City Council, Advocates Ask Mayor for School Crossing Guard at Every Dangerous Intersection

City Council, Advocates Ask Mayor for School Crossing Guard at Every Dangerous Intersection

Elected Officials, Advocates, School Community Members respond to Mayor’s Lack of Attention for School Crossing Guards in Executive Budget, Demand Better Job Quality for City’s Valuable Public Servants

NEW YORK--Today on the steps of City Hall, City Council Member Brad Lander, and Chair of the Committee on Public Safety Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson, along with other elected officials, labor leaders, street safety advocates and representatives from the school community called on Mayor de Blasio to address the lack of school crossing guards at dangerous intersections across the city, and poor job quality that makes it difficult to keep positions filled.

Participants at the rally called for an additional 236 positions (a 10% increase in the school crossing guard headcount, and an estimated $3.3 million) for FY 2016 as reflected in the City Council’s Preliminary Budget Response, and significant job quality improvements, to ensure that positions remain filled. Despite an initial call for action, Mayor De Blasio’s preliminary budget did not include any funding increase for the guards.

“Our goal is simple: to make sure that every dangerous intersection that needs a school crossing guard, gets a school crossing guard," said Council Member Brad Lander. "But right now, we can't even fill the positions we have. Our crossing guards perform the priceless task of keeping our kids safe as they travel to and from school – so it’s outrageous that we've been paying them low wages, keeping them stuck in part-time jobs, and laying them off in the summer. By making job-quality better, we can fill vacant slots. By expanding the number of slots, we can move toward NYC’s Vision Zero goals to eliminate preventable deaths from traffic crashes, ensure a safe Pre-K expansion, and do more to keep all our kids safe."

“School Crossing Guards are the lifeblood of our students' safety. Yet, due to yearly furloughs, an arbitrary cap on their hours, and seasonal health benefits, the NYPD and DOE are unable to keep these much needed positions filled. As we work to expand after school programs we must prioritize the valuable role of school crossing guards and resolve the issues at the core of their poor recruitment and retention," said Chair of the Committee on Public Safety Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson. “To ensure the safety of all students, every dangerous intersection in this City must be patrolled by a School Crossing Guard. To achieve these goals, we must collectively work to address recruitment, hourly wages, annualize health benefits, address the work hours and improve the working conditions of our public servants who protect our children everyday across our City."

“School crossing guards are crucial to street safety around our schools, and Manhattan’s children are especially vulnerable because we have more unfilled crossing guard positions than any other borough,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “The city must act to fill existing vacancies, but we also need to raise guards’ pay and deploy additional guards through a data-driven process that includes teachers, parents, and Community Boards.”

Council members, elected officials, advocates, labor leaders, and crossing guards themselves outlined a five part job quality improvement proposal to ensure a complete and lasting fix to the problem. While a principal issue is the lack of funding for more positions, low job quality has made it nearly impossible for NYPD to attract and retain people. Hundreds of positions turn over each year, and there are currently unfilled vacancies for crossing guards.

In order to improve the quality of these jobs and attract enough people to fill the number of positions, participants at the rally proposed the following improvements:   

·      Year-round health care and an end to seasonal furloughs. These low-wage workers are furloughed in the summer months and forced to pay for their own health care from their meager salaries. This practice should be ended and school crossing guards should receive health benefits year-round.  Figures provided by the office of the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Management and Budget indicate that the annual benefits package costs $14,000, by this number the cost of providing an additional two months of benefits during the summer should be approximately $2,333 per guard.

·      Raise the cap on hours. School crossing guards are capped by contract at 25 hours per week, and most are only paid 20 hours per week for school drop-off and school pick-up hours. The result is jobs that pay so little that it is impossible to sustain a family, and the positions are very difficult to fill.  The increased hours (between their morning and afternoon school assignments) could be filled with other responsibilities in the City's schools: with proper training they can cover for school safety agents during their lunch-hour or for after-school programs or other school safety task, they can work the intersections at lunch-hour and after-school, or they could perform additional Vision Zero pedestrian safety duties at other nearby hot-spot intersections. This would require raising the cap and allocating funds to cover wages for additional hours per guard. It would also require some work to establish and supervise the extended duties. 

·      A more objective process for identifying intersections in need of school crossing guards: The City lacks an adequate process for deciding which locations have guards, or even providing information on the intersections at which they are positioned. We need a process in place that identifies: (a) which intersections merit a guard, based on data and community input, (b) which intersections have been assigned a guard, and (c) which ones actually have a guard working there at any given time.

·      Recruitment: Individuals must apply in person, at a particular precinct.  This makes it harder to identify and vet candidates and potential applicants have to visit multiple precincts to inquire if there are positions open.  The City could lead a recruitment drive, similar to what it does to hire lifeguards or other positions in partnership with Local 372.

·      Training, retention and promotions: The systems in place for training, retention, and promotion seem to vary widely from precinct-to-precinct.  We should identify career ladder opportunities and assess protocols to ensure that the effectiveness of Crossing Guards is maximized when they are deployed. 

