For years, the corner of 83rd Street and 153rd Avenue in Lindenwood has frayed the residents’ nerves.
There is no crosswalk across 153rd Avenue at the intersection. Nevertheless, people cross there all the time, among them, schoolchildren going to and from PS 232.
“The crossing guard is not allowed to cross anyone there because there is no crosswalk,” Assistant Principal Kevin Collins said, adding that the school’s main entrance is on 83rd Street. That means most children and parents cross at 153rd Avenue and 83rd Street. Cars often speed along 153rd Avenue to catch the light at 84th Street — the only traffic light in the seven-block stretch of avenue.
For decades, the school community and officials have been trying to get a crosswalk and stop sign or traffic light at the site. But so far the city Department of Transportation hasn’t moved on any permanent improvements there.
So seventh-grade students at the school went directly to the DOT to get some safety improvements done themselves — sort of.
Taking part in a program that allows students to create their own traffic safety signs, the students participated in a 14-session traffic- and pedestrian-safety lesson taught by a DOT traffic safety instructor, followed by hands-on sign design workshops led by a Groundswell artist and field trips to DOT’s sign shop in Maspeth.
State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) informed PS 232 Principal Lisa Josephson about the program that has been in existence since 2009.
Last Friday, two signs designed by class 702 were unveiled outside the school during a dedication attended by Addabbo and DOT officials, including Queens Commissioner Dalia Hall. The signs were placed only feet from the corner where the community wants a crosswalk.
The new signs feature a crosswalk, “walk” signal and an illustration of PS 232’s main entrance. A student enters the crosswalk as a car approaches and checkered flags — a symbol of racing — by the school doors show that the sidewalk is the finish line. The words “Alert and ready wins the race!” emphasize safety for the students.
As the signs are not official, they do not face the street, but rather toward the school where students are reminded to be careful when crossing the street there.
Jamee Lopez, a student in class 702, said she was happy to take part in the signs’ creation and hopes they will expedite the construction of a crosswalk and stop sign or light at the corner.
“It is an honor that we, class 702, took this first step toward modifying this corner and making it a safer place,” she said.
DOT officials say the goal of the program is to teach students about pedestrian safety and these signs are permanent.
“You have a legacy,” DOT representative Theresa Barry told the students. “This sign will be here forever. If it needs replacement, DOT will replace it. You can come back 10 years from now and it will be there. You have made an impression on your community.”
At the end of the event, Addabbo and Josepson showed Hall the intersection and pressured her to put a crosswalk and stop sign there. Addabbo took part in a rally last June calling for a crosswalk at the intersection.
Last fall, a temporary sign was placed at the intersection warning drivers to slow down, but that has since been removed.
Josephson said she wants something permanent there, preferably a traffic light.
“We really hope the city does something there before it’s too late,” she said. “Just a few weeks ago, we had a lady with a carriage crossing who nearly got hit. She even tripped and almost fell.”
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park), who has also been pressuring the city to place a crosswalk with a stop sign or traffic light at the site, said the DOT’s work with the students was progress and showed that they were paying attention to the problem.
“School officials, parents and community leaders have been fighting for safer streets outside of PS 232 for years and we are finally seeing results,” he said in a statement. “I applaud the Department of Transportation for stepping up to protect our children. Placing more signage is a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. I will continue to work with the DOT, Principal Josephson, and the parents of P.S. 232 until a more permanent solution is made.”