Today’s news:

Woodside residents irate over DOE plan

Residents of Big Six Towers in Woodside and elected officials are hoping to appeal a decision by the city Department of Education that would force third- through sixth-grade children going to PS 229 to walk over a dangerous intersection on their way to school instead of taking the bus.

“We feel it’s arbitrary, capricious and almost downright negligent,” said Thomas Haggerty, a Big Six board of directors member and parent of a third-grader.

Big Six Towers is at 60-10 Queens Blvd. in Woodside, four-fifths of a mile away from PS 229 at 67-25 51st Road. Mike Armstrong, spokesman for the office of state Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth), said that while most students living less than a mile from their school do not receive bus service, the students of PS 229 at Big Six always got a variance because the shortest route to the school passes the intersection at Laurel Hill Boulevard and 61st Street, which includes an underpass beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“It’s a very confusing site,” Armstrong said. “The traffic markings are not clear. The lights are not even long enough for adults.”

While bus service will remain in place for children in kindergarten through second-grade, the bus service will not be available to third- to sixth-grade students.

Marge Feinberg, spokeswoman for the DOE, said the bus service was not extended to older children after a review of the policy.

“The city will be providing crossing guards for the intersection at 61st Street and Laurel Hill Boulevard, along with other additional safety measures, to help ensure that these students have a safe commute to and from school,” Feinberg said in a statement. “The city Department of Transportation made improvements to the area by upgrading the crosswalks at 61st and Laurel Hill.”

Haggerty said the residents have filed for an appeal of this decision twice, saying that the intersection remains unsafe. They also took area officials, including Armstrong and City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), on a walkthrough of the route.

“I don’t like driving through there, much less walking,” Haggerty said.

He said he has started driving his son to school and pointed out that other parents have encouraged their children to take the bus despite their grade level.

“It’s not a budget thing,” Haggerty said. “The bus is there. They’re not saving money. If anything they’re exposing themselves to enormous liability.”

The DOE did not say if budgeting was a factor in the decision.

Van Bramer and U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) condemned the decision in a rally Sept. 7.

“Leaving children to navigate dangerous roads to and from school is simply unacceptable,” Crowley said in a release.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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