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Frenchtown Residents Decry Blocked Access to Their Town

June 9, 2005 — A No Right Turn sign at the intersection of Altona-Demarara and Veterans Drive opposite the Davis Funeral Home is creating havoc with Frenchtown residents and business owners. The businesses owners claim the redirected traffic is ruining their businesses. The residents simply want to get home easily.
The sign prevents traffic heading east from making the convenient turn into one of Frenchtown's two entrances. It forces traffic to either turn in at the already busy Arturo Wattlington Sr. (Frenchtown) Post Office intersection and circle back around Frenchtown to reach Altona, or to pull left into the lot by Quality Foods and Percy's Bus Stop, and then await the green light to turn right, back onto Veterans Drive and then turn left at the Altona entrance into the one-way street. Demarara public housing units residents driving east must pass their turn and observe either of the above options to get home.
Both Frenchtown organizations — the Frenchtown Civic Organization (FTCO) and the Committee for the Betterment of Carenage (CBC) — have responded to the situation.
Charles Magras, owner of Mr. Creole in the former La Belle Creole building, says his business is suffering. "If I close the store, I would have saved more money than opening it," he said Thursday. "People come here to get things they have run out of. For instance, if somebody wants a zipper, they aren't going to circle back and go to all that trouble for one item."
And that is just one business. The re-directed traffic affects all the other businesses on Altona — Callwood Water Delivery, Frenchtown Drug Center, La Petite Fenetre bar, the Frenchtown Heritage Museum and Winnies' Household Furnishings.
Henry Richardson, president of the FTCO, is incensed. "I went out to see it 10 minutes after it was put up, but I was too late. I called the DPW [Department of Public Works] right away, and spoke to the commissioner's secretary. He still hasn't called back. Then I called James O 'Bryan, [St. Thomas-Water Island administrator]. He said he would look into it, but I haven't heard back from him, either. That was last Friday."
He continued, "You would think DPW or the police would consult the Frenchtown residents to see what impact it would have on us before doing something like this. The sign makes no sense. When there is something we don't like in Frenchtown, we act on it."
The civic organization operates the Frenchtown museum across the street from the La Petite Fenetre bar. "We have new brochures for the museum with maps showing how to get here, and now we will have to revise them," Richardson said. "And people who normally stop in the bar after work, coming from the east, aren't doing it any more. Nobody wants to go down and turn around and come back."
Richardson said he has had 30 to 40 calls from upset residents. He said, "The road is the main artery for the church, St. Anne's Chapel, as well," he said. "That's important. People are accustomed to turning at the corner and coming down for church."
"When you drive from the post office past McDonald's, it's almost impossible to get through. Their drive-thru traffic takes up one lane, and then after you turn by the ballpark, the cars and trucks are double-parked all the way to the ballpark parking lot, which is almost always full. "
Clifford Callwood, Callwood Water Delivery owner, says, "Now, I have to drive my trucks to the lot by Percy's, turn around and come back. It's expensive; it uses tires, gas and time. Time is money in my business."

Jean Greaux, CBC president, wrote O 'Bryan Wednesday. He referred to conversations already held with O'Bryan and he said the letter was "to document" conversations held earlier in the week with O 'Bryan and Deputy Police Chief Elvin Fahie Sr. "regarding what appears to be a hastily-made decision governing traffic flow into Frenchtown."
Greaux further said, "I find it odd that Public Works would reach such a decision and install signage bearing the acronym VIPD suggesting the change was initiated by the Police Department. As you and I are both aware, Public Works has no authorization to implement such changes without the blessings of the VIPD, the agency which acts as custodian of public road in the territory."
Fahie told the Source on Wednesday that he was aware of the situation, that he had to contact someone in Public Works, and that he would call back with further information. Fahie didn't return calls Thursday.
George Phillips, acting DPW commissioner, did not return calls Wednesday or Thursday. His office said he was at Government House Thursday afternoon, which O'Bryan confirmed. O'Bryan said the situation was being discussed by the VIPD and Public Works, but offered no further comment.

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