Report: NYC schools near major roads can expose children to higher levels of air pollution

Austin Havens-Bowen
By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
September 5, 2019 - 12:00PM

The EPA suggests children at schools near busy roads avoid strenuous outdoor activities during peak traffic times.

Jean Gazis/Flickr

New York City school children headed back to class this week, and if your child goes to school on a busy road, you might want to think about the impact on his or her health.

That's because locating schools near heavily trafficked roads exposes children, as well as educators and staff, to high levels of pollution from exhaust fumes.

A new study by finds there are 244 public schools within 500 feet of major highways. Some neighborhoods are worse than others, for example Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, which  has 14 schools located near busy roads.

Parents "might not pay attention to hidden hazards of air quality, even though pollution could have a big impact on their children’s ability to learn. After all, kids attend city schools 180 days a year, often running around at recess every day, breathing in the air—and potentially toxic fine particulate matter,” says Liat Halpern, an urban planner at The website uses artificial intelligence to provide insights into any NYC address.

Prolonged exposure to vehicular pollution cause health problems like impaired lung development, according to the EPA. Poor test scores, increased behavioral incidents and absences are often a result of these school environments, according to a report from the National Bureau of Economic Research. 

The EPA suggests that schools near roadways upgrade filtration systems in classrooms, reduce car and bus idling around the school, and train school staff on air quality issues. The EPA also suggestions children at risk avoid strenuous activity outdoors during peak traffic times.

Below is’s interactive map of the schools near the busy roads: 


With residential development booming and some school districts are bursting at the seams, the city is opening several new schools, but it is tough to find space, and so as a result, lots of schools end up in less-than-desirable locations. 

Here are several new schools that have opened or will open in the next two years near heavily trafficked roads according to 

  •  P.S. 398 in Jackson Heights opened this month 200 feet from the Brooklyn Queens Expressway

  • P.S./I.S. 746 in Sunset Park to open in September 2020 in the shadow of the BQE

  • P.S./I.S. 667 in East New York to open in September 2020 near two high-trafficked corridors and truck routes. 

  • I.S. 419 in East Elmhurst to open in 2021 where Astoria and Ditmars boulevards converge at the entrance to the Grand Central Parkway

  • A 180-seat pre-k in Gowanus to open in 2021 along the Ninth Street truck route, and in between  heavily trafficked Third and Fourth avenues


Austin Havens-Bowen

Austin Havens-Bowen


Austin Havens-Bowen is a writer and reporter. He previously covered local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

Brick Underground articles occasionally include the expertise of, or information about, advertising partners when relevant to the story. We will never promote an advertiser's product without making the relationship clear to our readers.