. I very rarely see riders throughout our community with helmets, reflectors, riding on the right side of the road. I strongly believe any monies that would be used for the installation of a traffic light would be better served for a fund called Thomas Labetti Cyclist Awareness Course.
Nanci DeLucia September 28, 2012 at 11:25 PM
I agree that the kids on the bikes these days are reckless, but this was not the case, I believe, with Thomas. I do think that we as parents can't stress to our children enough how dangerous the roads are. Some of my friends crack jokes about how nervous I always am about my kids safety, but I just feel that they need to be aware and so do we, as to the dangers out there. Texting and driving, drunk driving, Parents distracted by backseat kids.... all these things should be told to our children so that they don't rely on drivers to notice them. The kids need to notice the drivers, stay out of the middle of the roads, and just plain be careful. And yes, reflectors and helmets are rarely seen, but again, this is carelessness, not a lack of awareness. I agree, those are important to safety and need to be enforced by parents. I do believe that a light will help, if I didn't I wouldn't be fighting for it. I think it will slow people down, and with the crosswalk, give pedestrians a place to cross. If anything, it couldn't hurt.
S DeClemente September 29, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Nancy we will have to agree to disagree on this one. Having once been a long time resident of West Hempstead I could tell you, there's plenty of traffic lights in that community, and the amount of serious injuries by cars hitting pedestrians, and cyclists is staggering. I too was hit by a car while riding when I was 16, and not that serious, but very lucky. Since then I only ride with a Helmet, Light, Reflective clothing, and most importantly a Whistle (Which has saved me countless times). And now almost every day I train my 4 year old on the road, how to ride. I'm sorry this loss is horrible, but you could blame all the cars you want, but with a bicycle, there's NO room for a mistake. I truly hope we as a community will come together, and try to better educate our kids when riding.
Carolyn Pannenbacker September 29, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Hello Nanci, Thank you for starting this petition. How can I sign this petition and are you looking for help getting more people to sign? I can volunteer to go house to house. I live on the corner of Udall Road and it is not a road anymore, it is a highway with no steady break in traffic ALL DAY LONG, there are no lights, there is no safe area for our children to cross and now we are also expecting elementary school children to walk this road (highway) with no sidewalks or proper crossing area to get to school. This tragedy is heartbreaking to our community, and it is long overdue for something to be done to slow traffic on Udall road. I am so saddened for the loss of Tommy Labetti and I will continue to pray for him and his family.
Nanci DeLucia September 29, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Hi Carolyn, You can sign the petition here: http://www.change.org/petitions/thomas-owens-commissioner-of-dpw-install-traffic-light-on-udall-rd-wi-with-crosswalk If you are on Facebook you can also share the link on your page. And, yes I think we all should help. You volunteering to go door to door is wonderful! You can print out or just copy what is written on the petition on the link above and get signatures on there. I think it is great how many people jumped on this, since it is such a priority. I also was thinking that we need sidewalks as well, but didn't want to lay it all on at once. One step at a time, but the kids need sidewalks since they are walking to schools.
Nanci DeLucia September 29, 2012 at 12:45 AM
S DeClemente we kind of do agree. I really think it's great that you are spending time with your 4 yr old, showing him how to stay safe. We all should. (though my 12 yr old rolls his eyes and makes a blah blah blah sign with his hand) I still get on him with all the rules. I can only hope and pray he listens when he's not with me. I do feel that in this instance, this innocent teen was just trying to cross Udall. The driver did not have a light, he went around the car in front of him into the turning lane. I would think that if we have a crosswalk to coincide with the light, along with street signals (walk/don't walk) maybe we can change the way Udall runs. Maybe we can have a bike lane, I mean what does that take... a line in the rd? Sometimes things are simple and we think it's complicated. But I do agree with you on bike safety, it's lost and needs to be brought back. I live on Higbie... I see how these kids ride, swerving from one side to another, riding along the middle, AND THERE'S A SIDEWALK by me! It's crazy. But again, I do not believe this is the case with the recent tragedy. But it is a problem parents need to address.
Joann Filoseta-Verneuille September 29, 2012 at 11:38 AM
I don't understand why no charges were filed on the driver. What he did was clearly illegal! I'm sure he's not sleeping well these days, but he should pay the price for his negligence. Tommy sure did.
Jennifer Krauss September 29, 2012 at 03:32 PM
I live on the corner of Udall and Gerek and in the years I have lived here, I have probably witnessed at least 5 accidents on this corner. Cars fly around the turn and have hit trees, other cars, and pedestrians. Just within this past year, in addition to Thomas, an elderly person was hit in the crosswalk and there was a drunk driving accident on this corner. People accelerate from Sunrise and do not need to slow down again until the merge of Udall and Higbie. In addition to a stop light, they should consider putting at least one speed bump on Udall Road between Sunrise and the merge. I have six children, and this could have easily been one of mine. I am so, so saddened by this tragedy. I only hope that some of the money that this town wastes on needless things (like benches along Udall Road) can be better spent on safety measures to protect our children. To the Labetti's, you are all in my thoughts and prayers. Rest peacefully, Thomas.
Melissa Iehle September 29, 2012 at 06:45 PM
I know in the 10 years I have lived here, on Jean Road....We see ambulences all the time on Udall. It's ridiculous! I think, like everything else, this will rattle adults and children in the short run...but not in the long run. Soon enough everyone will be back to driving like a maniac. I know the left and right turning lanes down the middle of Udall, often make for potential head on collisions when people decide to cut off traffic and get into them too early. Really, the list goes on and on as to what is wrong in this neighborhood. I don't know who planned out Udall/Higbie....but its a clusterfuck and it doesn't seem to work..... Rest in Peace Thomas and may your family one day find some as well.
Diane McCorvey September 30, 2012 at 01:04 PM
As the Labetti's next door neighbor for many years, I know Tommy was taught the rules of the road and that you never know what a driver is going to do and that cars go way to fast! Michelle and I spent never-ending hours on our front steps when our children were young and blocking our driveways...because the cars driving down Higbie, just like Udall, flew!! Kids will be kids, just like we were. As adults, when you get behind the wheel, SLOW DOWN!!!! Expect that kid walking or riding to do the unexpected!! Just like you did as a kid! But, I don't believe this was the case with Tommy. A driver going way too fast and just had to get ahead! I urge everyone to sign the petition. We need to slow cars down on Udall between Sunrise and Udall/Higbie fork!
Nanci DeLucia September 30, 2012 at 06:25 PM
I live on Higbie to Diane. I can't believe how people can speed through a residential Rd. And it's not just Higbie and Udall. It's Ruth street, Aster, and all of our side blocks in between. I don't get it. My bus stop is across the street, I can't tell you how many times I see people speed up so they don't get stuck waiting for the kids to get off the bus. Or go past while the bus has it's stop sign out. It's infuriating and sickening. YOU KNOW there are kids getting off and on that bus! WTH! I lose my mind and turn into a mad woman, but I can't take the stupidity and disregard for a child's life. I can only hope that people will now pay more attention, drive slower and much more carefully. And I pray we get the stoplight and cross walk, and that it is done right with walk/don't walk lights as well. I know I will do whatever I can to get this done. My children are 12 and 10 and I think everyday about the Labetti family and can't even fathom the heartache. It's tragic and was avoidable! God Bless them and you and yours as well.
S DeClemente October 02, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Everyones comments here are right and important. But as someone who has been cycling the roads of Long Island and NYC since the 70's we can blame all the cars you want, and I can tell personally how many cars I went after because of blatant stupidity. But with Cycling there is NO room for error. You don't wear helmet, dont know proper hand signals, dont use a light, or reflectors, all I can say, your risking too much. You can put all the stops and lights you want, it will not make an ounce of difference.
Nanci DeLucia October 02, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Well .... We're gonna try! I think it will make a difference at least on udall. I also believe that it's a start not the end all to the unsafe rds. It begins at home, continues in our cars and ends with our kids arriving home safe by following the safety rules and having a safe place to cross... On EVERY road.
S DeClemente October 02, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Good Luck, but I couldn't back it. I great up in West Hempstead, not far from Hempstead Tpke. There's plenty of lights there, and it hardly helps. In fact a good friend was killed walking across at a light. you want safe roads, the Police have to be very aggressive for a few months, that will set the tone. I moved here to get away from that Nassau County look. You add a light or two here, watch how many more accidents happen.
Kaitlyn Piccoli (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Hi Nanci- I wanted to speak with you briefly about the petition. Could you please email me when you get the chance? Thanks! kaitlyn.piccoli@patch.com.
Nanci DeLucia October 03, 2012 at 01:24 AM
It's fine. You are entitled to your opinion. Though the area you keep referring to, Hempstead tpk, is way mor congested and bigger than Udall rd. it is also not lined with homes. You don't need to back it though I would think living on this community, signing a petition or getting behind your neighbors while they are trying to do something they feel would help, isn't much to ask at all. I back your idea that we need more bicycle safety awareness, though I don't feel that is the ONLY answer either. If a traffic light and crosswalk save at least one life, well then, mission accomplished... And accomplished WELL.
S DeClemente October 03, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Im all for saving a life, but again our community will be better served when kids of all ages follow the rules of the road while skateboarding/cycling. I am all for adding "zebra crossing" like by Higbie bagels, anywhere on Udall road. but myself and many other neighbors are firmly against adding lights on Udall/Higbie. And I personally would go to the Suffolk Legislature with signatures to fight and added traffic lights.
Peter Krauss October 03, 2012 at 12:11 PM
While I wholeheartedly welcome a light at Udall and Gerek, I do not think it will make a significant impact in making the streets safer. I live on Gerek and it is one small block that ends at Westbrook School. You want to know why the streets aren't safe? Look in the mirror; I can't tell you how many 'moms in minivans' I have seen accelerate and speed down my small block just so they can drop off their children safely at the school. Blatantly disregarding that any of the children who walk up the block could pop out from one of the many trees that line the street at any moment. Safety starts with each one of us. Take care when you drive.
