Volume 81, Number 6 | July 7 - 13, 2011
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Muneeza Iqbal

Peggy Lewis at the Morton St. West Side Highway crossing where she says drivers frequently run the red light.

Highway crossing needs a traffic cop full time, says acting teacher

By Muneeza Iqbal

The West Village Houses have a large population of children, which is evident by the clutter of toys and tricycles in the complex’s community gardens where they play. And when the weather gets warmer these kids like to go across the West Side Highway to play on the sports fields on Pier 40, at West Houston St.

All those kids traversing the busy highway have caused one concerned neighbor, Peggy Lewis, to speak up about a problem that has plagued the neighborhood for years.

Drivers on the West Side Highway tend to ignore and run red lights all the time, she said. This is especially dangerous at the Morton and West Sts. intersection where the youngsters often cross. There are two crosswalks about 20 feet apart, and drivers often speed through the first and then brake suddenly only if they see someone in the second crosswalk.

Lewis runs a space for children’s acting programs, Biz Kids, on the pier, and her students also use the crossing.

She recalled several instances when cars have stopped just inches away from her when she was crossing in the southern crosswalk. She said she’s seen mothers with little children or baby strollers have to sprint across even though it’s a green light for them.

“I want people to be aware,” she said, “especially in the summer when the children are running to get to the ball field.”

Since drivers refuse to obey the law, it seems the only solution would be to place a traffic officer at the crossing at all times, according to Lewis.

She noted another dangerous situation a block away from this trouble spot.

Hudson River party boats, or as Lewis called them, “booze cruises,” dock on the northern edge of Pier 40, at Leroy and West Sts. There is no pedestrian crossing at this spot on the highway, but drunken revelers often run across there anyway, weaving through traffic, to get to their cars that are parked on Leroy St. on the other side of the highway.

“They are all dressed up and they pull up their skirts and run across the street in their high-heeled shoes,” said a disapproving Lewis.

Several times she has seen, and helped, women who passed out between the dock and their cars. Although not a fan of the party boats and their inebriated passengers, Lewis is concerned for the safety of these revelers and local kids alike, whose lives, she said, are being put at risk at this perilous spot on the highway. She hopes a solution can be found soon before anyone gets seriously injured or worse.

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