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BY COLIN MIXSON
The Halloween terror attack that stole eight lives in Lower Manhattan has renewed calls to provide schools near the West Side Highway with much needed crossing guards, and local civic honchos are demanding the Mayor’s Office sit down with community members to hash out a solution before it’s too late, according to the chairwoman of Community Board 1’s Youth and Education Committee.
“We haven’t heard back from the Mayor’s Office and to say its frustrating undermines the seriousness of the issue,” said Tricia Joyce. “We need to hear back immediately before any more lives are lost.”
As it is, a single crossing guard stationed at Warren Street and the West Side Highway has been saddled with the herculean task of protecting more than 4,000 kids attending PS 89, IS 289, and Stuyvesant High School — all located within a block of the heinous terror attack — and that math doesn’t add up to a safe commute for the kids, according to Community Board 1’s second in command.
“Even if that one crossing guard was Wonder Woman, or Wonder Man, they couldn’t possibly provide the kind of coverage that’s needed,” said CB1 vice chairman Paul Hovitz.
At least three crossing guards are needed to cover the schools, including a guard at Chambers Street and the West Side Highway, and at Chambers Street and North End Avenue, where motorists have a habit of running the stop sign there, according to Joyce.
And while City Council and de Blasio have proven willing to provide the funding needed to staff the vacant intersections, the challenge of finding people willing to work the meager 20 hours per week and widely split morning-evening hours demanded by the job has left Downtown schools perennially strapped for crossing guards, according to Councilwoman Margaret Chin’s chief of staff.
“We’ve joined with other people in the Council to address the funding issue, but really what we have is a recruiting and retention problem,” said Paul Leonard.
To make the job more attractive, Chin and community members are proposing rolling crossing guard duties in with school safety officers, meaning the police who guard the schools would head outside to protect kids on the street in the mornings and afternoon, and head inside during school hours to keep kids safe throughout the day, according to Leonard.
“One of the ideas we have to take a look at, especially in light of what happened on Halloween, is bringing crossing guards under school safety and making it a full time position,” Leonard said.
As CB1 waits to hear back from the Mayor’s Office about the sit down, the chairwoman of board’s Battery Park City Committee, Tammy Meltzer, is asking for the Battery Park City Authority to lend area schools a hand by assigning its contract security guards to crossing guard duties, as a stop gap until the city finds a more permanent position. Some of the AlliedBarton personnel the authority posts near the schools have offered such help on an informal basis, but Meltzer would like to make it official policy.
“Everybody needs to put pressure on the city to fix the crossing guards, but BPCA has a special opportunity to facilitate an additional solution, and the question is, will they?” said Meltzer.
At a public meeting hosted by the authority on Nov. 14, Benjamin Jones, acting president at the BPCA, agreed to further discuss allocating additional guards to the schools.