 “Our School Crossing Guards work through snow, rain and heat waves, often putting their lives on the line; crossing not only school children but their parents and pedestrians, said Shaun D. Francois, President of Local 372, the union representing school crossing guards. “Our members work only 10 months out of the year and are forced to pay for their health insurance over the summer. This is unacceptable!  In this city we all have the same goal, to make sure that every dangerous intersection that needs a crossing guard receives one.   In order to fulfill this goal the NYPD needs to do more than just fund more positions.  The NYPD must annualize the SCG position, which would allow them to work 12 months instead of 10 and raise the cap on SCG working hours. Our members want to do more to help the Mayor fulfill the goal of Vision Zero -  prevent the senseless deaths of pedestrians due to traffic crashes,as well as  ensuring a safer Pre-K expansion. However  the administration must help us by raising our wages, extending our hours and annualizing our health coverage. Local 372 job is kids, but the adults need to make sure we hire more school crossing guards so that we can keep the kids safe.”

"In the last two days, two children have been hit by cars in our city. Additional hours for school crossing guards may help reduce those tragic incidents by providing more coverage at crosswalks,” said Henry Garrido, Executive Director of DC37.”Drivers who see a crossing guard know that children are nearby and should slowdown."

"Our crossing guards provide an extremely valuable service in the work they do to help keep children and parents safe as they travel to and from school, " said Vincent Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.  "These hardworking men and women put themselves in harm's way protecting pedestrians, and working to maintain the flow of traffic on our roadways, yet our crossing guards are sorely undercompensated, and extremely short-staffed.  As we continue to ensure that pedestrian and driver safety are top priorities in New York City, is it important that we allocate the necessary budget funding to ensure that these men and women receive the wages, benefits, and protections they deserve."

"We have a serious shortage of crossing guards. In March in my district, we had a child hit by a car while leaving school at an intersection where a crossing guard had been requested. Other schools in my district have had crossing guards leave and never be replaced. We need to give crossing guards more hours and year-round benefits, including healthcare, to attract and retain more people to this essential job. More funding for crossing guards would bolster the work of Vision Zero to lower serious injuries and fatalities in our streets," said Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives, said: ​"If New York City is going to get to Vision Zero, we have to do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable people on our streets. Until we fix our most dangerous streets with redesigns that will protect children -- and people of all ages -- and until traffic safety laws are fully enforced, crossing guards are our last -- and best -- hope for keeping kids safe in crosswalks.”

“We have no greater responsibility than guaranteeing the safety of our children,” said Council Member Corey Johnson. “It is imperative that we ensure that City’s streets – particularly those in school zones – are safe. This can be achieved by hiring more school crossing guards with enhanced compensation rates and healthcare benefits. Coupled with a revitalized process for identifying the most strategic locations at which these crossing guards are placed, I am confident these changes would ensure safer commutes to school for our kids.”

"We are repaying the vital work crossing guards do to keep our kids safe with bad benefits and capped hours," said Council Member Rory I. Lancman. "It's no surprise then, that we are unable to recruit people for these positions, or retain those who take them. We must provide crossing guards with year-round health care, full-time hours and opportunities for training and promotion."

"Our school crossing guards guarantee the safety of so many of our City's children every day.  These highly dedicated public servants deserve to be paid much more than they are now and need to receive year-round health benefits so they and their families can experience better lives.  It is imperative that we develop a more viable process to determine where school crossing guards are need to ensure that dangerous intersections are sufficiently covered, said Council Member Mathieu Eugene.

“Raising the headcount of school crossing guards will improve safety for our kids and support the critical goals of Vision Zero. Crossing guards across the city are dedicated public servants who often work through difficult conditions to keep young students safe. Increasing their number throughout the five boroughs will promote safe streets and provide a boost to retention and recruitment efforts of these critical city workers,” said Council Member Mark Levine.

“New York City’s crossing guards perform a critical and taxing job, said Council Member Fernando Cabrera. “Our support for them is a direct indicator of our support for our children. Today we are calling for living wages, annual health benefits that do not cut off during the summer, and a raise in the cap of hours for crossing guards, in addition to improvements to the recruitment process. Our neighborhoods desperately need these changes. We must ensure that all crossing guards are empowered to do their jobs with utmost care and concern. We must not wait for another child to be tragically killed before we take action.” 

“School Crossing Guards play a vital role in keeping our school children safe. It’s the School Crossing Guard that is standing on a street corner in all types of weather. It is the School Crossing Guard that put their lives on the line for $11.50 per hour to protect our children. It’s time that we stand up for our Crossing Guards now. Our Crossing guards deserve a living wage that reflects the work that they do. Our Crossing Guards don’t deserve to be furloughed for two months, having to pay for their own insurance. It’s time to give our Crossing Guards a living wage, year-round health care and career that will take care of them,” said  Council Member Vincent Gentile.  

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