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David Banks

Friday’s Headlines: What is School Safety Edition

Schools Chancellor David Banks. In a car.

Apparently, safety depends on how you choose to define it.

At a Zoom meeting with his "parent advisory council" on Thursday, Schools Chancellor David Banks listed many aspects of school safety that he oversees — lockdown drills, security cameras, armed guards — but never brought up the issue that should be most pressing when it comes to school safety: getting kids to school without getting hit by car drivers.

Crashes involving students not only happen far more often than school shootings in New York City; there's been only one school shooting — a Jan. 15, 2002 incident at Martin Luther King High School that injured two students — while, of course, thousands of kids have been injured in crashes near their schools, and 25 have been killed in the last decade.

As Streetsblog reported last month, drivers crash nearly 50 times and injure a dozen people near city public schools during the average day when schools are open. And during the 8 a.m. hour, when hundreds of thousands of children stream into 1,600 city-run public schools, the rate of crashes are 57 percent higher on streets near schools than on the city’s other streets. Given our investigation, reporter Jesse Coburn eagerly tuned in to see if Chancellor Banks would address the public health crisis happening at his front door. But Banks punted.

“I can’t always control what happens in the neighborhoods or in the streets,” he said (full meeting video here).

And therein lies the problem. Banks's answer is a classic silo — the very type of narrow bureaucratic view that keeps problems from being solved. Instead of working with the Department of Transportation to keep cars away from students, Banks instead is saying, “I'm the schools chancellor. If your kids can get to our classrooms, we promise to educate them.” It's the opposite of what Vision Zero is supposed to be about: a cross-agency effort to break down the silos and focus on how each agency can build a culture of safety.

At the very least, Banks could send home a "Chancellor's Letter" urging parents not to drive their kids to and from school. He could discourage teachers from driving (or assign teachers jobs near where they live to they will drive less). He could build a curriculum that teaches kids the truth about the deleterious effect cars have on our city. He could work with other agencies to keep kids safe.

He could at least participate in a Zoom call about school safety from any other place than ... a car.

OK, off the soapbox. Time for yesterday's news:

    • First, from the assignment desk: There'll be a Noodle Ride in Ridgewood tonight! Details here:
    • The Daily News continues to be all in on congestion pricing, publishing two pieces yesterday: an editorial and an op-ed by Brad Lander and Jumaane Williams.
    • Not sure why, but none of the local papers covered the fact that New York rocker John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants was badly injured in a car crash on Wednesday night in the city. We covered it here. Why? Because everyone's your friend in New York City.
    • The Times once again showcased how much better it covers California than New York with this piece about why it's so difficult to break the car culture when we know we have to.
    • Our Open Plans colleague Jackson Chabot joined Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and Vanderbilt Avenue Open Street Organizer Saskia Haegens on a recent Exasperated Infrastructures podcast.
    • The mask mandate on transit will remain in place for a while longer. (NY Post)
    • The Post obviously has an interest in blaming President Biden for slowing down congestion pricing, but our own Dave Colon blamed Pete Buttigieg.
    • In case you missed it, you shouldn't have: We loved Nick Pinto's piece on how Eric Adams needs to stop complaining about Eric Adams. (Hell Gate)
    • In our headlines yesterday, Eve Kessler noted a Riverdale Press story about a person complaining about someone parking bikes on the street. That was just the shot. Here's the chaser: One of the people complaining about the bikes is a Department of Transportation official named Jessie Adair who (wait for it!) used to do the very same thing, except with cars, not bikes! (NY Times via eagle-eyed Ben Jay)

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