Western Queens electeds react to latest hit-and-run tragedy

By Bill Parry

City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) took officials from the city’s Department of Transportation on a Wednesday morning walking tour of the intersection where Ovidio Jaramillo was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver last week. The two hope that the DOT improves safety conditions at Northern Boulevard and Junction Boulevard, which has been the site of 25 crashes so far this year leading to eight injuries and one death, according to the NYPD.

“It is urgent that we make safety improvements not only at the corner where Ovidio and so many others have been killed, but at dangerous streets throughout Corona and East Elmhurst,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “DOT coming out to the district today shows that they understand the urgency and is being responsive.”

The group also visited a roundabout at Ditmars Boulevard and 102nd Street in East Elmhurst, where speeding cars cause many collisions. Peralta handed DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia his safety redesign plans for the area around 90th Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

During a rally at the intersection last week, Peralta announced that he would introduce legislation mandating that the DOT create a program on “the dangers of being a distracted pedestrian” based on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ‘Don’t Text and Drive’ campaign.

“The DOT is the city’s expert on road and street safety, so they are the best fit to orchestrate this public awareness campaign, so long as New Yorkers in all five boroughs get the message that distracted walking is unsafe walking,” Peralta said. “We can’t always protect the public against reckless drivers and their bad decisions, but we must ensure that we all work together to reduce the odds of pedestrians falling victim to unsafe motorists.”

Meanwhile, with nearly 40,000 hit-and-run crashes citywide this year, 4,000 of which involved a person being hit, the City Council took action Wednesday by voting to strengthen Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s “Justice for Hit-and-Run Victims Act passed in 2014. For the first time the city will be able to impose penalties up to $20,000 to repeat offenders who are found guilty of hit-and-run crashes.

A second bill will require the NYPD to expand its existing hit-and-run reporting to include data on civil penalties which are levied in hit-and-run crashes.

“These bills are a strong deterrent against repeat reckless drivers who continue to wreak havoc on our city’s streets,” Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. He also thanked Martha Puruncajas for her courage and advocacy for safer streets. Her son Luis Bravo was killed in 2013.

“After losing her son Luis Bravo to a hit-and-run crash in Woodside, she has helped lead a campaign to get justice for her family as well as so many more New Yorkers who are suffering,” Van Bramer said. “Martha is an inspiration to me and so many other safe street advocates who are fighting to make Vision Zero a reality.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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