A Dangerous Walk for Spruce Street Kids

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:00

Parents worried about nearby traffic Parents of kids who attend the Spruce Street School in the Financial District say that since September, they've had to contend with narrow, congested streets, box trucks backing onto sidewalks, major construction, and a 20-foot-tall inflatable rat while walking their kids to school. All that, plus kids who have picked up on the slightly salty union chants themselves.

The rat is a prop for various labor unions that are picketing the construction of dorms at Pace University, which are being built with non-union labor. Parents told Our Town Downtown that they've had to navigate a gauntlet of dangerous conditions and that it's only a matter of time before someone gets hurt. Recently, they've ratcheted up their efforts by attending a Community Board 1 meeting to draw attention to their cause.

What's more, they said, the noise from picketers and construction is affecting their kids' ability to learn. "Every day it's a different union," said parent Allesandra Medigo, who has a kindergartner at the school. "I'm not saying what they're doing is bad. They're effective and they're doing their thing, they're just doing it in the wrong place."

Every morning Medigo leaves her Fulton Street apartment and heads down Ann Street to the school. On a recent morning, long lines of cars, cabs and trucks jockeyed for position while strollers and children weaved toward Spruce Street with their parents. The intersection of Ann Street and William Street is one of two dangerous intersections Medigo must cross on her way to school, she said.

"When you navigate that corner, even if you're walking and have the right-of-way to cross, these poor people that have been sitting here for 40 minutes are so eager to make that left because they're almost at the Brooklyn Bridge or almost crossing to the West Side," said Medigo, who sympathizes with frustrated motorists. "Even if you're a mom you're ready to dart across that traffic, it's a stressful corner."

Parents called for a crossing guard earlier this school year but were told that there weren't enough hours to justify assigning one to the area.

Ashley Duncan, president of the Spruce Street School PTA, said parents are now exploring the possibility of volunteering as crossing guards themselves on a rotating basis.

"It's not a matter of if something happens, but when," said Duncan, who pointed to a just-completed parking garage right next to the school that's set to open soon. Duncan also said parents were told that construction at Pace University is expected to continue through 2015.

As for the union protestors, a handful were active last Friday morning, but no chanting could be heard. Lenny Anselmo is with the Laborers Local 79 and said the unions who picket this location have heard the parents' complaints and stopped chanting their slogans.

But, he saud, they're not going anywhere. "They asked us to stop and we stopped. But you've also got to understand that we have kids, too," said Anselmo. "This is not just about unions, this is about social justice and workers' rights."