Kids have enough to worry about these days — statewide tests, wearing the “right” clothes and fitting in. They shouldn’t have to be concerned about their safety going to and from school, but that’s the case in Fresh Meadows where speeding motorists endanger them.
The school is Holy Family, with an enrollment of 260 students. It is located at 74-15 175 St., a block away from 75th Avenue, where the hot rodding occurs.
According to Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), motorists trying to avoid traffic on Union Turnpike use a residential stretch of 75th Avenue to get around it. “It’s winding and not meant to be a major thoroughfare,” Gennaro said.
He said that pedestrians are in peril. “Children walking to school and elderly people walking to the store shouldn’t have to dodge speeding cars,” the councilman added.
Since 2011, Gennaro has asked the city Department of Transportation three times to put in four-way stop signs at the corner of 75th Avenue and 172nd Street, three blocks from the school. But DOT officials say its own studies show the area does not warrant them, based on federal traffic control guidelines.
Last year, there were 14 accidents on the 10-block stretch of road, according to Transportation Alternatives.
Now, Gennaro is hoping the DOT will install speed bumps along 75th Avenue between 164th Street and Utopia Parkway. The city agency’s six-month study for traffic calming measures is expected to be completed in October.
But for Holy Family School Principal Mary Scheer, who said she’s seen a tremendous increase in traffic along 75th Avenue, it’s hard to wait.
“Parents are concerned and they do complain,” the principal said. “Drivers actually honk at the crossing guard and go around her. She could get hit.”
Scheer has been at Holy Family for 13 years and said before she came a child was struck on 75th. That’s when the city finally gave the school a crossing guard.
Holy Family has a parking lot where parents can drop off students rather than illegally double park on the street, but problems exist there too. A school bus picks up youngsters at the entrance and drives them elsewhere.
Scheer doesn’t know who operates the bus or where it goes, but would like the stop moved. Gennaro’s office said it would look into the matter.
Meanwhile, other officials are also putting pressure on the DOT to take action against the speeding cars. Rory Lancman, who recently won the Democratic primary to replace Gennaro, who is term-limited out of office, lives one block away.
He walks through the area on the way to his synagogue every week, and calls 75th Avenue “a speedway” that is “way too dangerous for a residential neighborhood.”
Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), who also lives in the area, said she has seen several drivers lose control and jump the curb over the years. “I have seen this time and time again,” Rozic said.
Aside from children, Rozic said there are many commuters who take the Q46 and Q30 buses on Union Turnpike and walk along that route.
The assemblywoman said there is a lot the DOT can do to make the area safer such as making it a slow zone, widening or narrowing the street and adding more daylighting so motorists can see better at intersections.
“I think we can all work together to have a say,” she added. “I am hopeful DOT will make changes and I’m committed to work with my colleagues on this issue.”