Most days at PS 958 in Sunset Park, during drop-off and dismissal times, the intersection of 36th Street and 5th Avenue is filled with students, as well as buses from an adjacent depot, trucks of various sizes and countless cars from all directions.
In this intersection, two adults wear neon yellow vests while holding stop signs. They help families get across the intersection by standing in the middle of the busy streets and directing traffic.
But these are not crossing guards — these are P.S. 958 parents. The city has not hired a crossing guard for their school, so they are volunteering.
In June 2023, Mayor Eric Adams and the New York Police Department cut 483 vacant crossing guard positions to save $7.5 million for the NYPD.
Hope came in September when parents were encouraged to apply for crossing guard positions with the expectation their applications would be fast-tracked. None of the six parents who applied ever heard back. The school was told there was little interest in the job, despite the six parents who applied.
Eventually, the school was told city budget cuts prevented the hiring of new crossing guards.
P.S. 958 administrators have been contacting the 72nd Precinct and City Councilmember Alexa Aviles, who says crossing guards often bear the brunt of budget cuts.
"I think the message is clear," Aviles said. "It's not a priority in our system when you continuously ... cut services for children or vulnerable community members over and over again."
"The traffic before wasn't so heavy," said Ivelisse Castro, a P.S. 958 parent who's lived nearby for 15 years. "Once they opened up the car wash across the street, it started getting a little heavier. And we had a sign there that said no trucks on the block. Then they put another [sign] and the truck drivers are confused. Since the school opened up it's been getting worse and worse and worse, especially also with the buses up the block. You could see there are more trucks now."
Other parents told BK Reader the busy gas station and auto body shop right across the street have many cars coming and going. Sometimes the cars park or pause on the sidewalks while students walk to school. Cars also cut through the station to skip traffic.
One parent, Ryan, who withheld his last name for privacy reasons, has a son who uses a walker. The school supports neurodiversity and has several disabled students, for whom the crowded intersection is especially treacherous. Whenever Ryan, his son, and his other child cross 36th Street, Ryan feels terrified.
"I really try and do my best to make sure that they know that we were always safe crossing the street," he said."Sometimes you're crossing Fifth Avenue, and the cars are actually coming, sort of in the other lane, because they're cutting around the school buses. Thankfully we haven't had any close calls with the street yet."
"The NYPD regularly reviews the needs of the community regarding school crossing posts. This year’s executive budget for the School Crossing Guard position was reduced by eliminating vacant positions," Deputy Commissioner Public Information told BK Reader in a statement. "But that budgetary maneuver did not amount to layoffs, as no active positions were eliminated. Vacancies are fluid in fiscal planning, and the NYPD remains committed to actively recruiting and hiring additional School Crossing Guards, up to the authorized headcount."
The gas station and auto body shop next to P.S. 958 did not respond to BK Reader's requests for comment.
In recent weeks, a patrol car has been at the intersection, but still no crossing guards, parents told BK Reader.
A petition is in the works while parents continue to speak at precinct meetings. They also keep volunteering at the intersection whenever possible. Ryan appreciates their volunteering but hopes no one thinks that if the parents are willing to be crossing guards, the problem is taken care of.
"We've got to do better as a city," Aviles said.