109th Pct. captain sheds light on jaywalking campaign

By Madina Toure

The 109th Precinct’s commanding officer clarified the precinct’s plans to bolster pedestrian safety but said news reports inaccurately stated that the precinct was issuing summons to jaywalkers .

Capt. Thomas Conforti met with elected officials and informed them that in two of three recent pedestrian fatalities in Flushing the pedestrians were jaywalking.

The result of that meeting was an educational campaign consisting of informational cards in multiple languages focusing on pedestrians using Kissena Boulevard, Main Street and 41st Avenue.

No jaywalking summons have been issued since the campaign launched and officers have given out 100 to 150 cards to jaywalkers, Conforti said.

“When you have three pedestrians killed in one month, it sort of becomes a crisis, and that’s what we do in the NYPD,” he said. “We look to prevent crises from happening and once they do develop, how do we fix them and save lives.”

He said news reports failed to mention several issues discussed during the meeting. Those issues include the impact of the upcoming Select Bus Service route and the use of auxiliary officers.

“The message that wasn’t put out there is that gates were discussed, the bus lanes were discussed, the issuance of the deployment of auxiliary officers was discussed,” he said.

He explained that the campaign is not about issuing summonses to people who jaywalk, but if the campaign does not work, the precinct would consider some kind of enforcement.

On Nov. 5, Aglaia Gouaris, 84, was struck and killed by a private bus in downtown Flushing, according to the police. Just a few days prior, a 70-year-old man driving a 2004 Honda Odyssey was traveling northbound on College Point Boulevard when he struck Luis Martinez, 59, of White Plains, N.Y., as he ran east on 41st Avenue across College Point Boulevard, police said.

In early October, Mariano Contreras, 41, was killed after being struck by a driver who fled the scene.

A preliminary investigation showed that Contreras was trying to cross College Point Boulevard from east to west, mid-block, outside of any marked crosswalks, officials said. Chrissy Voskerichian, the outgoing president of the precinct’s community council, said both drivers and pedestrians need to be more cautious on the road.

“We need to slow down a little bit and we need to start thinking as human beings,” Voskerichian said.

The meeting was also a bittersweet time for Voskerichian, who is stepping down from the position after eight years to take an administrative position in the NYPD.

City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) presented Voskerichian with a proclamation on behalf of the City Council. Conforti, residents and community and civic leaders also praised Voskerichian’s work.

She said that in her eight years on the council, it has become very involved in the community.

“We made this council into something that I am so proud of and that all of you should be so proud of, because it’s different,” Voskerichian said.

Brian Maguire, the former commanding officer for the 109th Precinct, also made an appearance at the meeting.

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