Monday, December 12, 2005

Overdevelopment, Wal-Mart and Public Safety

When the Alliance held its community forum with Staten Island civic groups in November, the most compelling speaker was Dave Rosenzweig, who is the president of the Fire Dispatch Officers Benevolent Association. Dave had the audience spellbound in describing how a one minute delay in getting fire suppression equipment to a blaze would allow the fire to double in intensity. He went on to talk about the existing difficulties on the Island that result from an antiquated and inadequate road infrastructure.

This poor road access for Staten Islanders is being exacerbated by a lack of planning and the resultant overdevelopment, particularly on the South Shore. There are currently at least 15 retail projects on the drawing board for the area and each one of these developments is being looked at in isolation from the others. What Rosenzweig told the assembled groups was that a mega-project like Wal-Mart would further impede emergency vehicle access and put the area's public safety at risk.

The recent calls for a transportation "Marshall Plan" for Staten Island are all well and good but without a concomitant global examination of the various developments being considered this transportation policy will not adequately address the core issue that involves how development is done, not only on Staten Island but all over the city. To allow a Wal-Mart to go forward on the South Shore at this time is playing with the lives of everyone in the community.

Nothing illustrates this as well as the report in today's Daily News on the S.I. fire that killed two children. The paper reports that it took firefighters 8 and 1/2 minutes to get to the blaze, a full 3 minutes above the published average response time for the Island. Uncontrolled development then, is the number one public safety issue for Staten Island and the building of a Wal-Mart, with its hundreds of thousands of additional weekly car trips, cannot be seen apart from this issue.