Standing at the southwest corner of Church Avenue and Peninsula Boulevard can be a perilous proposition, as vehicles speed by in multiple directions, headed straight ahead or turning. Signals regulating the fast flow of traffic don’t seem to make the intersection any less dangerous.
Since the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach reopened the shuttered Number Six School, at 523 Church Ave. in Woodmere, 19 months ago, at least 30 students in the morning and roughly the same number in the afternoon have had to cross Peninsula Boulevard without the help of a Nassau County crossing guard. More students walking to Davis Renov Stahler Yeshiva High School for Boys, less than 200 yards from the Hebrew Academy, also cross the streets.
A Nassau County police officer is stationed at the intersection of Peninsula and Branch Avenue, a block south of HALB, and the school, which has an enrollment of roughly 800 students from first to eighth grade, posts a crossing guard at the intersection of Church and Ibsen Street, right by the school building.
The majority of HALB students who walk to school, however, cross at the Church Avenue-Peninsula Boulevard intersection, and school officials have repeatedly asked the NCPD’s 4th Precinct, which oversees crossing guards in the Five Towns, to assign a guard to that intersection, to no avail.
There have been at least six vehicular accidents there since March 2017, when the school began using the Church Avenue building, according to an unofficial count by residents in the immediate area. The NCPD had not confirmed the number as of press time.
HALB Executive Director Richard Hagler said that he had called the 4th Precinct in Hewlett, and that police officials had promised to send someone to survey the area on Sept. 12 and 17, but no one showed up. “Nothing is going on — nobody gives you an answer,” Hagler said. “We need the crossing guard on Church.”
Detective Lt. Richard Lebrun, commanding officer of the NCPD’s Public Information Office, said that the 4th Precinct conducted a traffic survey on three separate days last month. “We want to make sure all our traffic studies are accurate,” Lebrun said, “and the 4th Precinct deemed that the right place for a crossing guard was Branch Boulevard.”
Part of that traffic study, however, was conducted during the Jewish holiday of Sukkos, when HALB was closed. “They were supposed go out [Oct. 8 to 12], but it was raining,” Lebrun said, explaining that conducting such a survey in wet weather can create what is called a “false indicator,” because more students are probably being driven to school. He added that another study was expected to be conducted, but he did not say when.
Complicating the challenge is the apparent shortage of crossing guards. County Legislator Howard Kopel (R-Lawrence), who represents this portion of the Five Towns, said he had spoken with county Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder some time ago, and was told, “They can’t get the people.” Kopel added that in the proposed county budget, money for crossing guards may be reduced. “It’s a bit of a mess,” he said.
Lebrun confirmed a lack of funding for crossing guards. “We would love to be able to do it, [but] unfortunately we can’t have 5,000 crossing guards,” he said. “Yes, the precincts are always trying to fill the positions the best they can.”
HALB officials have contacted State Sen. Todd Kaminsky’s office, asking for help with the school’s quest to have a crossing guard stationed at Church Avenue. “It’s critical that an additional crossing guard be stationed at HALB’s Woodmere campus,” Kaminsky said, “and I will continue to work with HALB and the NCPD in furtherance of that goal.”