At Busiest Times, New School Will Have Peck Slip All to Itself

The intersection of Pearl Street and Peck Slip. Peck Slip will be closed to traffic during drop-off and pick-up times for the school, at left. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib

Jul. 16, 2015

For two-and-half hours each day, Peck Slip the street will belong to Peck Slip the school.

P.S. 343, aka the Peck Slip School, will open this September in its new building on Peck Slip, between Pearl and Water Streets, and the city Department of Transportation has agreed to close the street to traffic during drop-off and pick-up times. The recent decision follows efforts by school and community leaders to persuade the city to address their concerns over safety—concerns that had tempered excitement over the long-awaited opening of the school, constructed in the former Peck Slip Post Office.

Some 500 children will be coming to P.S. 343, which had been temporarily housed in Tweed Courthouse classrooms. Traffic-heavy Pearl Street at the intersection of Peck Slip, crossed by many children from Southbridge Towers, had been especially worrisome.

Much of the northbound traffic on Pearl Street goes through that crossing as it heads to the Brooklyn Bridge and FDR Drive.  

“If you stand on that intersection for any stretch of time you’ll see people pull into the intersection,” said the principal, Maggie Siena. “They don’t really treat it as a proper intersection. So they aren’t looking around them, they have a destination they’re trying to get to.”

There had also been concerns about where the many children will line up and how caregivers could congregate on the sidewalk along Peck Slip.

Months ago, Siena and PTA members met with DOT officials in hopes of heading off what they saw as potential safety problems. And a resolution, passed by Community Board 1 last month, called on the city to institute several safety measures before the start of school.

But the city’s agreement to close one-way Peck Slip to cars during pick up and drop-off times seemed unlikely. Luis Sanchez, the DOT’s borough commissioner for Lower Manhattan, had called the idea “problematic” and warned that it could mean that traffic would be diverted to Water Street where a private school, the Blue School, is located half-way down the block.

According to Paul Hovitz, co-chair of Community Board 1’s Youth Committee, who attended a recent meeting with DOT officials, the city would also close that block of Water Street, between Beekman Street and Peck Slip, during certain hours if requested by the Blue School.

A DOT spokesman declined to comment on that but said a four-to-six month traffic study will be conducted to see if a stop sign, at Water and Beekman Streets, is “feasible.” The agency also will be installing school crossing signs at various intersections in the area, implementing "high visibility" crosswalks and, after school starts, studying pedestrian traffic volume to see whether the timing of traffic lights should be changed.

In the meantime, Siena said in an email that there are still “wrinkles” to be worked out, such as a requested crossing guard that has yet to be assigned to Pearl Street and Peck Slip, and arranging for supervision of “such a large, unfenced area” outside the school.  But she said she is happy about the DOT’s decision to close the street during the school’s busiest times.

“Having dedicated space in front of the building will not only make drop off and pick up safer,” she said, “it will give families some face time.”