Tag Archives: Big Six Towers

Woodside parents want bus service for their kids


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


Parents of P.S. 229 are seeing red, claiming the Department of Education (DOE) is attempting to save some green by endangering their children and denying them yellow bus service.

Residents of the Big Six Towers in Woodside are furious with the DOE for rejecting a hazard variance for their children who are forced to cross a dangerous intersection on their way to and from school each day.

Parents believe the threat warrants an exception to the DOE’s policy, which does not provide school bus service to children in grades three through six if they live within a mile of school.

“I’m outraged. They are pretty much saying that my daughter’s life is not worth $100,000, because that’s what I’ve been told is the magic number to have a bus go to and from a school all year,” said Michelle Kates, who drives her fourth grader to P.S. 229 each day. “To say that we don’t have a hazard is absurd. What the mayor is doing is criminal.”

Other parents have expressed indignation that their children are denied entrance to a “half-empty” bus which visits the Big Six daily to transport students between kindergarten and second grade.

“There are no resources being saved here. The bus is still here and it is virtually empty,” said Thomas Haggerty, whose son is a fourth grader at P.S. 229. “I think the DOE is playing games.”

Haggerty says the variance was in place for 45 years before being removed before the 2010 school year, and that the DOE never provided parents with a reason for the change.

Between January 2010 and September 2011, the DOE has approved only 16 percent of hazard variances citywide – with a mere five percent permitted for students attending public schools in Queens. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer says the DOE has also reported that the policy shift on variances is saving the city between $1 and $3 million.

Van Bramer rallied with parents and members of Community Education Council District 24 on March 8 to protest the DOE’s suggested “safe route” for the children of P.S. 229, which involves crossing the service road of the Brooklyn/Queens Expressway and other heavily-trafficked intersections.

According to DOE spokesperson Margie Feinberg, the intersection causing concern for P.S. 229 parents has both a traffic signal and a sidewalk along the underpass. Feinberg also said the DOE only reviews individual requests for variances since eliminating school-wide waivers two years ago.

Despite the DOE’s safety assurances, Van Bramer and a number of Big Six residents have reported multiple accidents at two separate intersections along the route within the past few weeks.

“Our children rely on the DOE to keep them safe and they are in charge of ensuring that safety,” said Van Bramer. “But the DOE is completely ignoring this obvious hazard which sits in between the children’s homes and their school. Each day the chances of a tragedy occurring at this intersection increase and I’m not going to stand by while the DOE continues to put our children’s lives in harm’s way.”

 

Pols, parents push for increased school bus service


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com


A member of an influential city panel is concerned about perilous pathways getting between kids and their education.

Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens representative for the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP), is rallying parents across the borough to support a proposal that will eliminate ambiguity from the process of determining which children with dangerous intersections on their way to school will be provided with yellow bus service.

“I’m introducing something citywide that would create a committee formed by both the Department of Education (DOE) and Community Education Council (CEC) that would review what qualifies for hazard variance and approve applications for hazard variance,” said Fedkowskyj. “This would make the review process more transparent.”

According to Fedkowskyj, many children had hazard variances allowing them bus service to and from school, but the DOE rescinded numerous cases over the last 18 months.

“These kids that had these variances that are traveling on these dangerous intersections had the opportunity to take yellow buses two years ago,” he said. “But over the last 18 months the DOE reviewed their situation and deemed them not qualified because they were too close. But they didn’t tell anyone how they came to this conclusion.”

The city provides yellow bus service or MetroCards for kindergartners to second graders who live more than half a mile from their school, according to the DOE’s web site. Children in grades three through six can receive bus service or MetroCards if they live more than a mile from school.

Roughly 3,700 students currently receive city busing to schools under variances – with roughly 500 in Queens – according to DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg.

“Parents may request individual variances for their children,” Feinberg said. “These requests are reviewed by our Office of Pupil Transportation. The Queens Borough President’s Panel representative proposed a resolution making certain recommendations about the variance process. Several Panel members expressed a desire to learn more about the process, and DOE will be discussing it with them.”

Fedkowskyj’s proposal, called the Safety Hazard Advisory Review Program (SHARP), would create a committee in each of the city’s 32 school districts. To be approved, the policy will have to receive votes from seven of the 13 members of PEP, who are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and each borough president. The voting will occur at a public hearing on February 9 at Brooklyn Tech High School.

Fedkowskyj says all seven CECs in Queens have expressed support for the proposal – including CEC District 24, which passed a resolution.

Nick Comaianni, president of CEC24, believes children who attend P.S. 229 and live in the Big Six Towers in Woodside should receive yellow bus service due to the traffic conditions at the intersection of Laurel Hill Boulevard and 61st Street – a nine-lane street near the off ramp for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“I think the condition is definitely hazardous,” said Comaianni, who claims Big Six had the most variances rejected from one particular location in the city. “When you look at that, you always have to ask yourself whether a 9 year old has enough sense to make that walk alone, and the answer is no.”

Parents from the Big Six, which is located roughly eight-tenths of a mile from P.S. 229, have expressed outrage that their children are expected to put their lives in danger to get school – particularly when nearly empty school buses visit the building complex each day.

“Our unique situation is that the bus we are discussing still comes to Big Six in the morning and afternoon for kindergarten through grade two, and the bus is about a third full,” said Thomas Haggerty, who pays for private busing for his son, a fourth grader at P.S. 229. “So we are talking about a virtually empty bus, and the older kids at P.S. 229 were put out in the cold and told their intersection was deemed safe.”

Other parents have witnessed the danger and destruction at the intersection firsthand.

“I was in a terrible accident in the exact spot where they want my kids to cross,” said Doris Stroman, who son is a first grader at P.S. 229. “The fear is beyond words. [The DOE] is justifying this by saying parents have to teach their kids how to cross safely. I’m an adult, but I couldn’t prevent getting into an accident when an 18-wheeler blew a red light. If the driver couldn’t see me, how can they see a kid? They are waiting for a tragedy to happen. I don’t know if they are waiting for someone to die.”