Parents not too worried about new school traffic


A new school can certainly change the look and feel of a neighborhood — especially when it replaces an infamous landmark like the Van Cortlandt Motel.

But if there are any concerns about how the new school at 6393 Broadway might be integrated into the community, neighbors are not yet showing it.

The School Construction Authority is pushing forward with plans to build a 550-seat elementary school on the site, to open by late 2028. And just across the street from the site, and a Van Cortlandt Park playground, some parents expressed excitement about all of it.

“I like that there’s a school going to be there,” said Vyana Lopez, the mother of a young school-aged child.

In fact, she had just talked with a friend just recently about how so many new buildings are going up in the area — including at least two higher-density apartment buildings not far from where the Henry Hudson Parkway meets Broadway — but there did not seem to be enough schools to meet the growing demand.

For parents like Lopez, the new school is a good thing as it will welcome smaller-sized classes. Her child’s kindergarten class currently has a ratio of 25 students for each teacher, which is something she hopes will only get better (and smaller) as her child continues on.

“It’s OK for the older children,” Lopez said, “but for kindergarteners and first-graders, there needs to be a different ratio.”

That’s part of what the construction authority says is motivating them to build not just the 6393 Broadway school, but also another elementary school just down the road at the southern edge of Van Cortlandt Park where the Church of the Visitation once stood.

Combined, the two schools will welcome more than 1,100 new students up to middle school age, while promoting the smaller classes that Gov. Kathy Hochul mandated last year.

Classes in kindergarten through third grade are required to have no more than 20 students per teacher, while classes in the fourth through eighth grade can have no more than 23. High school classes under the state regulation would be capped at 25.

Outside of the classroom, however, the question of traffic remains.

As part of the City Council’s sign off of the project, the construction authority provided what is known as a “negative declaration,” meaning the new school is expected to have minimal — if any — impacts to the neighborhood both environmentally and infrastructurally.

That includes traffic and parking. Broadway is already known for its volume — especially in North Riverdale along the Van Cortlandt Park line — while parking anywhere in the city is difficult.

Yet, the 6393 Broadway school is not expected to have any on-site parking for its teachers and administrators, saying there is more than enough street parking available during the day for the 40 or so cars it will bring to the neighborhood.

All of that could be a problem, according to Dan Padernacht, the former Community Board 8 traffic and transportation committee chair. While he supports turning the troubled motel into a school, Padernacht believes Broadway is too narrow and busy for the large number of vehicles that would come because of it.

“I believe the SCA should design the school with the community’s transportation needs in mind so that the site provides a safe atmosphere for the drop-off and pick-up of children each day,” Padernacht said.

His idea? Take those cars off of Broadway.

“The SCA should alter its design to provide off-street access to buses and cars to mitigate the inevitable blocking of traffic lanes on Broadway during rush hour,” he said. “Based on its own studies, the SCA identifies approximately 1,300 vehicles traveling southbound past the school site during the a.m. peak hour.”

That space could be found, at least partially, in the planned 11,800-square-foot play yard, where the school could build a lane for buses and parent vehicles to pull into the property — drawing some of the traffic off the street. 

The school is also in what is primarily a residential neighborhood, Padernacht adds, meaning buses and parents coming down West 256th Street would not necessarily be better. Those streets, he says, are narrow two-way streets that hardly seem capable of accommodating the traffic created by a school.

With the school entrance presumably on Broadway, there hardly seems any way to avoid a traffic backup, Padernacht said, questioning whether the construction authority developed a proper traffic plan for the area.

The School Construction Authority did not respond to a request for comment.

Having the school better reflects the fact there are plenty of growing families and families with young children in the neighborhood, Lopez said, while her child was wrapping up their time at the playground across the street.

“It’s going to be more traffic, obviously,” she said.

“But to be honest with you, I don’t mind the traffic if it’s going to be another school that’s going to serve the needs of the community.”

New school construction Neighborhood transformation Community integration Van Cortlandt Motel redevelopment Education infrastructure School construction authority Broadway elementary school Growing demand for schools Class size reduction Traffic concerns Environmental impact assessment Parking availability Traffic mitigation strategies Community feedback Residential neighborhood dynamics