Tag Archives: Make Queens Safer

New federal legislation to focus funds on areas with increased pedestrian accidents


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Angy Altamirano

Newly proposed legislation will require states to focus federal resources in areas where there have been an increase in pedestrian fatalities or injuries, one politician said.

U.S Rep. Joseph Crowley created the Pedestrian Fatalities Reduction Act of 2014 to help prevent another traffic fatality from occurring on New York City streets.

Crowley made the announcement on the corner where 11-year-old Miguel Torres was fatally struck in December of 2012 as he was crossing Northern Boulevard to get to school. Last October 3-year-old Olvin Jahir Figueroa was killed crossing Northern Boulevard near Junction Boulevard with his mom. In December 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed crossing the busy street on the way to his Woodside school.

“The recent string in traffic related deaths in and around Queens demands our immediate attention to find solutions,” Crowley said. “We need to ensure the federal highway safety funds at their disposal are put toward achieving our goal of reducing pedestrian fatalities to zero.”

States are currently required to submit a Strategic Highway Safety Plan to the Federal Highway Administration for them to receive federal highway safety funds. This state-wide plan is used by state transportation departments to look at safety needs and decide where to make investments.

The Pedestrian Fatalities Reduction Act of 2014 will require the safety plan to include statistics on pedestrian injuries and fatalities, and each state must show how it expects to address any increases at both state and county levels.

“Pedestrian safety is a vitally important issue for my district and citywide,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who has worked with the Department of Transportation to implement neighborhood slow zones and other safety improvements. “However, more can always be done and this legislation would give some much needed funding to this tragic problem.”

The new legislation is also expected to update the federal handbook, which local and state transportation departments use when gathering highway safety data, in order to include items that will promote safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

“For too long, the people of New York City have seen repeated injuries in areas that have been proven to be dangerous and high risk,” said Cristina Furlong of the group Make Queens Safer. “With the passing of this legislation, New York will be able to provide the resources necessary to transform our dangerous streets.”

 

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Hundreds to sign safety pledge in honor of Flushing 3-year-old killed by SUV


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The family of the 3-year-old girl tragically killed by an SUV in Flushing will watch hundreds stand to take a pledge against reckless driving Friday to honor the toddler.

“This is actually pretty amazing,” said Hsi-Pei Liao, whose daughter, Allison, was fatally struck while crossing Main St. at Cherry Ave. last October. “It’s very personal.”

Nearly 2,000 people are expected to take a safety oath at P.S. 173, promising to “value the preservation of life above all else” while behind the wheel.

It couldn’t come at a better time.

The Fresh Meadows elementary school, which Allison’s 5-year-old brother Preston attends, has been the site of daily, dangerous drop-offs during the morning rush, civic leaders said.

Police even stepped in last month to stop short-tempered drivers from double parking, blocking the school bus stop and letting students run across the street, The Queens Courier reported.

“Our traffic conditions outside of our school are so severe,” said PTA President Italia Augienello. “We don’t need another tragedy. I’m afraid because, next time, it could be my kid.”

The driver who hit Allison remained at the scene and was not charged with a crime, police said. He was issued two summonses for failing to exercise due care and failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

The irreversible tragedy has led Hsi-Pei and his wife, Amy, who works as a social worker, to turn their pain into progress.

“We can’t save her,” said Hsi-Pei, a 36-year-old software technician. “There’s a feeling of helplessness and we can’t do that anymore. We can’t do that to ourselves anymore.”

The couple, in February, helped create Families for Safe Streets, a New York City-based group fighting for an end to traffic deaths.

They also meet monthly with local precincts and the PTA, drive to Albany to plead with elected officials and rally with a local advocacy group, Make Queens Safer.

“Something needs to be changed,” Hsi-Pei said. “Even if it constantly brings up the topic of why I lost my daughter, I feel like we’re proactively doing something.”

The family’s resilience has inspired hundreds on a local and citywide level. All 940 students in the school are expected to take the pledge to be careful on the streets and at least 1,000 parents, staff and residents plan to do the same.

“It’s amazing — the strength they have after what they’ve been through,” Augienello said. “They’re humble and quiet, yet they’re strong and their voices are heard.”

All are welcome to join the assembly March 21 at 1:10 p.m., inside the school’s auditorium at 174-10 67th Ave.

“They’re healing by helping other people understand what their actions can cause,” said Parent Coordinator Jean Mendler, “and that’s wonderful.”

