Volume 19 • Issue 18 | September 15 - 21, 2006

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Students and parents cross West St. to P.S./I.S. 89. The State Dept. of Transportation predicts the intersection will become more dangerous under its plan but that it will also reduce the total number of accidents at West St.

Parents balk at dangerous traffic change

By Lori Haught

Parents, community officials and the State Department of Transportation agree on one thing: Proposed changes to Warren and West St. will make the intersection more dangerous.

Planned changes include allowing southbound cars on West St. to make a left turn onto Warren St., thereby decreasing the amount of time pedestrians have to cross, and reducing the size of the highway’s median. The State Department of Transportation proposed the changes to ease congestion on Route 9A.

This rebuilding of West St., or Route 9A, could cause potential danger for the children of P.S./I.S. 89 according to Bob Townley, director of the Manhattan Youth program.

The school, located in Battery Park City, is on Warren, directly across from West St., and many of the children heading to I.S. 89 cross the street on a daily basis.

According to the Environmental Impact Statement released in May of 2005, there will be a 71 percent increase in the accident rate, bumping the number of accidents to eight a year, at that intersection if the proposed changes are made.

“It’s not good,” Townley said. “It’s written in their own report.”

Richard Schmalz, project director for 9A said that the E.I.S. was not an exact prediction.

“We are going to try to undo the prediction,” Schmalz said. He said they were going to ensure adequate lighting and signs were placed at the intersection. Overall, the accident rate for 9A will decrease with the proposed plan, Schmalz said.

Work is slated to begin on the section, running from Chambers St. to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, in March or April of 2007. The projected completion date for the $200 million project is the end of June of 2009.

Michael Nadel, a member of the I.S. 89 Parent Teachers Association and chairperson of the Health and Safety committee, is concerned for children, like his daughter, who walk from Tribeca to the school.

“The middle school is a choice school for all of Manhattan,” he said. “Many kids cross at Warren.”

Nadel said that not only would the amount of time to cross decrease, but there would be a significant decrease in the size of the median should the children have to wait there. He said it was a question between congestion versus safety.

“This is not a desirable situation and it creates some serious danger,” Nadel said. “In order to decrease traffic congestion on West St. they are going to make it less safe for 300 kids to cross each day.”

Many other parents feel the same way. Mary Howard, mother of two children attending school at P.S./I.S. 89, said sometimes the light is too quick for her to get across with the kids as it is.

“It would be nice if they suspend left turns until after 3:30 p.m. when the kids are out of school,” she said before crossing West St. with her two children.

That corner also has no permanent crossing guard, which is already a concern for parents.

“It’s a highway,” Alessandra Bettolo, a mother of two elementary school students, said. “It’s dangerous now and it will be more dangerous then.”

Community Board 1 passed a unanimous resolution supporting the P.T.A. position and wrote a letter to the state opposing the change.

Assemblymember Deborah Glick also wrote a letter to state D.O.T.

“I am concerned that the amount of time afforded to pedestrians to cross both West and Warren Street will be decreased, which will be problematic for seniors and small children who regularly make use of this intersection,” Glick wrote.

While there has been no official response from the State D.O.T., the letter addressing the concerns of the P.T.A. was less then promising.

Schmalz wrote that after reviewing the design with their engineers, creating the left turn lanes are needed to relieve congestion at Chambers and Murray St. intersections. Murray St., two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, will be particularly busy over the next few years as site construction increases, Schmalz wrote. He said that consideration was given to the number of schools in the area and that pedestrians will be able to wait at the median area if they don’t have enough time to cross the street.

Schmalz said the State D.O.T. will be accepting bids on this section of the project starting Nov. 30.


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