Tag Archives: I.S. 126.

Op-ed: Make traffic safety a priority

| oped@queenscourier.com


The 21st Street corridor between Queens Plaza and 20th Avenue has always been notorious for pedestrian fatalities.  It serves as a conduit between the Queensboro and Robert F. Kennedy Bridges, resulting in cars, trucks, and other heavy vehicles using the street to move quickly between these two points.

21st Street is also home to major senior and youth developments, such as I.S. 126, Long Island City High School, Bishop Iakovos Senior Housing, Vallone Family Senior Residence, Variety Boys & Girls Club, Queensview and North Queensview.  The increase in youth and senior populations, combined with increased commercial and cycling traffic, brings a need for improvement of traffic flow and an awareness of pedestrian safety.

According to data analyzed from the New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the New York Police Department, traffic on this stretch of 21st Street caused seven deaths and left 102 people with injuries from 2002 to 2011.

And these statistics have not improved since then. That data also showed that Queens had the highest incidents of fatalities due to traffic accidents in the city in 2013.

It’s easy to see why these deaths and injuries are occurring.

Some intersections along 21st Street have no crosswalks or countdown clocks at all. Many pedestrian crosswalks are bumpy, obscured with gravel or cracked asphalt, or otherwise impossible to cross if you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller.  Some crosswalks are impossible to cross because the lights are non-existent or don’t allow for enough time to make it to the other side of the street.

This is an issue that plagues our entire city.  According to a Daily News analysis of NYPD reports, pedestrian deaths from vehicles, especially the number of children, are increasing and we are on pace to outnumber 2013 deaths in 2014.  So far, there have been 11 pedestrian deaths in 2014 across the city.

We clearly need a solution.

Earlier this month, we held a press conference on 21st Street, calling on the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) for action. State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, local advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Community Board 1,  parents from local schools, neighborhood community groups and senior centers, and other local activists joined. They agreed that real change is required to make 21st Street safer for everyone.

I therefore ask that the DOT conduct a traffic study of the 21st Street corridor, with the goal of creating a more safe and accessible street for all.

We need calming measures, such as countdown clocks and traffic lights for pedestrians, as well as well-maintained flattened crosswalks with no physical impediments for pedestrians with disabilities or children in strollers.

Our growth in population and small businesses is a boon to our local economy, but we need to make sure our infrastructure keeps up with increases in traffic. There is no excuse for us not to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities by vehicles to zero.

Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair the City Council’s Sub-Committee on Libraries and sits on seven standing committees: Civil Service & Labor, Contracts, Cultural Affairs, Environmental Protection, Oversight & Investigations, Sanitation, and Transportation.



Parents want gifted middle school for Astoria

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

The parents of some of Queens’ sharpest young students are hoping the Department of Education (DOE) gives their children a “gift” — an advanced middle school program in western Queens.

Parents of P.S. 85 are distributing a petition in hopes of convincing the DOE to create a gifted and talented intermediate school in District 30 — similar to the Science, Technology, Enrichment and Math (S.T.E.M.) program currently housed within the elementary school, located at 23-70 31st Street in Astoria.

The S.T.E.M. program, which opened in 2009, is available to children across the city from kindergarten to fifth grade, unlike many of the other gifted and talented programs, which are kindergarten through eighth grade. Students hoping to be accepted into a citywide gifted and talented program must score in at least the 97th percentile, with the 90th percentile being the minimum for programs within their district.
Rebecca Bratspies, an Astoria resident whose five-year-old daughter is in the S.T.E.M. program, is fearful that the advanced education her child is receiving at P.S. 85 will cease after elementary school.

“This is a fabulous program,” Bratspies said. “I think it is essential for the children’s education and development. These students have special learning styles and educational needs, and they deserve to have these needs met. There is a history of gifted children acting out in class because they are bored and the education isn’t meeting their needs. Unfortunately, middle school is often forgotten. Lots of time and energy are put into elementary and high school, but middle school has fallen through the cracks, and it is one of the most important times for children developmentally.”

While Bratspies understands P.S. 85 is not large enough to support a middle school, she is hopeful the DOE can find another location to continue the program.

According to DOE spokesperson Frank Thomas, students in School District 30 can apply to any of the gifted and talented programs across the city, and they also have access to eight selective and screened middle schools in the immediate area.

“Students in gifted and talented elementary schools are served in a variety of ways by individual schools and districts all over the city, including selective and screened middle schools. That said, we always take feedback into account and want to ensure that every student has access to a great program,” Thomas said.

Although the district already has a gifted and talented middle school inside I.S. 122 in Long Island City, parents of P.S. 85 say there are not enough seats available for their children.

“There isn’t space for the kids from P.S. 85, and the program at I.S. 122 is only for kids from District 30 — but we have kids from all over,” Bratspies said. “So while it may be a solution for kids from District 30, the rest of the kids are out of luck.”

Tim Smith, a resident of Riverdale in the Bronx, is among the parents concerned about the limited accelerated educational options available to his child, a third grader in the S.T.E.M. program whose address makes him ineligible for admittance to I.S. 122.

“I’m extremely fearful that my son won’t be able to continue in a similar program,” said Smith. “The transition to middle school is tough as it is, so if the educational transition is tough as well, then a child could have an even harder time meeting his or her academic potential.”

Isaac Carmignani, the co-president of Community District Education Council 30 (CDEC 30), has been communicating with the DOE since January in hopes of creating a new citywide gifted and talented program in western Queens.
“Everybody is in agreement that we need a gifted and talented middle school for P.S. 85,” Carmignani said. “We have gifted and talented schools in District 30, but they are filled to capacity. There are options available, but there could be more.”

Carmignani says he has held discussions with the DOE about creating a gifted middle school program in I.S. 126 in Long Island City, and he is optimistic that a program will be established.

“We have hopes that we may get the program in I.S. 126 or somewhere else,” he said. “Putting a gifted and talented program in a school where we have room is far less controversial than some of the other ways the space could be used.”