Leaders at Schools Near 65th Street Fear For Students Because of Reckless Driving

Educators: 65th Street drivers need to learn some class

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This is one educational fast track you don’t want your kids to be on!

Officials at schools near 65th Street in Dyker Heights say speed-demon motorists burning up the thoroughfare leave them trembling every morning and dismissal — even during fire drills.

“We’re scared,” said Assistant Principal Bill Nicoll of Christa McCauliffe Intermediate School on 65th Street between 10th and 11th avenues. “You’ve got trucks flying by, you’ve got people making U-turns, and you’ve got people running the light.”

Nicoll said cars have struck two Christa McCauliffe students in the past year and a half, though neither was a fatality. The aggressive driving doesn’t even let up on the rare occasions when students must exit through the front of the building during a fire drill.

“You’ll have people who can tell we’re having a fire drill, and they’re beeping the horn at us, yelling, ‘Hey, get out of the way’,” Nicoll said.

Jayne Marie Capatenakis, Principal of Vincent D. Grippo Elementary School at the corner of 64th Street and Ninth Avenue and a member of Community Board 10, says her students have to contend with wild drivers turning from 65th Street during practice evacuations.

“Fire drills are insane,” said Capatenakis. “Sometimes people swing around to give themselves a shortcut, and we’re having a fire drill.”

Despite the crossing guard at Ninth Avenue, Capatenakis shares Nicoll’s fears for students on their way to and from school. Although no Grippo students have been struck, Capatenakis said a former pupil lost a foot in a collision with a vehicle at 65th Street and Fort Hamilton Parkway several years ago.

Because it’s a middle school, McCauliffe is not eligible for crossing guards, but, Nicoll has asked the Department of Transportation to install “No U-turn” signs, speed bumps, flashing lights, and a four-way stop near his school to deter dangerous habits. So far, he has gotten no results.

“What we get is they’re ‘doing studies.’ A study does me no good,” Nicoll said. “I know we don’t want to disrupt the flow of traffic, but I think that’s a small price to pay for saving a kid’s life someday.”

Susan Thomas, mother of a Christa McCauliffe student, agreed.

“On a daily basis, you are on that corner and you hold your breath,” Thomas said. “This shouldn’t be such a difficult issue.”

CB10 district manager Josephine Beckmann said she has received numerous complaints from parents, teachers, and residents about speeding along 65th Street. The board has asked the city to consider introducing safety measures.

“That continues to be a very busy, very difficult street to cross,” said Beckmann.

A Department of Transportation spokesman said the agency was looking at the roadway between Ninth and 13th avenues, and weighing treatments like repainting the lanes and creating left turn bays to improve safety.

State Sen. Marty Golden (R–Dyker Heights) has been slammed in recent months for opposing a pilot program that would bring as many as 40 speed cameras to school zones around the city. These cameras snap photos of the license plates of scofflaws driving over the speed limit and automatically mail the tickets to the vehicle owners.

Golden has, instead, proposed putting the brakes on speed freaks by reducing the speed limit near the schools to 20 miles an hour, hiring more police officers, and installing new traffic lights, speed bumps, and stop signs.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him at twitter.com/WillBredderman.

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