Featured PieceGovernmentThe Examiner

Dreadful Saw Mill Accident Raises Ire of Pleasantville Residents

News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

We are part of The Trust Project
The dangerous Grant Street-Saw Mill River Parkway intersection, the site of 70 accidents in the past 10 years.

A prominent Pleasantville resident and business owner was seriously injured at the dangerous Saw Mill River Parkway-Grant Street intersection recently, once again prompting angry community members to call for safety improvements at the location.

Freya Martens, the co-owner of Soul Brewery Company, was driving westbound on Grant Street at about 11:25 p.m. on June 20, and as she was crossing the Saw Mill, her car was struck by another vehicle driving southbound on the parkway, according to the Westchester County Department of Public Safety. One of the cars apparently ran a red light, police said.

Both drivers were taken by ambulance to Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. Martens suffered multiple lacerations, a fractured vertebrae and a fractured pelvis. She was admitted to the ICU, where she spent several days, and continued to be hospitalized through last week. The other driver sustained minor injuries.

Martens’ extensive injuries rattled friends and community members, many of whom expressed their anger at last week’s Pleasantville Village Board meeting. For well over an hour the board listened to emotional testimonies sparked by frustrations over the longstanding inability to improve safety at the intersection.

Some urged the board to have the state Department of Transportation (DOT), which has jurisdiction over the parkway, close the intersection to pedestrian and east-west vehicular traffic.

“Freya Martens is my closest friend in the world,” said Samantha Hoover, former chair of the Pleasantville Pedestrian Safety Committee. “My personal relationship aside, it’s just unacceptable what happened.”

Hoover said she obtained police records regarding the number of accidents at the Grant Street intersection. She said there have been 70 accidents in the past 10 years, including 27 since 2019.

“Something needs to happen, and I’m in complete support of shutting it down,” Hoover said.

Many of the accidents at the intersection have been caused by speeding cars running the red light.

According to the Westchester County police, the cause of the June 20 accident “would appear one of the parties went through a red light” and that “the accident is currently under investigation.”

The board recounted its year-long effort reaching out to the DOT and offering multiple suggestions of how to improve the intersection, only to be repeatedly turned down.

“We’ve been in significant conversations with the DOT,” said Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer. “We asked for a number of steps, among them a red-light camera, a strobe light, and we got back a letter from the DOT saying pretty much none of those were possibilities.”

The village has reached out to its state representatives, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assemblywoman MaryJane Shimsky (D-Dobbs Ferry), to contact the DOT on the village’s behalf.

“The DOT is presumably responsive to elected officials,” Scherer said. “We have had some feedback today and they are aware of this accident and the history of accidents and we are clearly on their radar screen. What that means is unclear.”

Pleasantville residents urged the closure of the Grant Street and Saw Mill River Parkway intersection following a recent serious accident that left a fellow community member badly injured.

Shimsky told The Examiner last week that for the past year she and other stakeholders have been pressing for a meeting with DOT brass to improve safety on the parkway at the intersection. However, she and other officials have been told conflicting accounts of what would happen next.

The assemblywoman said she’s optimistic that the accident record, including the latest serious crash and the public outcry, will force DOT to act.

“Obviously, at this point now they are going to have to come to a consensus, they are going to have to sit down with us,” Shimsky said. “I’ve instructed my staff earlier this week to convene a meeting with DOT and with the Village of Pleasantville because I find talking back and forth gives you a certain amount of information, but this proves to be different now. This requires getting all the stakeholders in the same room and that is what I’m planning to do.”

Trustee Yemi Healy, who lives in the densely populated neighborhood west of the Saw Mill and whose children were involved in a car accident as passengers at the Grant Street intersection more than a year ago, said petitions were effective in gaining the DOT’s attention.

“A lot of this issue, especially the kid safety component and the ongoing accidents, is what can push the state,” Healy said. “That’s my hope along with communicating weekly with the DOT.”

Resident Linda Nappi said it was hard to believe that the state hasn’t provided appropriate signage, especially with the location’s history of accidents.

“There’s signage all over Westchester County that say things like ‘Be Prepared to Stop’ or ‘Slow Down.’ Flashing lights aren’t enough.”

Healy said a recent letter to the DOT requested more signage for the parkway.

“We also asked for things to be written on the road, signs on the side of the road and flashing lights,” she said. “The biggest message that came back was that this is not a pedestrian crossing area, that this is a roadway. The DOT perspective is the flow of traffic, which they want to be seamless and clear.”

Responding to The Examiner’s request for comment, DOT spokeswoman Heather Pillsworth stated via e-mail that “Safety is always the priority for the New York State Department of Transportation and we are engaging with our local partners to discuss concerns and areas for potential enhancements along the Saw Mill River Parkway at Grant Street. As the incident at this intersection is the subject of a police investigation, we cannot comment further at this time.”

At the June 24 Village Board meeting, residents were asked whether they were in favor of closing both the pedestrian and vehicle crossing at Grant Street. Many raised their hands.

A public forum, which would include Stewart-Cousins and Shimsky, was something board members indicated they would consider. Scherer said he wanted to hear from both representatives about possible options proposed by the DOT before scheduling a town hall-type meeting.

Tim Mattison, who lives in the neighborhood west of the parkway, posted videos last year of accidents at the intersection. Mattison’s footage shows cars running traffic lights some as much as seven to eight seconds after the signal turns red.

“We should close it, and if we do, it would be a guarantee of no more accidents and reduced speeding on Pleasant Avenue with nobody rushing to get anywhere,” Mattison said after the meeting.

Mattison said that for people in the neighborhood who walk to the train, it would take them an extra seven minutes. There is an overpass over the Saw Mill Parkway at Pleasantville Road just to the south of the Grant Street intersection.

“The impact is minimal,” he said. “We should do something. We should cut off Grant Street and see what the state does.”

Martin Wilbur contributed to this article.


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.