Vol. 12, No. 22 Nov. 18 - Dec. 1, 1999


Summit Reveals Latest Parent Worry:   Getting to School Safely


xpadro.jpg (14390 bytes)Rosa Hernandez stood in front of parents, students, principals and Bronx officials in the packed auditorium of PS 279 last week and told of the death of her 7-year-old son and mother. The two were killed five months ago by a hit-and-run driver as they walked home from PS 88, where Dioniso Hernandez was a student.

For Hernandez, the Nov. 9 Traffic Safety Summit for school districts 9 and 10, hosted by Councilman Adolfo Carrion, was an opportunity to ensure that her son did not die in vain.

"They did everything right," Hernandez explained. "They waited for the red light and they waited for the sign to say walk."

But Hernandez and other concerned parents reiterated that doing everything right may not be enough when a person is crossing the Grand Concourse, the accident-plagued boulevard where Dioniso and his grandmother were killed. "You can never make it across the Grand Concourse without the light changing to green unless you run," Hernandez said.

The level of concern at the meeting indicated that the theme of Carrion's meeting had struck a nerve. At least 20 parents waited on line to address the traffic safety panel assembled by the rookie lawmaker. One of the parents demanded to know who controls the timing of the lights on the Grand Concourse, but no immediate answer was provided, even though police officials and the Department of Transportation's Bronx commissioner, James Kilkenny, were in attendance. "I can cross because I walk fast, but the children and elderly can't," she said.

But the Grand Concourse was not the only point of contention. Poor traffic safety is a problem surrounding many schools in districts 9 and 10, parents said, due to high traffic, a shortage of crossing guards and a lack of safety precautions. (According to Richard Gans, chairman of the Bronx chapter of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for pedestrians and bicyclists, the Bronx has the highest rate of pedestrian death in all of New York State.) PS 33 representatives complained that they have not been able to get a crossing guard for years, even though the school is located at the crossroads of Jerome Avenue and Fordham Road, two major thoroughfares.

District 10 Superintendent Irma Zardoya told the crowd, "We were able to get a speed hump for PS/MS 15, but it's not enough. We need crossing guards." She also urged principals to educate their students on crossing streets safely and carefully.

Lisamary Padro, a 7-year-old student at PS 33, couldn't agree more. She lost a young friend, who was hit by a car, and she urged kids to "stay safe, slow down and look around you and be careful."

Carrion listened to the panel and to parent comments and asked meeting attendees to write down their traffic concerns at tables located at the auditorium doors. Armed with information gathered at the meeting and elsewhere, Carrion said he will put together a Traffic Safety Plan. Suggestions at the meeting included better enforcement of traffic violations, more crossing guards, school zone speed limits and additional stop signs.

In their comments, parents demonstrated that getting their kids safely to and from school was as much on their minds as reading and math scores. One parent pleaded with the panel, "It shouldn't take a tragedy for our city to do something about traffic safety."

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