When alarms went up around the Island about a possible rat infestation behind the school, another long-simmering conflict also got some attention: teachers and school visitors parking in the fire lane between the school and Manhattan Park.
Last week, many teachers left at the end of the day, to find that their cars had been ticketed by Public Safety officers.
Tuesday, Public Safety ticketed cars parked in the fire lane outside PS/IS 217.
Principal Mandana Beckman acknowledges that people should not be parking in the lane, but says the spots allotted to the school are often not available.
According to Beckman, all DOE schools are contractually required to provide parking for City employees. “We used to have parking across the front of the school,” Beckman explained. “Those signs have been taken down. [I’m] not sure why. Those should be put back. Our Mayor has given us all [Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, United Federation of Teachers, and DC 37 who have a valid automobile registration and driver’s license] parking permits.”
She said, “Islanders are mad because they have to pay [to park], but teachers are commuting and it’s one of our benefits [of the job]. You can use your pass at any school, and we do when we attend workshops at other schools. You rely on the parking that’s set aside.
“That’s why you see more people parking in the side road.”
Motorgate is an option, but Beckman doubts that school staff would be reimbursed by the DOE were they to park there.
“And not all of the cars parked back there are ours,” added Assistant Principal Jennifer Allen. “Sometimes it’s hard to get in our lot in the morning. At seven this morning, there were cars parked here, all without tickets. We have to park two to a spot because our spots are taken. And not by other DOE employees.”
This past weekend was the school’s International Dinner. Beckman said, “I drove in this weekend and the lot was all full; any teacher who wanted to come this weekend couldn’t. When we come to school on the weekends to work or to a school event, our lot is always full,” she says, adding, “the fire lane too.”
“The school lot is private property,” Beckman points out.
Beckman said the school invested in orange traffic cones to reserve their spots but within a week they were gone. She said, “It’s really disheartening. I will be here for the school day, run out, and come back for an evening event at the school, and someone is already in my spot. It’s our property.” Not to mention, the school is open for custodians 365 days a year.
This problem is only compounded by the fact that the school has grown. According to Beckman, they have 612 students up from 400 when she started 17 years ago. But with more students, more staff is required. “It takes a lot of people,” Beckman said.