Jennifer Krauss October 03, 2012 at 03:04 PM
1st, if signing the petition for a traffic light (whether or not you think it will help) gives Frank and Michelle the sense that the community is rallying behind them in the wake of their son's death, than everyone one on LONG ISLAND, not just West Islip should sign it. It is the least we can do for her considering what she has had to endure. Secondly, although I am 100% for a light, I agree that adding stop lights and crosswalks alone will not be a solution. The night of the accident, I was standing in the crosswalk of Gerek and Udall with four of my children (3 of them in a stroller). My son commented to me that maybe a walk wasn't a good idea as cars FLEW passed us. We suddenly heard screeching tires. Not knowing what had happened, but thinking cars were having to stop short for the inevitable traffic that builds up here daily, we were finally able to cross the street. My point is, NOBODY stopped or even slowed down when they saw a family standing in the crosswalk trying to cross the road. How many of us are actually driving slow enough by Higbie bagels (myself included) to actually stop if we see someone in the crosswalk there, w/out the potential of having to slam on our own brakes and risk being rear ended by the person behind us driving just as quickly on our tail? How many of us, adults and children, will actually go out of our way to cross in the crosswalk, and not just cross wherever we stand? We ALL need to obey the rules! And for the Labetti's, SIGN THE PETITION!
Nanci DeLucia October 04, 2012 at 02:19 PM
To say you would actually "fight" against putting a light there is, to me, baffling! What harm would this do? Couldn't it only help not hurt? Why use your effort to fight something that most of this town welcomes? I am so confused by you now, where as before, I agreed with most of what you said, but now you are just being pushy and a little obnoxious with this whole thing. I AGREE, hear that, AGREE that bike safety programs would be so helpful, and are extremely important and would never fight against it because I KNOW you do not think that is the ONLY way to keep anyone safe. You can go to the legislature and bring the few that are against this light, I will do the same with my petition that, as of this minute, has over 1100 signatures. The Labetti family has also signed, which tells me that they also would never want to see another family go through what they are going through, and think maybe the light would prevent that. I have 2 children, 12 and 10. For them and the rest of the kids and families in this town, I will do whatever it takes... a light, "zebra crossing", bike safety programs and good old fashioned lectures and punishments,... to keep them safe. A few people in this town are already putting together meetings to try to fund a bike safety program, maybe you should help them out. I can give you the info.
S DeClemente October 04, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Sorry Nancy, but a light an Intersection of course is the right thing to do. But an arbitrary light where a few think it might deter accidents, and slow down cars is just not true. the "Zebra Crossing" at Higbie Bagels works beautifully. My feeling, and I will go to the Town of Islip with my proposal is that I am all for having "Zebra Crossings' at every cross street up to Sunrise Hwy. That is far better then one light. Whats your alternative A traffic light at every corner? or a corner where you think it's best. My experience with seeing "Zebra Crossing" is that they work. I hope the town could come together on this, or as many things nothing will get accomplished
Wendy Regan October 04, 2012 at 09:09 PM
For all who wish to sign the petition: http://www.change.org/petitions/thomas-owens-commissioner-of-dpw-install-traffic-light-on-udall-rd-wi-with-crosswalk
Nanci DeLucia October 04, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I know what you are saying. It's just not enough. And you're right. But we need to start somewhere. I do not want a light at every corner just one in the middle. It will slow traffic and create safer speeds. My children go to the schools off udall and though they do not walk many of their friends do. And I was serious about the bike safety program. We are working on raising funds for one and would love your knowledge. If you are really interested in making a difference in how people ride along our streets I can give you info and you can join a meeting.
Maggie Kent October 17, 2012 at 12:20 AM
I had a petition signed and sent to the County about five years ago addressed to Wm Hillman, Chief Engineer. All I received for my effort was a form letter stating they would "conduct a traffic study." Well, how much longer, how many more lives? How do we manage to get an additional traffic light turning right from the eastbound service road of Sunrise when it was always a right on red to begin with.....hello? I think 2-3 stops signs from Sunrise to Udall/Higbie intersection would help. You know people are going to roll the stop signs, but it will take the speed down. Traffic lights will only lead to back ups on side streets.
Bonnie Wegener November 08, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Hi, not sure where to leave this comment but, how about a "GET CAUGHT" campaign, If you get caught wearing a helmet while bike riding, the residents of WI or maybe the Memorial fund will provide a $5 gift card for seven eleven or a coupon for a free slurpee or a slice of pizza and a drink. The local busineses would probably be quite generous. This would increase helmet awareness and hopefully lots of kids would be wearing helmets which wouldn't solve all our problems but it would at least help these teens to be more safe while biking in WI.


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