The presence of the new electronic sign at the entrance to Murphy Junior High School in Stony Brook has alarmed homeowners in that neighborhood who say it is both a nuisance to residents and a traffic hazard.
The sign, which glowed with messages in bright red at the start of the school year, is inoperational at the moment, but some nearby residents brought the issue to the Board of Education last week because they fear it may be turned back on.
Kathleen and John Goldstein, who live on Oxhead Rd., said they have researched the issue and found studies – such as this one – that showed brightly lit signs at the street level are dangerous distractions to drivers. In an already heavily trafficked area around the school entrance, they said they believed the sign would increase the risk of accidents – along with possible lawsuits against the district.
The Goldsteins said they also believed the sign's electricity source to be dangerous, as it cut across the bike bath and walkway often used by students. They said the possible solution of burying the power supply underground was unacceptable due to potential loss of the vegetated buffer between the school and the neighborhood. They urged the school board to study the issue.
"The message board serves no necessary purpose," Kathleen Goldstein said. "Any announcements made can be made through a different way. It could be moved to a different part of the school property. I request that no power be supplied [to the sign]...until the school board has conducted a study."
The Goldsteins have set up an email address through which they are hoping to collect neighbors' responses to the sign issue. They said the sign has been turned off since they logged their complaints with the district.
Another resident, Mark Latino, suggested the school district also consult the local residents. He said his property value, already affected by the economy during the past few years, could fall even further because of the safety issues in the neighborhood.
"We can’t afford for it to shrink any lower," Latino said. "... I hope you reconsider the sign and take into account the concerns of the folks who live around the school."
Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich clarified that it was not the administration as a whole but rather the site-based team working together with the Murphy Parent Teacher Organization to install the sign.
Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said Tuesday that there is no immediate plan to re-light the sign until the administration and the Board of Education have the chance to discuss it further and decide how to proceed. The lighting of the sign earlier this year, he said, was just a test.
Dr. Jeffrey Kerman, school board president, said the district would research the matter. "We will look into the safety issues for sure," he said.
The masonry component of the sign was donated by the Smithtown-based Gappsi Group, which constructed six such signs in Three Village together valued at about $50,000 this past spring, according to owner Giuseppe Abbrancati.
The masonry work initially drew criticism from residents who objected to the company's name being displayed prominently within the brickwork – which Abbrancati said had been done in Smithtown, Commack and other school districts to which Gappsi has donated signs – though Three Village school administrators at the time said the signs didn't violate any rules.
Residents have also complained that the architecture of the sign does not match that of the schools in the district.
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