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Traffic Plan Sparks Furious Feud Between Staten Island Neighbors

By Nicholas Rizzi | September 13, 2012 9:00am

STATEN ISLAND — A petition to change the traffic flow on a one-way Westerleigh street has sparked a furious feud between neighbors that's led to threats and screaming matches and destroyed a long-time friendship.

George Cusick, 66, and his wife Danna, 65, said that since they began a campaign to change the one-way Brookside Avenue into a two-way, neighbors have yelled at them outside their home.

"We've been threatened," said Danna.

"'You're in for a world of hurt.' It's really unbelievable."

George Cusick, who has lived in Westerleigh for 32 years with his wife, said residents stood on his front lawn, angrily demanding that he drop his petition.

"I was verbally assaulted," he said. "One person wanted me to take a swing at him."

However, residents against their plan said they never threatened Cusick, and only began yelling at him because he was yelling first.

"He became loud and abrasive," said Robert Crabbe, 63, a retired systems engineer for AT&T and a Navy veteran who had been friends with Cusick for 27 years until the traffic brawl tore them apart.

"So you get loud and abrasive too."

Cusick claimed that he remained calm and quiet during the heated discussions on his front lawn, which could be heard by neighbors blocks away.

The trouble started when the Cusicks thought traffic on Manor Road, where they live, could be lessened and made safer for drivers.

They had an idea to make the nearby Brookside Avenue a two-way, which would reduce the amount of traffic using Manor.

The couple was told to form a petition by Councilwoman Debi Rose's office, and so they sat outside in August, counting cars on the blocks and gathering signatures.

The couple received over 300 signatures for their petition. Many signers expressed dismay that Brookside had ever been made one-way.

"People were really upset about it but felt no recourse," Cusick said.

The couple wrote a letter to the Department of Transportation, Rose, Community Board 1 and other officials, asking to change the street.

And that's when they said the threats started.

However Crabbe, who got nearly 300 people to sign his own petition opposing the Cusick's plan, said that he never heard about the threats until Cusick brought them up at a recent Community Board 1 meeting.

"I don't know what the hell he's talking about with the threats," he said.

Both sides presented their case at this month's Community Board 1 general meeting. The board said it was not familiar with the issue, and plan to schedule a meeting to specifically talk about it.

The DOT also told the Cusicks that they would carry out a study on the street.

Crabbe said he doesn't believe the plan will go anywhere because, while Brookside Avenue being a two-way would be more convenient for drivers, the layout of the street would be dangerous for residents.

"Safety trumps convenience every time," he said.

Crabbe said driving conditions on Brookside Avenue and the four connected blocks, including College Avenue where he lives, is dangerous because the streets slope downhill and cars can skid while braking in bad weather.

"To put more traffic would create an extremely dangerous situation," he said.

The Cusicks, however, feel that the people who live on or near Brookside are only concerned about keeping their quiet street to themselves and not helping out the entire neighborhood.

"We're all in New York City, we don't have private streets and you sit [on Brookside] and it's virtually like a private road," said Danna Cusick.

"I understand why they want to keep it that way."

And while the Cusicks said that they don't know what the outcome will be, they just hope the difference of opinions can be dealt with more civilly than it has been.

For Crabbe the issue has strained a friendship he had with a neighbor.

"He's been my friend for 27 years," he said. "At least I thought he was."