A new crossing guard assigned to a busy school in Rego Park should help boost the city’s ongoing attempts to curb traffic fatalities to zero over the next 10 years, state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said this week.
For more than a year, Peralta has been advocating to have either a crossing guard reinstated outside PS 206 in Rego Park or to have speed cameras or other safety measures installed. His pleas were finally answered this week after the 112th Precinct assigned a crossing guard to the school. The guard is expected to begin patrolling at the end of May or beginning of June.
“This is a very dangerous intersection for children and there’s simply no substitute for the direct, hands-on traffic control and help that a crossing guard provides to kids,” Peralta said in a statement. “Thankfully, a crossing guard [will be] reinstated there.”
The guard’s hours are scheduled to be set for 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on school days, Peralta said.
The state senator penned a letter to the NYPD nearly two months ago, asking for a crossing guard to be assigned to PS 206 in Rego Park as the city implemented efforts to improve street safety. And with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative taking shape, Peralta argued the students in his district should be held at a higher priority as changes were desperately needed.
The intersection has been reported as a particularly problematic area because of large trucks and cars going far above the speed limit as they enter the expressway. A crossing guard had been stationed there until three years ago but was removed due to city budget cuts.
“There is no question that there are a number of dangerous intersections in the area, with the Long Island Expressway, Queens Boulevard, Junction Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway all intersecting or running parallel to each other in close proximity,” Peralta said in the letter.
“Perhaps the most threatening of these, however, is the one at Junction Boulevard and Horace Harding Expressway, which hundreds of children and parents navigate on their way to and from PS 206 and Lefrak City, located just off the northeast corner of the intersection.”
He first brought the issue to the city’s attention in 2012 when he and PS 206 Principal Joan Thomas requested the reinstatement of a crossing guard there, but were instead told it was not feasible by the 110th and 112th precincts. Some of the most important points of concern, advocates said, concerned the age of the students crossing, the width of the street and number of lanes they must cross, unsafe gaps in traffic and the speed of vehicles passing through.
“The children and the parents are in great danger each time they navigate this intersection because the drivers do not drive with care or follow traffic regulations,” Thomas wrote in a letter last February regarding the intersection. “In addition, we have had some instances in which some of our walkers have been harassed on their way to school in the morning and there is no adult present who can assist them.”
The intersection is particularly problematic, area residents have said, because it is often traversed by large trucks and cars going far above the speed limit as they enter the expressway. A crossing guard had been stationed there until three years ago but was removed due to city budget cuts.
Pat Martin, president of Friends of LeFrak Library and a civic activist who has long been fighting for a crossing guard, told The Forum in a previous interview that she felt it was only a matter of time before a student would get seriously injured – unless the city addressed the situation.
NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan testified before the City Council in early February, arguing the city’s crossing guard ranks were understaffed by nearly 200 members. Peralta penned another letter to Chan to push PS 206 as a top priority when it came to filling future vacancies. And though it took several months, the lawmaker said he was glad to see progress finally achieved.
By Phil Corso