By Bill Parry
The city is planning a reconstruction for the street in front of LaGuardia Community College, where a high school student was struck and killed and four others were injured when a minivan went out of control in March 2013.
Tenzin Drudak, a 16-year-old from Tibet, who lived in Woodside, was on his way to the Applied Communications High School when the fatal crash occurred.
Now the city Department of Transportation has drawn up a proposal for Thomson Avenue between Skillman Avenue and Van Damn Avenue, which will narrow the northern sidewalk in order to widen the south sidewalk where more than 2,000 pedestrians walk during peak hours. LaGuardia Community College, Bard High School, the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center and large city offices are all located along the four-block stretch of Thomson Avenue.
The proposal, which is part of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, would also add four feet to the roadway with four of the six lanes widened by one foot each to accommodate the high volume of traffic. A DOT spokesman said feedback from elected officials on this project has been positive.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who organized several rallies demanding better safety measures following Drudak’s death, argued at the time that the DOT was more concerned about getting cars across the Queensborough Bridge and into Manhattan as quickly as possible.
“Students should not have to risk their lives going to school,” he said.
The DOT did implement some measures in the area following Drudak’s death, including the elimination of a series of turns. In addition, the DOT created a 550-square-foot pedestrian space that blocked the right turn from Thomson Avenue onto Skillman Avenue.
But LaGuardia Community College pushed for more safety improvements.
“This is a great beginning that can make Thomson Avenue safer for our more than 50,000 students as well as for our faculty and staff,” LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow said. “We strongly support widening the sidewalks in front of our campus buildings to reduce crowding during peak hours that can create dangerous situations given the fast moving bridge traffic on the street. We look forward to discussing this plan in depth with the city of New York Department of Transportation to ensure the safety of all pedestrians in our neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr