Community Board 1 (CB1) is demanding that the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio ramp up traffic safety efforts at Lower Manhattan schools by hiring more crossing guards.
In a resolution passed at its March 26 meeting, the Board called upon the Mayor, “to fulfill his obligation to hire full-time crossing guards and a crossing guard supervisor as part of his Vision Zero plan, and that he assign seven of these full-time guards to the schools in Community District 1.” The same measure demanded that, “the City assign more resources in the form of higher salary, full benefits and more resources for the proper vetting and training of school crossing guards.”
One component of the Mayor’s signature “Vision Zero” initiative, announced in 2017, which aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths in New York City, was a promise to “hire 100 full-time school crossing guard supervisors and 200 additional part-time school crossing guards, “to ensure 100 percent coverage at all school crossing posts City-wide and create a mobile replacement squad to prevent empty posts from absence.” In this context, it is worth noting that being struck by a vehicle is the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14 in New York, as well as the second leading cause for seniors.
When CB1 recently conducted an informal tally of crossing guards assigned to Lower Manhattan public schools, the study found that, “three of our seven posts are vacant, most remarkably those at the West Side Highway, where three are needed alone,” while also noting that, “Other posts have seen absences sometimes upwards of a week with no replacement or substitute.”
The campaign to bring school crossing guards to Lower Manhattan schools has been sluggish, in part, because there is no actual legal requirement for the City to provide such safety personnel. This surprises many schools advocates, especially in view of a recent history of dangerous (sometimes fatal) vehicular accidents near Downtown schools.
In 2012, Michael Rogalle, a United Parcel Service worker, was fatally injured in when a sports utility vehicle jumped the curb on Beekman Street (near the Spruce Street School) and pinned him against the wall of an office building. (He died of internal injuries five days later.) And in April of 2016, a female pedestrian was struck by a car at the intersection of Beekman and Nassau Streets, while parents and children on their way to the Spruce Street School watched in horror. On Battery Place, a crossing guard assigned to P.S./I.S. 276 was clipped by a car (also in 2016) as she was ferrying children across the busy intersection in front of the school. That crossing guard was out for five months on medical leave, and the school couldn’t afford to hire a replacement, due to budgetary constraints.
Sources in the City government claim that not many people want the job. Low wages ($15.00 per hour to start, with a raise of 25 cents per hour after three years) and the lack of benefits combine with irregular hours (two hours and 30 minutes in the morning, followed by another, similar shift in the afternoon — a schedule that makes it difficult to work other jobs) to make the post unappealing to many candidates.
CB1’s resolution is the most recent in a succession of similar enactments in recent years, most of which achieved some temporary relief, before the situation lapsed back into its earlier status quo. Whether City Hall will now embrace a more permanent solution to what CB1 describes as, “a systemic problem,” remains unclear.
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