About 40 people showed their support Sunday for a Flanders family that has had a sign opposing impaired driving on their lawn for seven years, and is now being told to remove it.
Since July of 2014, Susan Tocci of Flanders has had a double-sided sign on her front lawn, facing Flanders Road. One side urges people to not text and drive and the other side warns of driving while impaired.
The picture on one sign is of Ms. Tocci’s sister, Barbara, who was killed on Jan. 16, 2014 when a PSEG truck crossed over two lanes of traffic on Flanders Road and hit her car head on. The driver of the truck was accused by police of texting and driving and charged with criminally negligent homicide, although that charge was later dismissed.
The picture on the other side is of her sister’s granddaughter Kadence, whose mother died in a 2014 crash in California that involved an allegedly drugged driver.
Kadence, now 8, lives with her father, Tom Podlas, who is Barbara Tocci’s son.
Recently, those signs have been under attack from a local civic association, and Ms. Tocci last month was issued a summons by Southampton Town and ordered to take the signs down. She has a court appearance scheduled in August, she said.
Susan said Kadence cried when code enforcement officers said the sign has to come down.
The Bay View Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association has written many letters of complaint about the signs, and other issues in Flanders, over the past year.
“Are we to live with this obnoxious sign forever?” wrote Lorraine Paceleo, the vice president of the Bay View Pines Civic and Taxpayers Association, in a June 14 letter to Ryan Murphy, Southampton Town’s code compliance and emergency management administrator.
Many of the other structures mentioned by the civic group were dilapidated structures, such as the Brewster House and the former 7z’s health club, which is across the street from Ms. Tocci’s house.
“I do believe there is a problem nationwide with informal memorials set up along highways etc., with flowers, plants, blinking lights, crosses, even blinking lights,” Ms. Paceleo, an attorney, wrote to Mr. Murphy on June 11. “This is what a cemetery is for. These are very disturbing and distracting to drivers and should be taken town.”
Ms. Tocci, who said the sign is on her property, obtained the letters via a Freedom of Information Act request.
She said Friday that a Facebook/Change.org petition has been started by people in support of keeping the signs, and that it has generated more than 1,000 signatures in two days.
“Help save lives!” Ms. Tocci wrote on Facebook. “These numbers speak volumes and just goes to show what our community really wants!
Ms. Tocci, a former Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance chief, said her family has had many members in the FNVA and seeks to help people.
She and her supporters held a rally Sunday in support of the signs.
“We’re here to support the Tocci’s,” said Mark Stark, the president of the Red Knights Motorcycle Club, which had several members in attendance, as did the FNVA.
Kadence said the signs are important “so that this doesn’t happen to somebody else.”