Guarded optimism: Downtown schools getting nine new crossing guards, courtesy of NYPD

Photo by Yannic Rack Crossing guards can be hard to spot in Lower Manhattan, which has long suffered from a chronic shortage, but a new agreement with the NYPD promises that nine police officers and traffic enforcement agents will be permanently stationed at intersections around eight Downtown schools until new crossing guards are hired to fill the gap.

Photo by Yannic Rack
Crossing guards can be hard to spot in Lower Manhattan, which has long suffered from a chronic shortage, but a new agreement with the NYPD promises that nine police officers and traffic enforcement agents will be permanently stationed at intersections around eight Downtown schools until new crossing guards are hired to fill the gap.

BY YANNIC RACK

The NYPD is dispatching additional uniformed officers and traffic enforcement agents to eight elementary schools in Lower Manhattan, in an effort to close much-criticized gaps left by the chronic lack of crossing guards across the area.

Until the city finally hires enough school crossing guards to fill the vacancies, the substitutes will ensure children can cross safely at nine different Downtown intersections, according to Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who announced the agreement this week.

“It is imperative that families are confident that their children will be safe when traveling to and from school, and Community Board 1 and local parents made it very clear that this was a priority,” Glick said in a statement. “This is a huge victory for the entire Downtown community.”

Lower Manhattan parents have long complained that the area’s fast-growing neighborhoods need additional crossing guards, but Downtown’s First Precinct has had difficulty finding candidates interested in the job — which pays just $11.79 an hour for a maximum of 25 hours a week, split between morning and afternoon shifts.

Concerns about traffic safety near Downtown schools spiked following a notorious hit-and-run incident during the morning drop-off near the Spruce Street School last April, when a driver jumped the curb onto the sidewalk to bypass traffic on Beekman St., crashing into and seriously injuring a local mother on her way to work.

Pressured by local elected officials, the precinct’s commanding officer, Capt. Mark Iocco, announced last November that he had secured funding to station traffic enforcement agents at two intersections near the Spruce Street School and Peck Slip School. But others, such as PS 276 in Battery Park City and PS 89 in Tribeca, were still left without sufficient coverage, according to parents.

In December, Councilmember Margaret Chin told the Council’s Committee on Public Safety that parents had even reported that the agents were regularly missing from their post at the Peck Slip School, causing further concern.

According to Glick, the NYPD plans to deploy the additional personnel immediately, until new crossing guards are hired to cover the busy intersections.

Downtown parents and school advocates praised the announcement. “We’re very excited, and very thankful to all of our elected officials,” said Paul Hovitz, the co-chair of Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee.

He added that the result also bodes well for the efforts of the Lower Manhattan School Overcrowding Task Force, which has strongly advocated for more crossing guards as well as more schools.

“It’s amazing. We’re very happy about this,” said Sarah El-Batanouny, the co-president of the PTA at Spruce Street School, where her daughter attends sixth grade. “We could not ask for more. It just gives us a lot of comfort, as parents.”

El-Batanouny said that there have been no complaints about the traffic enforcement agents that were assigned to the school in November, but added that she appreciated having a guaranteed guard there in the future — which hadn’t been the case so far.

“We were never guaranteed that they would stay,” she said. “These are traffic agents that are working on overtime, and we were always told that they would be pulled if there was any kind of emergency.”

NYPD officers or traffic enforcement agents will now be assigned permanently to PS 234 at Chambers and Greenwich Sts., and at Chambers and West Sts.; Spruce Street School at Spruce and William Sts.; Peck Slip School at Peck Slip and Pearl St.; PS 89 at Warren and West Sts.; PS 276 at Battery Place and 1st Place; Tribeca Learning Center at Harrison and Greenwich Sts.; Leman Manhattan Prep at West and Morris Sts.; and Cooke Center School at MacDougal and W. Houston Sts. in Soho.

El-Batanouny said that she was hopeful the NYPD would properly integrate the temporary guards by permanently assigning one person per intersection, rather than rotating in whoever was free that day.

“We’re hoping this means we’re going to have one person assigned to us, who can get to know the kids and the parents,” she said. “And once all of the dust is settled, we’re hoping we can have somebody there during lunchtime as well.”

Hovitz even argued that the actual crossing guards should eventually stay all day, to also oversee the kids leaving afterschool programs and to help out during the school day — which he said might benefit the NYPD in its quest to find applicants for the job.

“It’s a fair question, and adds support to our case for making the crossing guard position a full-time employment,” Hovitz said. “It would definitely attract more people.”

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