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Kew Gardens students make traffic safety sign

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Students from PS 99 in Kew Gardens designed an eye-catching traffic sign that will make life safer for pupils and the community, city Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said last week.

Sadik-Khan joined City Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), school officials and hundreds of students Friday to unveil the new traffic safety sign that was installed in front of the school’s entrance on 83rd Avenue. Three additional signs with the same design were installed around the area, including on Kew Gardens Road in front of the school’s main entrance and two more outside the nearby PS 99 Annex School on Kew Gardens Road.

“You’ve done incredible work making this street safer for everyone,” Sadik-Khan said. “This demonstrates the fundamental sign of safety, which is awareness.”

The red, yellow, blue and black sign designed by about 44 fifth-grade students at PS 99 shows a picture of an eye, which students said they hope will inspire pedestrians and drivers to be more aware of their surroundings.

“I was really happy we were able to do this because it’s not every day you get an opportunity to make your community safer,” said Francesca D’Arista, an 11-year-old student who spoke at the unveiling ceremony.

As part of the city’s Young Artists for Safer Streets program, the PS 99 students worked for about six weeks on the sign with the help of Chris Soria, an artist from the Groundswell Community Mural Project, a nonprofit that teamed up with the city for their safety initiative.

“Working with the kids was a lot of fun, and they were so eager to participate,” Soria said.

Sadik-Khan said city officials are trying to engage more young people in a discussion about traffic safety and noted that 80 percent of traffic fatalities among children 14 and younger happened while they were on foot.

“We have to do everything we can to make things safer for you,” Sadik-Khan told the students.

PS 99 Principal Paulette Foglio said the project helped to foster a sense of community among the students.

“They learned how to work together,” Foglio said.

Assistant Principal Aida Trujillo noted PS 99 is well-known for its art program, which Soria said helped a great deal when it came to designing the sign because the students were already so well-versed in expressing themselves creatively.

PS 99 students often partner with officials from the Guggenheim Museum, teaching artists and residents work at the school, and the institution has its own art gallery.

“The school is absolutely wonderful,” Koslowitz said. “It makes you want to go and fight harder for education funding.”

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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