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.”