Easthampton residents urge action after crosswalk fatality

  • The crosswalk in Easthampton where Denise Herzog was struck by a car. She died of her injuries the next day. FILE PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • The crosswalk in Easthampton where Denise Herzog was struck by a car. She died of her injuries the next day.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Four crosswalks in Easthampton are slated for safety improvements. GAZETTE STAFF/MAPS4NEWS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/20/2018 11:22:13 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Following the tragic death of Denise Herzog, hit by a car as she crossed Cottage Street earlier this month, residents are calling for for immediate improvements to pedestrian safety in the city.

Mayor Nicole LaChapelle called it a “cruel, tragic twist” considering that the city is a few months away from making safety improvements and upgrades to that very same crosswalk using a $217,455 state grant.

But, at the Dec. 5 City Council meeting, Easthampton residents Annette Szyczygiel and Seth Lepore implored city officials to take immediate action.

“I go out into the crosswalk with a stop sign and I have people drive right by me,” said Szyczygiel, who is a crossing guard on Holyoke and Cottage Streets.

Szyczygiel said it is unfortunate to have tragedy spurring change, but expressed a desire to be involved in any safety improvement efforts.

Shortly after the car struck Herzog, LaChapelle said that police and Department of Public Works posted signs by the crosswalk and a police patrol was present.

The “Complete Streets” project is in the design phase, funded by a grant that was awarded to the city in February, according to DPW director Joseph I. Pipczynski. The project will improve four crosswalks, sidewalks and add a bus stop.

The crosswalks part of the project are: the intersection of Cottage and Holyoke Streets; the crosswalk in front of Platterpus Records on Cottage Street; the crosswalk at the intersection of Main and Glendale Streets; the crosswalk at the rotary on Main Street in front of the D&D Auto Parts & Machine.

Once designs are completed, the public will provide feedback before the project going out to bid in April, Pipczynski said.

“It’s imperative that we ensure public safety in a shorter time frame,” said Lepore, adding that he had previously lived just two doors down from Herzog.

Lepore said he was angry that pedestrians and bicyclists are “constantly in harm’s way” on Cottage and Union Streets and called it a “public health crisis.”

City Councilor Dan Carey, who is the chairman of the Public Safety Subcommittee, said there is a pressing need to review the visibility of crosswalks and safety of all Easthampton pedestrians.

The Public Safety Subcommittee will be reviewing those topics at their meeting on Dec. 21, Carey said.

LaChapelle said the city started developing plans to improve Cottage Street years ago, but said that “it only takes two minutes to take it all away for one person.”

A complete redesign of Union Street is still about a year and a half away, LaChapelle said, which is aimed at making it safer and more accessible for pedestrians and cyclists.

Improvements to the Cottage Street crosswalk could include blinking lights, repainting of the crosswalk, and a speed table, according to LaChapelle.

“I will never see my friend again,” Lepore said. “Her life was cut short and she was transitioning to a new phase of retirement with her husband. This is unacceptable.”

Luis Fieldman can be reached at lfieldman@gazettenet.com


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