The intersection of Manheim Boulevard and Main Street has presented safety concerns for the parents of middle school children in New Paltz. With a busy intersection near the New Paltz Middle School, the village is currently in the process of finding a crossing guard to safely navigate children in crossing.
The concerns manifested this summer when a middle school parent, Liz Pickett, brought the issue to the superintendent of the middle school and the chief of police, raising the idea of having a crossing guard.
“My son just started sixth grade and because we live so close to school [Millrock Road], he wants to walk,” said Pickett.
Pickett said her son has a form of Autism, but she still thinks it’s a dangerous situation for any student.
“Other people are having the same concerns,” she said. “I’m happy people are being supportive.”
According to Town Supervisor Toni Hokanson, the intersection is the busiest and most dangerous in the town and village of New Paltz.
“The police chief notified the Village Board that in the past, a village employee was hired to act as a crossing guard,” she said. “The Village Board approved hiring a part-time crossing guard.”
Although there is a button on both sides of the street that can be pressed in order to safely cross the intersection, Mayor Terry Dungan said the children were not using the button, but instead were just crossing the street when they felt it was safe.
“If the middle school students were using [the button] consistently, arguably they wouldn’t have to put the crosswalk in,” said Dungan, “but they’re not.”
According to Dungan, the police chief recollected there was a crossing guard in the past but stopped in the mid-90s. Since it’s only a two hour a day job, it was difficult for the village to find someone to stay with the job.
“I don’t understand why it’s such a difficult thing,” said Pickett. “All they need to do is take a police officer already on duty and place them at the corner of the crosswalk while kids are crossing.”
Recently, the village decided to place an ad seeking someone to fill the crossing guard position for two hours a day, one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, for a $10 salary. The position is still open.
“It’s [an] awkward [position] because it’s first thing in the morning and then later in the afternoon,” said Dungan. “The ad’s been out for three weeks and we only have one response from someone in Kingston. But they may be thinking of it as being more of a job than it actually is.”
Although there have been no recent reports of accidents for middle school children recently, the intersection is dangerous for cars as well. Dungan said that there have been numerous car accidents in the past. This summer, the Department of Transportation decided to change the sequence in the timing of the lights to make a smoother, safer intersection.
Previously, the traffic light would change and cars going in opposite directions would go at the same time. However, it is an offset intersection, where heading east is a straight light but heading north is not. In order to go north, a driver must go diagonally.
“It made a lot of people uncomfortable,” said Dungan. “If you were turning left from one way and another car was turning left from another, both would hesitate about who would come first. With the new timing of the lights, there is a longer waiting time for eastbound and westbound, but overall more drivers are comfortable with the idea.”
However, Dungan said he feels that a crossing guard would still be beneficial.
“It’s generally a much safer intersection now,” said Dungan. “But dealing with human nature where people don’t necessarily want to wait for the light, it’s good to have a crossing guard at the intersection.”