Newark teen baffled after being barred from crosswalk due to safety measures

Omar, 14, is a freshman at a neighborhood high school in Newark, New Jersey. She loves cars and has spent a good part of her life driving them in and out of her neighborhood’s main entrance and exit to get to school on time.

Even though much of the sidewalk around the entrance to the school’s main road doesn’t have a crosswalk, Omar knows to follow that path. She says she has no problem walking home from school in that area. She doesn’t feel threatened when cars use the road for their own convenience.

It’s a different story for some students and their parents who cross the street at the entrance to the school’s multi-purpose building on Wilson Avenue in Newark. That’s where a 60-foot, scaffolding-like girders line a walkway between the rear of the school and its main entrance. It’s to protect a truck using the walkway from vehicles trying to park on the street or causing backups.

It’s scary as hell. I shouldn’t have to walk here at all,” said Omar, describing a scene she and her friends find themselves in twice a day.

All that scaffolding prevents pedestrians from using the walkway. It’s a product of a set of safety steps taken in part to protect children from certain kinds of vehicles.

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“When you make something to look like a cul-de-sac you know something is gonna happen,” said Mike Pereira, assistant principal at the school. “Is that good enough for the safety of the children? I don’t think so.”

Just what happens when a car makes a right turn on the crosswalk, or begins to slow down, poses a danger, though, for Omar and her friends.

“Everything happens quick,” said the teen. “And I’m at a crosswalk so I get nervous.”

Omar says she’s asked police on multiple occasions to remove the scaffolding but has been told no.

“Every time I call 911, they take it away from me until they get a warrant from a judge to let me back in,” she said.

After FOX31 Problem Solvers contacted Newark Police to see what’s being done to address Omar’s and other students’ safety concerns, a spokesperson acknowledged that the safety measures might need to be taken down for the public’s safety.

“If people that aren’t able to see don’t have to worry about what’s gonna happen to them,” said Pereira. “It just, you know, adds to what we’re dealing with in terms of crowd control and having these kids get off the sidewalk and actually walk on the roadway. And that’s where the real issues are.”

Pereira says school administrators are also keeping a close eye on safety in the neighborhood and are reporting to police when they observe unsafe conditions.

He says the school makes new safety improvements every year and plans to add another crosswalk next year if approved by the city.

“I hope they start taking action,” said Pereira. “It’s just a safety issue that we really have to work on.”

Students and parents say some are taking a greater interest in safety around the school. They say changes being made have made it safer for some and created new concerns for others.

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