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Bronx Middle Schoolers Get City to Improve Safety at Mt. Eden Intersection

MOUNT EDEN — A group of Bronx middle school students is declaring victory Tuesday in their ongoing campaign to improve traffic conditions at a busy intersection in Mount Eden.

The Bronx Helpers, a youth program run by the nonprofit New Settlement Apartments, have spent the last three years lobbying the city to add traffic signs at the corner of East 172nd Street and Townsend Avenue, a spot they say is dangerous for pedestrians trying to cross there.

Last month, the Department of Transportation conceded to “daylight” the intersection—adding No Standing signs to one corner to keep cars from parking there, a move to increase visibility.

“Now the kids can see the cars, and the cars can see the kids,” said Lindsey Ganson, of the pedestrian advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, which teamed up with the Bronx Helpers and the nonprofit Citizens Committee for New York City to work on the project.

The group—most of them six, seventh and eighth graders—will celebrate the change with a party Tuesday evening.

“The feeling of victory has really been palpable,” said Dan Asselin, a youth facilitator for New Settlement, which is on Townsend Avenue just a few doors down from the intersection. “It feels a lot safer already—you can see what’s happening in the street.”

The Bronx Helpers started their campaign in 2009, after students crossing the street on their way to the afterschool program identified the corner as a hazard. The intersection sits at the bottom of a hill, and cars zooming down E. 172nd Street over Townsend Avenue paid little heed to pedestrians, and some of the students even witnessed someone getting hit, according to Asselin.

“There have been a lot of close calls,” he said.

Neighbors agreed that the corner needed something to slow traffic.

“The cars, they just ignore you,” said Tammy Gayle, who has lived on the block for 32 years.

But others were miffed at the change, saying the new no standing zone is taking away already-scare parking spaces.

“That’s four parking spots we can’t use,” said Townsend Avenue resident Orlando Ventura. "It’s not right."

He said he received a $135 parking ticket after the signs went up suddenly in the middle of April, and that he’s seen neighbor’s cars towed. While he agrees the intersection is a hazard, he says the city should find a better solution, one that wouldn’t punish local drivers.

“Put in a traffic light,” Ventura said. “The kids are happy, but we’re not.”

Supporters of the new signs cite the number of children and schools in the area. Foot traffic is due to increase even in the next year or so, as New Settlement plans to open a new K-12 public school, community center and swimming pool facility at nearby Jerome Avenue and East 172ndStreet.

The Bronx Helpers are hoping to bring more traffic calming measures to the neighborhood. In February, the group applied for the DOT’s Neighborhood Slow Zone program, which lowers speed limits and adds other traffic safety improvements in a designated area, based on proposals submitted from the community.

The students’ proposal asked the city to create a Slow Zone between Mount Eden Avenue and 170th Street, bordered by Walton and Jerome Avenues to the east and west. Selected proposals are expected to be announced in the few weeks, Asselin said.