By Bill Parry
Outraged by the tragic death of a 4-year-old boy in October, hundreds took to the streets of Corona and Jackson Heights Tuesday night to demand better traffic safety and strict enforcement of traffic laws.
The event was planned by the group Three Children Too Many, formed after Olvin Yhair Figueroa of Corona was struck and killed by a driver charged with being drunk as the tot crossed the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Junction Boulevard with his pregnant mother.
“This is the culmination of a year of carnage on our streets,” said co-founder Cristina Furlong, who also pointed to the deaths of two others: 11-year old Miguel Torres, killed on Northern Boulevard last December, and 19-year old Luis Bravo, of Jackson Heights, who was struck and killed in Woodside, as a call to action.
More than 60 people fought off the bitter cold and gathered at the Langston Hughes Library, at 100-01 Northern Blvd., where City Councilwoman Julissa Ferraras (D-East Elmhurst) spoke to the crowd.
“We need to send a clear message that we have a crisis in our neighborhoods,” Ferreras said. “We need the Department of Transportation to increase the size of our slow zones and add traffic islands.”
The councilwoman said the mindset at the city agency has to change as well.
“Everytime we ask for these things, we’re told that there aren’t enough accidents. Enough is enough,” she said.
After the speech, the group marched along Northern Boulevard, stopping at a memorial that marks the spot where Olvin Figueroa was killed.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) spoke to the crowd, saying, “The deaths of three children, here in our community, are a painful and sobering reminder that there is much more that needs to be done.”
The crowd of marchers grew to 100 as it moved on to St. Mark’s Church, at 95-18 Northern Blvd., where the marching band from Luis Bravo’s school, IS 230, performed and city Public Advocate-elect Letitia James spoke to the children of the community and gave them credit for taking part in the march.
The crowd continued on to 37th Avenue, where 60 more people were waiting for another rally at the post office.
A statement from U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) was read aloud.
“We must redouble our efforts to ensure necessary traffic-calming solutions are put in place to protect all pedestrians,” the statement said. “The residents of Jackson Heights and Corona deserve to walk the streets of their neighborhood without the fear of being struck by a vehicle.”
Dr. Laura Newman, a psychologist and co-founder of the group Three Children Too Many, said, “The event was a huge success. It was simultaneously painful and the most hopeful thing we’ve ever participated in.”
“To have over 200 people take part was absolutely terrific considering it was our first event,” Furlong said. “I’d call it an unqualified success.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.