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Demand grows for safer streets around PS 11 in Woodside: Van Bramer

Courtesy Van Bramer’s office
By Bill Parry

When work was completed on a 350-seat, $92 million annex at PS 11 in Woodside in time for the new school year, it didn’t take long to notice the new main entrance of the school put students and faculty at risk. Traffic safety is now a main concern for parents at the school as the 1,000 children at the school empty out at 54th Street and Skillman Avenue where motorists come off Roosevelt Avenue driving fast.

The PS 11 Parent Teachers Association recently sent the city’s Department of Transportation a petition with more than 1,000 signatures requesting the installation of an additional crosswalk, a traffic light at the intersection and additional traffic-calming measures, such as speed bumps, at the location. The DOT rejected the request.

“They have not said to me a good and acceptable answer as to why they won’t do this, why this doesn’t work for them,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) told anxious parents and students, PS 11 PTA President Mindy Bichler-Greene and PS 11 Principal Elizabeth Pena-Jorge on Tuesday at rally in front of the school.

“It is absolutely clear to me that the streets at PS 11 are a clear danger to the hundreds of children that walk to school every single day,” Van Bramer said. “These streets, especially crossing Skillman Avenue, are a crash waiting to happen. We cannot wait for a child to be injured or lose their life before we act.”

The DOT said it has been engaged with the community.

“Following several meetings with PS 11, the PTA, the community board and Council Member Van Bramer’s office, DOT is reviewing the location for a signal or all-way stop sign,” a department spokesman said.

Compounding the problem is concern over the DOT’s plan to install a protected bike lane directly in front of the school as part of a larger proposal to redesign Skillman and 43rd Avenues after cyclist Gelacio Reyes, a married father of three, was struck and killed at the intersection of 39th Street and 43rd Avenue last spring. Van Bramer demanded the protected bike lanes soon afterward, but DOT’s initial proposal met with stiff resistance from area business owners who feared that the loss of 158 parking spaces would devastate the neighborhood’s economy.

A public meeting last month was canceled as the DOT worked at revising the plan. It has not yet been rescheduled.

“DOT is working with the council member’s office and the community board to select a new date for a community meeting on this project,” the DOT spokesman said.

Van Bramer was a proponent of Vision Zero before Mayor Bill de Blasio took office and made it a top priority.

“We have made great strides on Vision Zero as a city — reducing crashes and fatalities across the city — but until no child dies tragically on our streets, we can and we must do better,” Van Bramer said. “I stand firmly with the parents, students, and teachers at PS 11 in demanding that the Department of Transportation act now and save lives in the process.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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