Astoria electeds ask for public’s help in fatal hit-and-run

By Bill Parry

Elected officials and community activists in Astoria are calling on the public to come forward with information relating to Wednesday night’s fatal hit-and-run.

The NYPD released surveillance video of the tragic incident that occurred just before 11 p.m. near the intersection of 21st Street and 30th Road.

Grainy video images show the 45-year-old victim just before he is struck by a silver four-door sedan. The victim, whose name has not been released, died shortly afterwards and the driver fled southbound on 21st Street, police said.

“There is video of the incident but the 114th Precinct has no license plate and no identity,” Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said during a Friday gathering of officials at the location of the hit-and-run. “Anyone who saw something, we’re asking them to please, please come forward. Give information anonymously and make sure this killer is brought to justice and make our streets safer.”

He said anyone with a tip could call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS.

Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) called leaving the scene of an accident a cowardly and despicable act.

“Too many of our neighbors are getting killed or hurt on our streets at the hands of reckless drivers,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris said. “It is unfortunate that yet another innocent life has been taken.”

Gianaris renewed his call for state lawmakers to pass his legislation that would toughen penalties for hit-and-runs.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who represents part of 21st Street, had a similar measure passed by the City Council in 2014 and toughened the penalties last Jan.

“I just crossed 21st Street coming here and it feels dangerous every time I do,” he said. “The DOT needs to do something about this right away.”

NYPD data shows that the intersection was the scene of 10 crashes in 2015, one that left a pedestrian injured and one that left a cyclist injured. There is no crosswalk or stop sign at the intersection on a thoroughfare that carries 1,000 vehicles an hour according to the Department of Transportation.

Constantinides has been requesting traffic calming measures at the intersection since he took office in 2014 because of the proximity of school, housing, and the Variety Boys & Girls club.

“We advise all of our children to avoid this intersection,” Variety Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Matthew Troy said. “In addition to the latest incident, we are aware of multiple serious car accidents that occurred at this same location within the past six months. On behalf of the hundreds of children and their families that attend the Variety Boys & Girls Club each day, we urge the city to immediately install a crosswalk and traffic signal.”

A DOT spokesman said the agency studied the location for a traffic light in the past and decided against installing one.

“Although it did not meet the criteria at the time, we are taking another look at the intersection for potential safety enhancement,” he said.

Activists from Transportation Alternatives and the Coalition for Street Calming on 21st Street have requested a full “road diet” that would make the heavily trafficked street safer for the residential neighborhood. The DOT came up with a plan for portions on 21st Street in March 2015 that did not include the intersection with 30th Road.

“There is a level of frustration,” Peter Beadle, a volunteer with TA’s Queens Committee, said. “We were here last year when the DOT rolled out there plan and I said it isn’t enough. It’s way too high a price to say I told you so.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

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