By Steven Stites
Monday, 26 September 2011 00:00
[pullquote]“In transit-underserved Northeast Queens, the lack of a school bus has forced many kids to take three MTA buses to travel just over a mile from College Point to Whitestone. A ride that takes only a few minutes via school bus turns into an hour and a half-long trek.” ~ Dan Halloran[/pullquote]Last spring, junior high school parents all over New York City found out that school buses were being eliminated for their kids. For parents at JHS 194 in Whitestone, that discovery came late. As in, one day before the 2011-2012 school year started. As a result, hundreds of parents and their children were left stranded, without a reliable transportation option for their 11-, 12- and 13-year old children.
Today, dozens of those concerned junior high school parents joined City Council Member Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) at a press conference in front of the school. Halloran found out about the situation last week. Since that time, his office has been working hard to help parents acquire variances for their children to ride City buses.
“We can help students get waivers if the bus route has a transfer at a dangerous intersection,” Halloran said. “Most of these routes transfer at 14th Avenue, 20th Avenue and Parsons Boulevard, which are all considered dangerous intersections.” The mistake was due to a City Department of Education (DOE) error. Halloran and the parents expressed frustration with the error, but focused on the need to move forward. “Mistakes happen. We are where we are. What matters now is that we provide transit options for these kids,” Halloran said. “I am working with the parents and the DOE to help these students get to school quickly and safely.” In transit-underserved Northeast Queens, the lack of a school bus has forced many kids to take three MTA buses to travel just over a mile from College Point to Whitestone. A ride that takes only a few minutes via school bus turns into an hour and a half-long trek. “We can’t expect junior high school students to make two bus transfers to get to school every morning,” Halloran said. “It’s not safe, and it’s not fair to them. These are 11-year old kids.” Halloran is co-sponsoring Council Resolution 1033, which calls on the State Assembly and Senate to pass a law requiring New York City to provide yellow school bus transportation for all children attending grades three through eight who live more than one mile from the school they attend. “The Department of Education policy of refusing yellow bus service junior high students should not be a one-size fits all policy,” said Assembly Member Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside). “While students in Manhattan and other areas of the city can easily walk to school, or find simple alternatives to a yellow school bus, our students in Northeast Queens are forced to take three MTA buses to get to school.” Joining Halloran at the press conference were Assembly Members Braunstein and Michael Simanowitz (D-College Point), both of whom have pledged to support the state legislation.