By Bill Parry
More than 80 first graders from PS 343 in Sunnyside joined City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) in calling on the city DOT to install a traffic signal at a dangerous intersection near their school as part of their civics curriculum. The intersection in question is surrounded by apartment buildings and the largest park in the neighborhood, the Thomas P. Noonan Playground. According to the NYPD’s annual Motor Vehicle Collision Report, the intersection at 42nd Street and 47th Avenue statistics show that between January 2014 and August 2015 there have been six collisions involving 12 people.
“Every day that we don’t have a traffic light at this intersection we are asking families to cross in danger,” Van Bramer said. “The Department of Transportation has the responsibility of protecting our children and all local residents who cross this street every day. The agency cannot simply wait for a tragedy to occur before making the necessary improvements we need to make the street safer.”
For more than three years, Van Bramer’s office fought on behalf of constituents, families and schoolchildren to get traffic safety measures installed at the intersection. DOT refused, saying “it was our judgment that additional controls at this intersection were not recommended.”
The students from PS 343 are worried about their safety.
“You can get killed at that corner, it’s very dangerous,” first grader Virginia Wallace said. “We saw someone who had to run across the street because a car was crossing. Don’t you want to keep us safe?”
DOT is researching the area surrounding PS 343 for additional safety enhancements, according to a spokesman. “DOT prides itself on working with the community to ensure the safety of every New Yorker and participated in an event earlier this month to highlight safety as part of International Walk to School Day.”
He added, “The school is located in a designated Neighborhood Slow Zone and we expect pavement markings on nearby Greenpoint Avenue to be refurbished in the next few weeks.”
Van Bramer’s office worked with the students to organize the rally as part of PS 343’s Civics Unit in which 90 first graders are studying to be good citizens at their school and in the community. All four classes surveyed the neighborhood and identified areas in the community that concerned them,
In an effort to become more civically engaged, students discussed ways to get involved, devised ideas and proposed solutions before writing letters to the DOT calling for traffic safety measures at the intersection.
“I’m very proud of our first grade students and their letter-writing campaign,” PS 343 Principal Brooke Barr said. “They are using what they have learned in class about good citizenship to make a real difference in their community.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr