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Mayor Won’t Ban Cars In Front Of Schools, Says Parents ‘Need’ To Drive

9:28 PM EST on January 28, 2020

Mayor de Blasio says he won’t ban cars in front of schools. Photo: NYC DOT

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Mayor de Blasio has no interest in banning cars in front of elementary schools — a basic safety initiative used abroad that would save the lives of children, several of whom have been mowed down and either killed or seriously injured by drivers on their way to and from the classroom.

Hizzoner chalked up his excuse to the parents who, he claims, need to rely on their private automobiles to take their kids to school, throwing his own yellow-hued public transport system under the, well, the school bus.

“We do not have on the agenda right now — there's a whole lot of parents in this town who need to drop their kids off or pick up their kids from school so I do not believe a car ban is the way to do things,” de Blasio told Streetsblog at an unrelated Tuesday press conference. “For a family ... it works for them better. There are certain situations where the school bus arrangements aren't as good as other situations.”

Instead of banning cars, de Blasio said the city must continue and amp up its other school safety measures — like speed cameras, which slap drivers with $50 tickets if they go 11 or more miles per hour over the speed limit.

"I love it when people don't have a car, don't need a car, don't use a car, but if they do and they believe the right thing for their family is to, drop off or pick up their kid, I’m sorry, that is not the place of the city to stand in the way of," said de Blasio, who again vowed to give up his own car once he's out of office on Dec. 31, 2021.

Banning cars in front of schools could have prevented at least one 12-year-old boy's injuries last March, when the driver of a Jeep hit and seriously injured the youngster as he left school. The boy was pinned underneath the large vehicle just feet from the school's doors near 79th Street and 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights.

And earlier this month, a 10-year-old boy was killed by the driver of a city garbage truck as he and his mom were walking to a school nearby at about 7 am on 57th Avenue, near 97th Street, in Corona.

Across the country, car crashes are the leading cause of death for school-age children, and in New York City, six children under the age of 11 were fatally struck by drivers last year.

But the president of the Community Education Council 17, which encompasses schools in Prospect Heights, East Flatbush, and Crown Heights, said there's still a long way to go before the city can forbid parents from dropping off their kids at school — the need to drive is a casualty of a poor public transportation system and yellow bus system, which lacks sufficient funding, and the mayor must confront why parents are choosing to drive over other options.

“The problems we have are a side effect of insufficient funding to make sure our kids are getting to and from school safely. The investment needs to be taken seriously by the Department of Education,” said Erika Kendall.

Kendall, who doesn’t own a car herself and takes both her kids to school via subway, says she’s constantly on edge because of speeding and distracted drivers around schools and everywhere.

“I’m always nervous, always uncomfortable. I don't trust every driver to be looking up, to pay attention — more so expect them to be coasting through a red light, looking at their phone,” she said.

And one crossing guard down in Dyker Heights previously vented about reckless and entitled motorists near schools, and how she fears for her life as she escorts kids across the street.

“They go through that red light, they go through those stop signs, they don’t care about anything. It’s very dangerous there,” said Sandy Irrera, who works at the intersection of 65th Street and 16th Avenue, next to IS 227.

Students’ eligibility for transportation to and from school is based on their grade level, their walking distance between home and school, and other factors, such as a medical condition. Specifically, school buses are provided for students in kindergarten or grades 1 and 2 who live more than half a mile from school; and students between grades 3 and 6 who live more than a mile away. Students who live less than half a mile of a school and students in grade 7 and above are not eligible for school bus pickups — the older students are eligible for student MetroCards.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education did not respond to questions about the percentage of students who take public transit, walk, or rely on a school bus.

The mayor’s comments come a few months after New York City School Chancellor Richard Carranza told Streetsblog that he has never talked to the mayor about the issue of keeping deadly cars away from kids.

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