Tag Archives: Make Queens Safer

Queens ‘Zombie Ride’ to encourage safe biking


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Kidical Mass NYC

Wheels big and small will be going round and round this weekend through western Queens.

Advocacy organization Kidical Mass NYC will be hosting its third family bike ride and the first in Queens on Saturday, Oct. 25, through parts of Long Island City and Astoria.

The event, called “Zombie Ride,” will be a five-mile bike ride starting at the waterfront at Gantry Plaza State Park at the intersection of Center Boulevard and 47th Avenue.

The ride is open to intermediate-level bike riders or children ages 7 and up with good street-riding skills. Children in baby seats and on cargo bikes are also welcome to be a part of the event. 

“[We want to] make an opportunity to get kids to go around a city you walk, ride buses and drive in. It’s another way to get around,” said Hilda Cohen, one of the co-founders of Kidical Mass NYC.  “A lot of parents want to do this but are intimidated about it. It’s really a great way to see your city.”

The ride, which is named in the spirit of Halloween, will then continue through the Long Island City neighborhood and make its first stop at the rooftop garden Brooklyn Grange. After taking a rest stop at coffee shop COFFEED, the group will pass the Museum of the Moving Image and head back toward the waterfront to finish the ride at Socrates Sculpture Park, which will be hosting its Fall Festival. 

The young participants will also receive “spooky” treats such as zombie tattoos. 

“The name [of the event] has nothing to do with anything dangerous,” Cohen said. 

Kidical Mass NYC, which is the New York-based branch of the original Kidical Mass founded in Oregon, pays tribute to the national cycling event called Critical Mass.

Since starting in August, rides have taken place once a month in Brooklyn and Manhattan, bringing together about 40 participants, including adults and children. Now organizers have expanded the reach into Queens, hoping to attract residents from the other boroughs.

“Queens is the next big borough,” said Cristina Furlong of the organization Makes Queens Safer, who is helping Kidical Mass NYC organize the Queens event. “Queens is starting to get noticed.”

Members of the 108th and 114th precincts will also be in attendance on Saturday to provide extra security for the riders. 

“By being visible, I hope we influence some people that might be considering [cycling with their children] and show them that it’s safe,” Furlong said.

According to Cohen, although the event aims to show families that biking through their neighborhoods is a safe alternative to driving, the main goal of the day is to have fun. 

“We’re trying to make everything fun and exciting, which is exactly what biking is and it shouldn’t be something dangerous,” Cohen said. “This is just a means to enjoy our city with our kids.”

The “Zombie Ride” will begin at 10 a.m., with riders beginning to gather at 9:30 a.m. Cohen encourages those interested in participating to RSVP via the group’s Facebook page in order for every participant to receive their Halloween treats. Helmets are required for children 13 years old and under by law, and are recommended for everyone else, according to organizers. 

For more information visit www.facebook.com/kidicalmassnyc.

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Star of Queens: Laura Newman, co-founder, Make Queens Safer


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

newman 2

BY ASHA MAHADEVAN

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Laura Newman is one of the founders of Make Queens Safer, which was formed in late 2013 after a child was killed while crossing Northern Boulevard with his grandmother. It was the third such incident in approximately 12 months and sparked in Newman a desire to bring about change. Make Queens Safer works toward ensuring the streets are safe for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Last November, Newman’s organization hosted a march from Corona to Jackson Heights to raise awareness about road safety, while talking to elected officials and parents who lost their children in road accidents. Recently, the group hosted a safety fair educating children about bike safety and pedestrian safety.

BACKGROUND: Newman was born and raised in Forest Hills. Over the years she lived in various boroughs of the city but came back to live in Queens because she said it is a down-to-earth place with no pretensions. She is a qualified psychologist.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “Allowing space for everybody in the community to be a part of this movement. Earlier the mood was adversarial. It is easy for pedestrians to blame motorists and motorists to blame bicyclists. That only raises anger levels without accomplishing anything,” Newman said. “We are all on the roads. We should unify to take a stand together as a community. This is solvable.”

GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT: “It is still a work in progress, but my greatest achievement would be bringing a sense of values in younger generations to take responsibility in a variety of ways,” Newman said. “As a parent, I want my daughter to be aware and committed to make a change in the community. Through Make Queens Safer, I can impact other parents to do the same and give the younger generation a sense of involvement and engagement. It is about empowering families and young children to own a sense of responsibility toward making their community a safer, more caring, better functioning neighborhood.”

INSPIRATION: “I can’t say I have a personal hero everyone knows by name,” Newman said. “But there are some young adults I have encountered in Queens and the city at large who are working for food justice and environmentalism. They are trustworthy and inspiring.”

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Students study local street to make Jackson Heights safer


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Noah Beadle

Groups of “kid engineers” came together over the weekend to try to understand how to make Queens safer, one street at a time.

The advocacy organization, Make Queens Safer, hosted a Safer, Greener Streets Fair and Bike Bonanza on Saturday at Travers Park in Jackson Heights to raise awareness and allow visitors to learn more about street safety while also getting the chance to participate in activities.

One of the interactive events, called the Kid Engineers Traffic Study, allowed students from I.S. 230, P.S. 69, P.S. 212, P.S. 280, the Academy for Careers in Television and Film, the Baccalaureate School for Global Education, McClancy High School and Voice Charter School to assist in documenting traffic conditions down 34th Avenue between 74th and 80th streets.

The study was chosen for that particular stretch in Jackson Heights, which has a speed limit of 30 mph, because it is parallel to Northern Boulevard, is a major bike route and is near three schools and several parks, according to organizers.

“Providing the tools and knowledge on how to safely navigate the streets of our neighborhoods can help reduce accidents and improve the quality of life for all members of our community,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm, who joined the students as they conducted the study.

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The students measured traffic speeds using radar guns westbound on 34th Avenue at 75th Street and eastbound on the avenue at 79th Street.

According to the students’ data, with more than 100 measurements taken, about 17 percent of the vehicles traveled 31 mph or faster at 75th Street, while 7 percent exceeded the limit at 79th Street.

Traffic was light compared to weekday traffic, according to organizers. Other notes taken at the sites included vehicles running red lights.

The final field study involved intersection safety observations.

The “kid engineers” examined driver, pedestrian and cyclist behaviors at 76th, 77th, and 80th streets along 34th Avenue.

Students collected data on vehicles stopping in crosswalks while ignoring painted stop lines, drivers using hand-held cellphones, and pedestrians talking on cellphones as they crossed the intersections. During this time the students also talked about ways pedestrians should stay safe while crossing the streets.

Other information collected involved two near collisions, vehicles turning without signals, cyclists running red lights and pedestrians walking out into the street before checking for traffic.

For the full data collected by the Kid Engineers Traffic Study, click here.

Throughout the day other events of the a Safer, Greener Streets Fair and Bike Bonanza included a Learn to Ride Class hosted by Bike New York, a helmet giveaway from the Department of Transportation and free youth bike repair by Recycle a Bicycle and Bike Yard.

“Our family spent the entire day talking about safety – bike safety and street safety,” said Veronica Marino, whose 11-year-old daughter participated in the events. “So many times it takes a tragedy to get people talking about these things.”

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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


By Queens Courier Staff | 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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