It’s an accident waiting to happen.
A Fourth Avenue gas station near a Sunset Park elementary school is a “death trap,” according to local parents, who blasted the city for not doing enough about it.
Cars speed into the Speedway gas station between 30th and 31st streets, often illegally driving on the sidewalk to reach the pumps, and parents and kids en route to PS 172 one block away often have to dodge the careless drivers with their kids in tow, one mom said.
“Cars reversing and driving on the sidewalk, cars not paying attention — it’s pervasive,” said Arsenia Reilly, who lives on 31st Street just a few doors down from the station. “Unless someone’s cognizant of what’s happening and able to dodge cars, there could be a serious accident where a kid could get hurt or killed.”
Reilly said she has tried to raise the alarm with the authorities, but complains that nobody will take responsibility.
“The city is always punting to someone else,” she said.
The main problem, according to Reilly, is that there are no bollards, barriers, or pavement markings designating where the station’s lot ends and the sidewalk begins, making it all too easy for drivers to encroach on passing pedestrians.
The gas station has been a danger since it opened about a decade ago, according to PS 172’s principal, who added that he receives complaints from parents “continuously.”
“It has been really a risky sidewalk in particular for pedestrians when they arrive and depart from school,” said Jack Spatola, the 34-year principal of the school, which teaches 593 students from pre-K to fifth grade. “It’s extremely dangerous.”
City records show there was a collision at Fourth Avenue and 31st Street as recently as last month. But Reilly said she doesn’t blame the drivers — instead, she blames the city for not doing enough to protect its youngest inhabitants, even though she and other parents have raised the issue with Councilman Carlos Menchaca (D–Sunset Park), the Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, the local community board, and the Police Department over the past few weeks.
“I honestly don’t blame the drivers. There’s no marking showing that it’s a sidewalk,” she said. “I’m so offended by the way [the city] is punting it off. I just can’t believe that they could look at themselves in the mirror — they should be losing sleep over this. This is a moral issue.”
But officials insist the authorities are working to fix the problem. Menchaca said in a statement that he has visited the site and met with the Police Department, the Department of Transportation, school administrators, and the owner of the gas station to set up safety controls, which the transportation agency and Spatola confirmed.
Transportation-agency reps are also reaching out to concerned locals and the owners of the gas station to coordinate a site visit, a spokesman said, adding that it is also in touch with the office of Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who recently visited the school and offered to arrange a meeting with parents, according to Spatola.
The Police Department added additional sidewalk barriers on Jan. 22, according to a spokesman, and is also “continuing to work with school officials and management at the gas station to find a permanent solution.”
But temporary fixes are not enough when children’s lives are at risk, according to one parent, who said a car ran over one of the two plastic barriers that police installed the very same day officers put it there.
“I think that the city is on it, whether they will continue to be on it or just drop it, I don’t know,” said Isabel Draves, a mother of three who lives on 32nd Street. “I’ve worried so many times that somebody’s child will die.”
Spatola said that in addition to installing bollards that protect the sidewalk, the city should also add “school zone” signs in a two-block radius around the learning house, extend the crossing guard’s hours from 3:30 to 6:30 pm to accommodate students in the after-school programs, and add a second crossing guard on 31st Street. He also said that Speedway should fund some of the measures. And parents who spoke to the station’s management said its honchos are ready and willing to help.
But the manager of the station referred questions to Speedway’s corporate office, which did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
Spatola said that the real heroes of this near calamity are the parents who have pushed for action.
“The parents have really led this,” the principal said. “The parents — particularly active parents — motivate every one of us, including myself, to do a little more.”