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Principal, Parents Urge City to Slow Traffic on Sixth Avenue

 A taxi turning off of Sixth Avenue onto West 11th Street hit a caregiver with a baby in a stroller last June, fracturing her back and throwing the baby from the stroller.
A taxi turning off of Sixth Avenue onto West 11th Street hit a caregiver with a baby in a stroller last June, fracturing her back and throwing the baby from the stroller.
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DNAinfo/Danielle Tcholakian

WEST VILLAGE — Kelly Shannon remembers the exact moment she realized something needed to be done about reckless drivers around P.S. 41

On a rainy day last June, a caregiver pushing a 2-year-old in a stroller was hit by a taxi right in front of the West 11th Street school, leaving the woman with a fractured back and the toddler with a concussion.

In the wake of that crash and a series of recent accidents and close calls, Shannon and a group of P.S. 41 parents, Village residents and local businesses are pushing the city to slow traffic near the school. They have collected more than 330 signatures on a petition to create a Slow Zone on Sixth Avenue and surrounding Village streets, reducing the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.

"We want to make sure all of the children in our neighborhood are safe walking to and from school," Shannon said. "We're responsible for each and every one of them, and if we can do anything in our power to see that they get safely to and from school, we want to do that."

The Department of Transportation has already approved a plan to create a Slow Zone in 2015 in a section of the West Village bounded by Christopher StreetSeventh Avenue SouthGreenwich Street and Houston Street.

Shannon and the other local advocates want the city to expand that Slow Zone one block east to Sixth Avenue, from 11th Street down to Houston Street, bringing P.S. 41 into its boundaries.

Extending the Slow Zone to Sixth Avenue would protect several other schools and centers for kids and seniors, including Jefferson Market Library, the Village Pre-School Center and Greenwich House Nursery and Senior Center, they said.

According to NYPD data for March 2014, at least four pedestrians were injured in collisions that month along the stretch of Sixth Avenue parents want to protect.

"Sixth Avenue is somewhat challenging to navigate," Shannon said. "We see lots of speeders and, particularly turning on 11th street, the drivers are not always obeying traffic laws."

In August 2012, a longtime Village resident, Jessica Dworkin, was killed when she was hit by a truck at Houston Street and Sixth Avenue while riding her scooter. The truck driver was issued two summonses for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care, and Community Board 2 and local politicians pushed for changes at the intersection.

A Department of Transportation spokeswoman said the agency was considering the advocates' request for the Sixth Avenue Slow Zone, which is expected to be backed by Community Board 2 this month.

"Safety is DOT’s top priority," the spokeswoman said in a statement. "We look forward to...working with [Community Board 2] and the community to discuss their ideas that could help enhance safety on streets in this neighborhood and throughout the city."

The spokeswoman did not provide a timeline for when DOT would make a decision on expanding the Slow Zone.

Heather Campbell, a P.S. 41 parent of a kindergartner and a second-grader, is helping Shannon in her fight for the Slow Zone. She also witnessed the caregiver and toddler get hit by the taxi outside the school last year.

"That totally opened my eyes in terms of how crazy it is on the streets around our school," Campbell said. "Every day your heart is racing as you're trying to make it safely across, gripping your kids' hands."

In addition to the Slow Zone, Shannon and P.S. 41 parents said they want to see the DOT redesign Sixth Avenue and several side streets into "complete streets," which have protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands meant to shorten the amount of time it takes people to safely cross the street. Complete streets are one element of Mayor Bill de Blasio's Vision Zero initiative to reduce pedestrian traffic deaths.

Pedestrian islands would be particularly helpful at the star-shaped intersections on Sixth Avenue, in which several streets come together at angles, creating long crossings, advocates said.

Community Board 2 will vote on the Sixth Avenue pedestrian safety proposal at a meeting May 22.