Flushing intersection to be named after Flushing toddler hit by car

By Madina Toure

The City Council voted to rename an intersection in downtown Flushing after Allison Liao, a 3-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a driver in October 2013.

The northeast corridor of Cherry Avenue and Main Street will be named “Allison Hope Liao Way” in memory of Liao, who was hit by an SUV driven by Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh while crossing at the intersection with her grandmother on Oct. 6, 2013.

The official unveiling of the street sign will be announced at a future date, according to City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who sponsored the street renaming.

“As drivers pass Allison Hope Liao Way, it is our hope that they recall her parents’ poignant question, ‘Is it worth it? If you’re in a hurry and running late; if you are impatient because of traffic; if you want to send a text, or make a phone call; if you are distracted for any reason while behind the wheel, is it worth the life of Allison Liao?’” Koo said in a statement. “We all know the answer to these questions.”

Hsi-Pei Liao, Allison’s father, said his family wanted the street renamed not only because it is where she died but to represent where their activism started.

“For us, it’s a continuation, a starting point to make sure her story is told and to make sure to see more changes in the future,” Liao said.

Steve Vaccaro, the family’s lawyer, said the sign reminds people of the importance of being responsible while driving.

“I think it’s very significant that Main Street in Flushing, which is the center of so much life for Chinese Americans here, has this sign memorializing Allison Liao and what happened.”

Her death and the advocacy by her parents, Liao and Amy Tam, led to a series of citywide traffic safety campaigns, including parts of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

The Liao family helped form Families for Safe Streets, an advocacy group made up of families who lost loved ones or experienced serious injuries due to traffic violence.

Laura Newman, one of the founding members of Make Queens Safer, said the Liao family’s fortitude is “pretty astounding.”

“The fact that we’re able to see a street named after their beloved daughter Allison, it doesn’t bring her back but at least it can serve as a testimony to the beautiful child that she was and to the tragic loss they endured in support of the work that they’re doing,” Newman said.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) introduced a bill to increase penalties for vehicular homicide that passed in the Senate but not the state Assembly. She commended the Liao family’s advocacy efforts.

“They have participated with other parents to try to change the laws and I have so much respect for them as a result,” Stavisky said.

City Councilman Rory Lancman (D-Hillcrest) agreed.

“Renaming this street corner in Allison Liao’s memory is a fitting tribute to a young girl whose life was cut short by a reckless driver, but whose example inspired our city to take action to protect all who use our streets from suffering similar tragedies,” Lancman said in a statement.

There will be a conference Aug. 19 in Brooklyn Supreme Court in a civil case against Abu-Zayedeh, Vaccaro said.

If no resolution is reached, a trial will most likely take place in September, he said.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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