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Parents Demand Changes After Crash Kills Man by Spruce Street School

Jemuel Ripley and his daughter, who is in kindergarten at the Spruce Street School. Ripley wants the city to install speed bumps near the school.
Jemuel Ripley and his daughter, who is in kindergarten at the Spruce Street School. Ripley wants the city to install speed bumps near the school.
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DNAinfo/Julie Shapiro

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — Parents at the Spruce Street School are demanding pedestrian safety improvements in the wake of a crash that killed a UPS worker across the street last month.

Parents want the city to install speed bumps, school zone signs and pavement markings on Spruce and Beekman streets near the school entrance, warning drivers to slow down and look for children crossing. A petition has gathered more than 100 signatures.

"You have no idea as a motorist that you're driving through a school zone," said Jemuel Ripley, whose daughter is in kindergarten at Spruce. "It is unacceptable that the Department of Transportation hasn't done this."

Parents have been asking for school zone signs on Beekman and Spruce streets for months, but the push intensified after Michael Rogalle, 58, a UPS worker who frequently delivered packages to the school, was struck and killed by an SUV April 17 while standing on the sidewalk on Beekman Street.

It's not clear what caused the SUV to jump the curb and hit Rogalle, but parents said they were horrified by the accident, which occurred in the late afternoon as some children made their way home from school.

Authorities are still investigating and have not charged the driver.

Many parents, though, said they often see cars speeding up Beekman Street and rolling right through the stop sign at William Street, where many children cross to get to Spruce, an elementary school that opened last fall in the base of Frank Gehry's new apartment tower.

"The traffic here is horrendous," said Lutgarda Hernandez, a Financial District resident whose son is in first grade at Spruce. "The cars don't even stop."

After pressure from elected officials including Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the city installed two new traffic lights after Spruce opened, at Beekman and Gold streets and at Spruce and Gold streets, according to a letter from the DOT.

The city also put school crossing signs on Nassau Street at Beekman and Spruce streets and plans to add school-crossing signs on Gold Street, a DOT spokesman said Wednesday.

But parents pointed out that the new traffic lights are a block east of the school and the crossing signs are a block to the west, which they say is too far away to make a difference. What the school really needs are prominent signs and speed bumps on Beekman and Spruce streets at William Street, where Spruce's entrance is, parents said.

Julie Yuan, a Hell's Kitchen resident whose 6-year-old daughter attends a special program for children with autism that shares space with the Spruce Street School, said she is particularly concerned about the young autistic students bolting into traffic.

"It's really dangerous," Yuan said. "A lot of the drivers are not paying attention to what's going on."

Community Board 1 will discuss the Beekman Street safety concerns at a meeting May 17 at 7 p.m., 49-51 Chambers St., room 709.