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Star of Queens: Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo via Facebook

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Following “too many” pedestrian deaths, Furlong and her group, Make Queens Safer, are trying to target reckless driving, one roadway at a time.

“Pedestrians sometimes don’t have the tools they need, they were never educated on the danger,” she said.

Her group is focusing on an education program, reaching out to everyone from the borough’s youth to local elected officials. The program includes a safe driver pledge for drivers to acknowledge patience and eliminate distraction while on the roads.

BACKGROUND

Furlong is a 10-year resident of Queens, currently living in Jackson Heights. She is an avid cycler and works as a tour guide for Bike the Big Apple, which provides bike tours through the five borough.

“As a cyclist, I’ve always been interested in safety. But when Laura [Newman, Make Queens Safer co-founder] posted a boy was killed by a drunk driver and put a call to action, I was 100 percent on board,” Furlong said. “We had to do something.”

FAVORITE MEMORY

“The best thing that’s come out of this is being able to support families who have suffered a lot,” Furlong said. “Mothers whose children were killed [by drivers], they have no place to go.”

After a vigil the group hosted for pedestrian victims, Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference in Queens to announce his vision of zero pedestrian fatalities, appropriately titled Vision Zero.

“That was a memorable thing,” Furlong said. “Of all places, he chose Queens, recognizing that we have the highest pedestrian injury rate in the city.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE

For Furlong, the biggest challenge her group faces is getting people to change their consciousness about reckless driving, she said. They frequently stop drivers on the street to relay safe driving tips, and aren’t always warmly welcomed.

“But we need to establish a responsibility behind the wheel,” she said.

INSPIRATION

“I think inspiration comes from the people,” Furlong said, referring to parents, family members and friends who have lost loved ones due to reckless driving.

“They’re always available and working so hard with us. I want them to know, hopefully, we’ll change things,” she said.

 

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Pols call for law change after driver with suspended license fatally strikes Woodside boy


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photos by Angy Altamirano

BY CRISTABELLE TUMOLA AND ANGY ALTAMIRANO

Local elected officials are calling for a change in the law to prevent another child, like 8-year-old Noshat Nahian, from losing their life.

Noshat was crossing the street with his 11-year-old sister on the way to school at P.S. 152 in Woodside around 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 20 when a tractor trailer traveling southbound on 61st Street made a left turn onto Northern Boulevard, striking him with its rear tires, police said. He was taken to Elmhurst Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The driver, Mauricio Osorio-Palominos, 51, of Newark, N.J., who remained on the scene of the accident, has been charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of motor vehicle and operating vehicle in violation of safety rules, police said.

Osorio-Palominos was driving with a suspended license with multiple violations on his record during the accident, according to State Senator Michael Gianaris.

In response, Gianaris gathered with local officials, residents and advocacy groups at the site of the accident Monday to introduce legislation that would make it a felony if drivers with suspended licenses either seriously injure or kill someone with their vehicle. Under current law, a driver like Osorio-Palominos could be charged with a misdemeanor.

“The law needs to get tougher,” said Gianaris. “Those who have suspended licenses are twice as likely to kill somebody or injure somebody, or twice as likely to have major accidents, the law has to catch up with the data, we just need to get these people off the streets.”

Gianaris has also proposed the immediate impoundment of a vehicle’s license plate if it were being operated by someone with a suspended license.

The new bill will be co-sponsored by Senators Toby Ann Stavisky and Jose Peralta and also supported by Assemblymember Michael Den Dekker, Congressmember Joseph Crowley and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer.

“I have an 8-year-old son and it could have been my child, it could have been my son that was hit that Friday morning,” said Peralta. “And we need to send a loud message not only to the city but to anyone who does this, who rides without a license, that this is not going to be acceptable.”

Advocate groups like Transportation Alternatives, Make Queens Safer and Woodside on the Move, are also looking to implement other safety measures like crossing guards, stalled green lights and much more.

“None of this should of happen, all of this could have been prevented,” said Van Bramer. “This school has been asking for a crossing guard at this location for months. [It’s] absolutely disgraceful that the administration did not provide the crossing guard when it was requested, when it was clearly needed. Anybody who has been on this street for more than five minutes knows that this requires a crossing guard.”

Advocacy group Make Queens Safer organized a traffic safety memorial and vigil at 61st Street and Northern Boulevard Sunday where Noshat’s family and hundreds of residents gathered to remember the 8-year-old and other victims of traffic fatalities.

 

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