Just in time for the new school year, the NYS DOT installed speed limit signs on State Route 61 (Hyde Park Blvd.), lowering the speed in front of Hyde Park Elementary School to 25 mph.
The roadway has a 35 mph speed limit elsewhere, except in front of Gaskill Prep Middle School, and now Hyde Park Elementary.
The placement of the sign was the culmination of two years and eight months of inveigling the DOT by parents, residents, Council Chairman Andrew Touma and the Reporter in a series of stories published in this paper and brought to the attention of various DOT officials.
The argument for lowering the speed limit was made in the form of an urgent appeal made in part because the entrance of the Hyde Park School is unusually close to the fairly busy road.
With a setback of only 30 feet, when the small area between the school front doors and the road is teeming with children at the opening and closing of school and during recess, it sometimes seemed that at any moment a slip or a frolic would see children bubble over into the road as cars sped past, certainly sometimes exceeding the 35 mph limit.
The Reporter bolstered the argument of parents of children who attended the school when we first brought the issue to the attention of the public in December, 2013.
We published a curious fact which was that the speed limits in front of every other elementary school in the city – and we went to them all – were already reduced to either 20 or 25 mph. Only Hyde Park Elementary, closest to the road, had a 35 mph speed limit in front of the school.
The Reporter asked, why should children attending Hyde Park Elementary not be afforded the same safety considerations that all other children of our community enjoy?
The DOT, instead of lowering the speed limit in front of Hyde Park Elementary, actually got out and placed a sign lowering the speed limit in front of Gaskill Prep, a middle school, a few blocks away, also on Hyde Park Blvd.
While it pleased parents of children at Gaskill Middle School, and the Reporter was pleased also to get such fast action, we asked, if the DOT could lower Gaskill, why not do it for Hyde Park Elementary too?
After all, we reasoned, middle schoolers are older than elementary school students and presumably better able to watch for traffic. Besides Gaskill is set back farther from the road.
But two more school years came and went, and children went off to their summer vacations and came back, and thankfully no tragedies occurred.
Along the way, happily, Council Chairman Touma became interested in the issue and he contacted the DOT and echoed parents’ requests: Would you please put up a sign?
In August of 2014, we ran another story with the headline, “Reporter, Councilman Touma Team Up to Make Hyde Park Blvd. Safer for Children” and Touma contacted the DOT again.
But nothing happened for another year, despite Touma making more contact with the DOT, and in return getting assurances that this matter would soon be handled.
As more months passed, and the school year nearly ended, and still no speed limit sign in sight, we wrote about it again in our April 21, 2016 issue.
And again Touma wrote to the DOT.
Shortly afterwards, the DOT informed Touma that “the work will be done soon.”
The work of course, for the record, was to place a sign on a pole in front of a school with the words “Speed Limit 25 mph.”
This week the task was accomplished, after two years, eight months and 11 days.
Thanks to the DOT, to Touma, and to the parents of the children who first brought this to our attention, at Hyde Park Elementary, the children gambol and run and play a little more safely.
And it’s all because of a sign.