Stepping up: 1st Pct. to fill gaps in crossing-guard coverage

Busy intersections near Downtown schools will have someone to watch over them, vowed the commanding officer of the First Precinct, even if that means assigning traffic enforcement agents to the task until official crossing guards are hired.

Downtown Express photo by Yannic Rack This P.S. 89 crossing guard covers West and Warren Sts. in the morning, but she has to abandon the post every afternoon to watch Chambers St.

Downtown Express photo by Yannic Rack
This P.S. 89 crossing guard covers West and Warren Sts. in the morning, but she has to abandon the post every afternoon to watch Chambers St.

The Lower Manhattan precinct finally secured the funding to staff two additional intersections last month, but has faced yet another bottleneck filling the positions — hence the stop-gap.

“The main thing is that traffic enforcement agents will be out there helping children crossing the street until we hire crossing guards,” First Precinct Commanding Officer Capt. Mark Iocco told the Downtown Express.

Iocco said the traffic agents will be filling in at the Spruce Street School and the newly opened Peck Slip School from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Local leaders welcomed the interim fix.

“That is welcome, positive progress for the short-term solution,” Catherine McVay Hughes, chairwoman of Community Board 1.

Locals have long complained that the fast-growing area needed additional crossing guards, but Iocco said the precinct was only authorized to hire four of them. But at the First Precinct Community Council meeting last month, Iocco said the precinct had finally gotten approval to hire two more guards.

But now the hang up is finding the right candidates, he said. Crossing guards earn just $11.50 an hour and can only work a maximum of 25 hours a week — split between morning and afternoon shifts.

“It’s hard for people from Brooklyn, the Bronx, Upper Manhattan to travel in and spend the entire day down here with all that downtime in between,” Iocco said. “They’ve been having a hard time getting people to follow through the hiring process.”

Until the First Precinct can fill those part-time positions, the city will be paying the traffic enforcement agents overtime to cover the empty posts.

The Downtown community has also called for additional guards for P.S./I.S. 276 in Battery Park City, and P.S. 89/I.S. 289 in Tribeca.

Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic  Parents and children crossing the West Side Highway, a.k.a. West St. The crossing guard was blowing her whistle at the drivers.

Downtown Express photo by Dusica Sue Malesevic
Children and parents cross the busy West Side Highway as the crossing guard blows her whistle at the drivers.

Students have to cross busy West St. — also known as the West Side Highway — to reach P.S. 89/I.S. 289 on Warren St., and the school’s lone crossing guard, Zaida Martinez, told the Downtown Express in October that she has to divide her day between the two nearby intersections — guarding the crossing at West and Warren Sts. for morning drop-off, and then switching to West and Chambers Sts. for pickup in the afternoon.

The First Precinct’s other two crossing guards are stationed at MacDougal and West Houston Sts., and near P.S. 234 at Chambers and Greenwich Sts. in Tribeca.

Concerns about traffic safety near Downtown schools spiked in April following a terrifying hit-and-run incident during the morning drop-off near the Spruce Street School.

The driver jumped the curb onto the sidewalk to bypass traffic on Beekman St. — forcing parents walking their kids to school to push their children into the street to avoid being hit — before hitting and seriously injuring a local mother who was on her way to work, according to authorities.

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