WILLIAMSBURG — Parents and administrators at the Williamsburg Montessori School are calling on the Department of Transportation to add a crossing guard, a speed bump and school zone signs to Kent Avenue in front of their school.
While they've been asking for street safety improvements since last spring, their call became even more urgent after worker Moshe Yide Weiner, 21, died after being dragged under a passing truck across the street from the school in December.
"People are barreling down that street without any awareness of the fact that there are children trying to get to school and trying to do it safely," said Danielle Pagano McGunagle, in her thirties, parent of a 2-year-old who attends the school at 450 Kent Ave. "They're texting or they're speeding. Even 20 miles an hour is fast when you're coming through a place that's so congested with children like that."
Children and parents cross the street, through a faded crosswalk, while dodging construction vehicles from the apartment complex being built across the street, cars pulling over to drop off children and cyclists from a two-way bike lane who often zip through the red light.
A half a block south in the same building from the apartment complex Schafer Landing, flocks of school kids cross the two-way bike lane to board Yeshiva school buses pulled to the side of the road.
"It's kind of a mess," said Rebekkah Robbins, 34, leaving the Montessori school Tuesday morning after dropping off her 14-month-old daughter. While a construction worker helped shield pedestrians while large loads made deliveries into the construction site at 42 S. 10th St. But when construction vehicles aren't clogging up the intersection, it can be even worse, she said.
"When the construction is not here the cars do tend to zip down this road to try to make the green lights," Robbins said.
After Weiner's death across the street at the construction site at 42 S. 10th St., the school's principal Patricia Luciani encouraged parents at the school, which has around 100 students, to send letters to the DOT asking for improvements, she said.
The department replied to some parents saying they would finish a study of improvements, "16 weeks after the completion of construction," though it wasn't immediately clear if they were talking about 42 S. 10th St.
Luciani dismissed the department's response as "typical bureaucratic gobbledygook," pointing out that the highly-trafficked truck route, which links dozens of open construction sites along the waterfront, will be a work in progress for years.
"Theres construction everywhere...It will not end for probably three years," she said, pointing to several large apartment complexes on Kent Avenue in progress within a five block radius of the school. "Should children's safety be held hostage to a construction timetable?"
Last May, the school first tried to pressure the DOT for safety improvements sending in a petition signed by many parents, though their request was denied, Luciani said.
At a community board meeting last week, three parents and the principal asking the then to pressure the DOT into looking at the block.
"I just don't think that trucks should be valued over our children," McGunagle said.
The DOT did not immediately respond to a request for comment.