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Pols and community leaders rally after fatal hit-and-run in Flushing

By Madina Toure

Following a fatal hit-and-run accident early Sunday morning at College Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, elected officials and community leaders are calling for improved safety and awareness in the area.

At about 1:09 a.m., police responded to a call of a pedestrian hit by a vehicle near 40-05 College Point Blvd.

Upon arrival, officers discovered Mariano Contreras, 41, of Corona, unconscious and unresponsive in the street, police said. At a rally Tuesday in front of the Bland Houses at 40-21 College Point Blvd., state Sen. Ron Kim (D-Flushing) suggested making improvements, such as a pedestrian bridge and stronger penalties in hit-and-run cases.

“We’re going to get so much more foot traffic in the next five to 10 years,” Kim said.

State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) noted that Flushing does not have one block without scaffolding and said that Albany has to come up with more traffic laws. She also noted that “pedestrians and drivers alike have a responsibility to obey the traffic laws.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero website shows that every intersection along a 10-block stretch of College Point Boulevard recorded at least one injury in the last year, with the highest number of injuries—11—at the intersection of College Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue.

State Sen. Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) is the author of a Vision Zero bill to increase penalties for drivers who kill or injure someone while driving on a suspended license.

“Queens is littered with dangerous intersections,” Gianaris said.

A preliminary investigation shows that Contreras was trying to cross College Point Boulevard outside of any marked crosswalks, officials said.

He entered the northbound lane when he was struck by a vehicle that appeared to be a dark-colored 2014/2015 dark-colored Jeep Grand Cherokee, police said. The vehicle fled the scene northbound on College Point Boulevard.

Contreras was thrown to the pavement, coming to rest in the right shoulder of the northbound lane, police added.

There were no arrests and an investigation was ongoing by the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, according to a police spokeswoman.

Leola Wayne, president of the Bland Houses Tenant Association, asked pedestrians and drivers in the neighborhood to be more cautious when they cross the area’s streets.

“It is very important that we start being careful when we cross these intersections,” Wayne said.

City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said that downtown Flushing has been undergoing a period of rapid growth that should be matched with stronger safeguards against traffic accidents.

“The 109th Precinct and Related Companies have both worked to provide traffic safety agents during periods of high traffic at this intersection and it must be the responsibility of the city of New York to ensure future development does not turn this heavily traveled roadway into a safety hazard,” Koo said in a statement.

Cristina Furlong, co-founder of advocacy group Make Queens Safer, said that the city Department of Transportation has made improvements to the area, including adding pedestrian islands.

She said Contreras’ death was not an accident, calling on the driver to come forward.

“It was not an accident as far as we know, because the investigation is not complete,” Furlong said.

Dian Yu, executive director of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District, said that over the past five years, traffic has worsened in the area.

“The traffic in this community has deteriorated year after year,” Yu said.

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

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