By Madina Toure
The street sign for Allison Hope Liao Way was unveiled in Flushing last Friday afternoon, honoring the 3-year-old girl who was hit by a driver while crossing the intersection in 2013.
In a ceremony hosted by City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) at the northeast corner of Cherry Avenue and Main Street, where the street sign now stands, elected officials and Allison’s parents said the sign would encourage driver and pedestrian safety.
“If you want to send a text or make a phone call, if you are crossing the street outside the crosswalk or looking on your phone, if you are distracted for any reason while behind the wheel, it’s not worth the life of Allison Liao,” Koo said during the ceremony. “It’s not worth the life of anyone. But today, I believe we can take some small comfort, for now we have Allison Hope Liao Way to guide us.”
Liao was hit by an SUV driven by Ahmad Abu-Zayedeh on Oct. 6, 2013 while crossing at the intersection with her grandmother. The Liao family started Families for Safer Streets, an advocacy group that fights against reckless driving.
Abu-Zayedeh stayed at the scene of the crash. No criminal charges were filed and his blood alcohol content level was below the legal limit. The Liaos learned the case was dismissed while examining a lawsuit they had filed against Abu-Zayedeh in Brooklyn Supreme Court.
Hsi-Pei Liao, Allison’s father, said the Cherry Avenue site represents the family’s advocacy work.
“This is the location where we lost our daughter to a distracted driver, but it’s also the spot where our advocacy and our memory started and this is how we want to remember this corner,” he said. “Sharing her story helps lower the speed limit, was influential in passing the right-of-way law and increased the number of safety cameras to monitor speed.”
His wife, Amy Tam-Liao, said Allison has had a substantial effect on the world.
“We will always remember our Ally as a smart, sassy 3-year-old that marches to the beat of her own drum,” she said. “We intentionally named her Hope to express someday she would make the world a better place. Though this was not the way we wanted it or expected, she has made a big impact in her own special way.”
Koo gave the family a duplicate copy of the street sign and the pen Mayor Bill de Blasio used to sign the legislation proposing the street renaming.
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said the family’s work has led to fewer accidents and noted a 26 percent reduction in fatalities over the last 12 months in the Community Board 7 area.
But she said it does not bring Allison back.
“There are no words to express the grief that a family must face,” Stavisky said.
Assistant Transportation Commissioner of Education and Outreach Kim Wiley-Schwartz said the family’s efforts have led to the creation of the Behind the Wheels series for young drivers in outer Queens and parts of Staten Island and the Bronx.
“Their constant bravery to stand up in front of people and to talk about Ally and this tragedy has inspired us and we feel that this story can really make a change for young drivers as they take the wheel themselves,” Wiley-Schwartz said.
State Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and representatives for the offices of state Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows) and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) also spoke.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour