By Julie Shapiro
LOWER MANHATTAN — Crossing guards arrived on West Street this week to help pedestrians navigate the highway's eight lanes of speeding traffic.
Called “pedestrian managers,” the specially trained guards from Sam Schwartz Engineering use whistles and their outspread arms to stop people from crossing against the light.
“It’s good to have them around,” said Nelli Voorheis, 30, a TriBeCa resident, who was pushing her two-month-old son in a stroller across West Street Friday morning. “There’s always too much going on.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver helped secure the crossing guards with a $1.2 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. The guards work on West Street at Warren, Murray and Albany Streets during the morning and evening rush hours.
“With heavy traffic on West Street, combined with the trucks that are constantly coming and going from nearby construction sites, adding this level of protection for pedestrians is essential,” Silver said in a statement.
Susan Huang, 65, a Battery Park City resident, agreed that the guards were helpful, after one of them stopped her from crossing West Street at Warren Street while the “Don’t Walk” sign was flashing Friday morning. The guard pointed to her white flip-flops and said they increase the danger of falling and getting hit by a car.
“He tried to save my life,” Huang said as she waited for the next light cycle.
The busiest intersection Friday morning was at Murray Street, where floods of commuters crossed to the new Goldman Sachs headquarters and the World Financial Center. Four guards prevented cars from turning into the crosswalk and forced drivers who stopped in the middle of the crosswalk to back up.
Most of the hurrying workers heeded the signals, but a few ducked past the pedestrian managers’ arms and dodged cars as they raced to the other side.
Darrell Rawls, 53, a Brooklyn resident who works at American Express, said he didn’t think the crossing guards were necessary, since people should know how to cross the street. The NYPD already posts traffic agents along West Street, so the new guards are redundant, he said.
Rob Phillips, COO of Sam Schwartz Engineering, said the pedestrian managers focus on people while the NYPD focuses on cars — a distinction that makes all the difference when the two conflict.
Phillips said the pedestrian managers may also expand their coverage to West Thames Street, once the new P.S./I.S. 276 opens in southern Battery Park City this fall.