Residents of the streets neighboring Jennie E. Hewitt Elementary School took to the lectern at a Board of Education meeting on Sept. 6 calling on the district to mitigate the parking and traffic burdens caused by an entrance to the school on Bradford Court.
The issue, residents said, stems from a gate at the end of the dead-end street nestled just north of Hewitt, which serves as a drop-off and pick-up location for Hewitt students, as well as an entrance for staff.
“Bradford Court is a nightmare,” said Burton Diamond, a resident of nearby Fountain Avenue. “It’s a parking lot. Nobody who lives there should deserve to look out their window all day and see cars lined up on each side [belonging to] your employees and teachers.”
Schools Superintendent Dr. William Johnson said that congestion around all the school buildings has been a problem for years, adding that the district has attempted to resolve the issue with the village. Though residents suggested building a parking lot in front of the school along DeMott Avenue so that school employees don’t resort to parking on side streets, Johnson told them that such plans have been rejected by past boards.
He added that the fields that would be uprooted for a potential project like that are regularly used by the soccer program, and that the community in the past has wanted to preserve green space. Other drop-off options have been rejected along both Hempstead and DeMott avenues, he said, due to concerns of safety and traffic backups on the main roads.
“Safety is our paramount concern at this point, and that’s for the children who attend that school,” Johnson told the Herald. “The issue is, where do they enter the property? And if children are going to be brought to school, it is safer for them to walk through Bradford Court than it is around the block onto Hempstead Avenue and up the driveway.”
A Bradford Court resident who identified himself as Michael said that about a dozen cars congest the street each day — several resorting to Fountain Avenue — and that the vehicles regularly speed down the road and stay for a while, creating a safety hazard for the many children who are being escorted to school.
“In the 12 years I’ve been here, it may sound silly, but we’ve gone through four or five trash cans from people running over them, backing into them,” he said. “My trash cans are the same height as every student that comes out of that building.”
He added that in his 12 years living there, the summer normally offers a reprieve from the traffic, but that a summer program at Hewitt prevented that this year.
Fountain Avenue resident Michael Palillo echoed the safety concerns and the overall inconvenience. “…We pay a lot in real estate taxes here,” Palillo said. “I don’t really want to live in a parking lot when I’m home.”
The residents also pointed out that gates leading to the school along nearby dead-end streets, such as Leon, Kirkwall and Whitby courts, have been closed in the past, and pleaded for the same for Bradford. Johnson noted that gates were closed off for other reasons, stemming from parties held next to the school on weekends, and maintained that for the roughly 70 students entering the school through that gate each day, which he determined from reviewing video footage, it is safer than coming from Hempstead Avenue.
Diamond said he has contacted the mayor and police commissioner and was disappointed that neither attended the school board meeting. Village spokewoman Julie Scully said the mayor is meeting with the district to strategize on how the village could help mitigate this problem, and Johnson stressed that it is certainly an issue worth revisiting.
“Please don’t ignore this,” Diamond insisted. “Don’t be bureaucratic. Come and see what’s going on there, and when you do, you’ll go, ‘Oh my God, this is incredible.’”