By Amanda Wyatt
Traffic and parking have always been tricky at Pierson Middle/High School, and the oft-discussed issue seems to be surfacing once again.
Last week, Jeff Nichols, Pierson’s principal, sent home a letter reminding families not to use the lot on the corner of Jermain Avenue by the gym, which he described as an “unsafe drop off/pick up zone.”
“Too much is going on in that lot and it’s not set up to accommodate [that much traffic],” Nichols said in an interview on Tuesday.
Instead, he explained, parents and others driving students to school should use the Division Street lot, which “goes a little smoother in terms of drop off and pick up.”
Since consulting with Sag Harbor Village Police on traffic flow a few years ago, the school has sent out several similar letters in an effort to keep students and families safe.
“The safety of the lots is always a concern,” said Nichols, noting that the board of education’seducational facilities planning committee “has been wrestling with the issue of the way lots are currently set up.”
According to Mary Anne Miller, a BOE member, the facilities committee will continue to discuss the issue.
“These problems aren’t going away,” she said this week. “It still needs to be a priority because it’s a health and safety issue. That’s simply what it is.”
In fact, in the week since Nichols sent out the letter to parents, Miller has personally noticed increased traffic — and congestion — in the Division Street lot.
But the solution to solving congestion and safety issues in the lots, she said, would be “multifaceted.”
“No one endorses big ugly parking lots. We don’t want to make them bigger; we want to fix the one we have,” Miller said.
Miller would like to see the Jermain lot delineated from the main road. She would also like to see more sidewalks and landscaping, which would not only be an “aesthetic improvement,” but would also promote walking.
And that, for Miller, is “the educational piece, which is culture change — what we can continue to do to rely less on traffic and spend more time biking and walking, keep our village beautiful and be better neighbors.”
John Shaka, a board member of Save Sag Harbor and a proponent of active transport, agreed.
Shaka pointed out that already, several East End municipalities have received federal Safe Routes to School grants, which can be used to fund improvements like new sidewalks and crosswalks near schools.
Community members in Sag Harbor attempted to put together their own proposal for a Safe Routes to School grant several years ago. But as Miller explained, the village sits in two townships, and neither municipality was willing to sponsor the grant.
Still, Shaka said he was “interested in resurrecting that grant,” and Miller said, “There’s no reason why we can’t keep that door open.”
“We owe it to the neighborhood to make it safer and more functional, and we certainly owe it to the families and the students to make it safer,” said Miller.