DOT Finally Gives Much-Needed Parking Sign to School

Cars parked near the curb block school buses, leading to a traffic jam

When bus driver Ann Marie Torres drives up to North Side School to pick up kids in the afternoon, parking spaces near the curb are already taken, as usual. She has no other option but to stop in the middle of the street, blocking it completely. The kids emerge from the school building, led by a teacher who guides them carefully to the bus as they make their way through parked cars. As the kids get on, Torres checks their names against a list, but by then, a row of cars has already formed behind Torres. A couple of minutes later, someone starts honking. Ten minutes later, the sporadic honking turns into a commotion which goes on for about twenty minutes till all the buses have left.

North Side School in Woodhaven, Queens went through this sort of traffic nuisance twice every day for a year before the Department of Transportation (DOT) finally agreed to install a No Parking sign in front of the school to stop parked cars from blocking the buses.

The traffic jam also affected commuters, especially during the morning rush hour. During the summer, an ambulance had got stuck in the traffic as well, making the issue potentially dangerous.

Before opening in September last year, the school had requested the DOT for a No parking sign in June. However, the DOT refused to put the sign saying in a letter that “necessary activity was not evident to qualify” for such a sign.

After being turned down by the DOT, the school asked Edward Wendell, President of the Woodhaven Historical Society, who lived next door to put forth a request. However, in response to Wendell’s request, the DOT pointed out that the school could use a fire hydrant nearby to park the buses.

“This was not a viable option because the school has 8–10 buses and there’s only one hydrant”, said Wendell. Moreover, the hydrant is in front of Wendell’s house, not the school. Wendell said that it was bizarre that the DOT was refusing to put the parking sign when every other school in the neighborhood had them.

Even though the honking did not bother him that much, Wendell said he was concerned about how it was affecting the kids, many of whom have special needs.

Last month, after another round of requests including a letter by Assemblyman Michael Miller, the DOT flipped its decision and agreed to put up the sign.

On Sept. 22, the sign finally went up.

“I’m grateful to all involved who have worked so hard and tirelessly to get this done for the safety of our children”, said Michelle Pascucci, Executive Director of the school.

After repeatedly refusing to put up the sign, the DOT had relented after more than a year of back and forth

“Due to continued concerns, DOT continued to work with the community and re-inspected the location after reaching out directly to the school to discuss their school bus schedule”, a DOT spokesperson said in an email.