Woman drives car through New Paltz restaurant window

(Photo by Al Alexsa)

The owners of Gadaleto’s Seafood Market & Restaurant in New Paltz  are reacting with good cheer to the fact that a woman drove through a front window of their business on December 12. The driver was unharmed, her car apparently undamaged, and — since the business is closed on Tuesdays — the only casualty was a display of hot sauces that co-owner Stacie Becker said weren’t selling well anyway. Even Diver Dan, the deep-sea suit inside the door, was narrowly missed.

Security footage shows a white Kia blasting through the plate glass window on the market side of the business, shattering it and demolishing the low brick wall in which it was mounted. Front-of-house manager Angela Gonzales called it a “perfect Kia commercial,” since the vehicle was not damaged. Indeed, the image of the wreck posted to Facebook has appended to it the Kia logo and slogan, “the power to surprise.”

Diver Dan

“We lost all the product on the shelves,” Stacie Becker acknowledged, but they gained a tremendous number of Facebook followers. “It was the greatest publicity we could ask for,” she said, given that no one was harmed. She and co-owner Steven Kraus were alerted and on-site to see the mayhem just a couple of hours later, and a temporary wall was built thanks to the property owner in time for the business to reopen Wednesday.

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Incidents such as these are not common, but they happen frequently enough to raise questions. “No code violation exists that would allow for this type of accident to occur,” said Stacy Delarede, one of the town’s building inspectors. “There is a sidewalk along the building and car stops located on the parking spot side of the sidewalk. This accident was driver error, the car jumped the car stop and hit the building.”

First assistant fire chief Cory Wirthmann was also contacted for this story, but did not respond by press time.

Last year, a car was driven through the front of Rino’s Pizza, also in the Cherry Hill shopping plaza, and another into My Market on North Chestnut Street. Delarede said it’s also happened at McDonald’s, K&E Beverage and the post office. “There is no mechanism for me or the town to require the landowner change or improve the design,” she said, but if there’s occasion for planning board review of the site, members might choose to require additional safety measures be put in place.

Online comments speculated that it may be time to install a better barrier, and Delarede agreed that this is possible. “One way to help keep cars from hitting the building would be for the owner to install a barrier between the parking lot and the building,” she wrote in her e-mailed response to questions. “There is not much room at the Cherry Hill Plaza to move things around, but the first thing to come to mind is a heavy timber wooden guardrail. . . . Depending on the construction, I think that it would stop most vehicles from a parked position.”

However, she warned, it’s unlikely that there are legal remedies which could prevent these “drive-through” incidents in the future. “Zoning restrictions for no parking along a building can lessen the possibility of a vehicle striking the building, but it can never be an absolute that the building would never get hit,” she said. “Just keep in mind, an accident is just that, an accident. We never know where or when or how one will occur. And no matter how one can try to think of all scenarios to make things safer, you never can. Building and zoning codes are reactive.”

The reaction at Gadaleto’s itself remains positive. An online post made later in the week reads in part, “The elves worked all day stocking the shelves back up from totally bare. Feel free to come check out what’s left of the crime scene, or say hi to Diver Dan. He’s the guy in the Santa hat.”

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