By Bill Parry
A 6-year-old kindergarten student at PS 228 in Jackson Heights will need many months to recover from injuries sustained when she and her mother were struck by a vehicle while crossing Northern Boulevard at 92nd Street one morning last week.
Chunli Mendoza needed surgery for a fractured pelvis and remains at Elmhurst Hospital Center, according to her father Bruce. Her mother suffered a fractured left foot in the June 24 collision.
The two were struck by a pickup truck driven by an off-duty police officer from the 115th Precinct who was leaving the station house around 8:30 a.m. The officer stayed on the scene and was not issued any summonses, according to the NYPD.
Deputy Inspector Michael Cody, commanding officer at the station house, called it “an accident with no criminality or discipline noted,” adding “we hope the young lady makes a complete recovery.”
The officer is “pretty torn up about this,” a source said.
“My daughter is still in the hospital trying to recover,” Bruce Mendoza said. “It’s going to take a long time, but we’ll have to take it one step at a time.”
Maria Jose Penaherrera was dropping off her daughter at PS 228 when she witnessed the collision.
“I saw the little girl and her mother on the ground,” she said. “I found out later at a PTA meeting that it was a police officer behind the wheel. We need a crossing guard at that intersection, that’s something we’ve been requesting for three years. That school is for pre-K through second-grade. That’s a lot of babies and mommies with strollers there.”
Make Queens Safer, the traffic safety advocacy group, held a rally at the school’s playground last Thursday.
“We are relieved that this crash did not end in another Northern Boulevard child death, as we continue to grieve the deaths of Miguel Torres, Noshat Nahain and Jahir Figueroa all killed crossing Northern Boulevard,” co-founder Laura Newman said. “As a parent, I must find a way to answer my 9-year-old’s question: ‘I thought we have Vision Zero and 25 mph now. Why are kids still getting hit?’ Our community demands safety enforcement officers on Northern Boulevard at the crossing for PS 228.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), who represents the district, proposed the Crossing Guard Safety Act that was passed in Albany last week.
“The number of children we’re seeing injured and killed on our streets by motorists demands that we move as quickly as possible to fill the 200 school crossing guard vacancies that exist around the city,” Peralta said. “I am hopeful that if signed by the governor, my Crossing Guard Safety Act will help in recruiting the guards needed to fill the vacancies and address emerging needs.”
The bill was introduced in 2012 and it would make intentional assault of a crossing guard a second-degree assault punishable by up to seven years in jail, the same protection offered to paramedics, nurses and emergency room personnel.
“There is simply no substitute for the direct, hands-on traffic control and help that a crossing guard provides to children on their way to and from school,” Peralta said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.