By Bill Parry
More than 150 concerned Jackson Heights residents packed into the Jewish Center on 37th Avenue for a pedestrian safety town hall meeting last week featuring elected leaders, NYPD officers from the 115th Precinct and officials from the city’s Department of Transportation.
City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) hosted the event in the wake of the death of 67-year-old Henry Boimel, a resident of 35th Avenue, who was struck and killed by an Uber driver while crossing 37th Avenue at 76th Street Jan. 18. Dinesh Bhattarai, 45, was arrested and charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian in a marked crosswalk, according to the NYPD.
“Jackson Heights is a safer place thanks to the slow zones, traffic calming measures and green space I have fought for and secured, but there is more work to be done,” Dromm said. “Henry Boimel’s tragic death reminds us of the need for increased law enforcement and additional safety measures. I will continue to work with community stakeholders to make our streets safer.”
State Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) noted the increased population in Jackson Heights and its neighboring communities.
“Jackson Heights is more congested than it has ever been, both in terms of street and foot traffic,” Moya said. “Safety precautions have failed to scale with this dramatic increase, and lives are at risk as a result. It is immediately clear to anyone walking down these streets that drivers are reckless and, to make matters worse, their vision is constantly obstructed by double-parked trucks and poorly displayed traffic signage.”
Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) discussed several measures he has introduced in Albany to further reduce safety risks among pedestrians, especially young people, and the need to educate them about traffic dangers.
“As many have said, we need to invest in speed cameras, and ensure they are installed in every school zone in the city,” DenDekker said.
Meanwhile, Make Queens Safer, the Jackson Heights-based safe streets advocates, crunched NYPD traffic data and found that traffic fatalities in Queens declined for a third straight year with a drop of 32 percent, from 93 fatalities is 2013 to 63 fatalities in 2016.
Make Queens Safer’s study, called “Tracking Progress: Vision Zero Year Three,” also found that in 2016, there were 2,607 pedestrians injured in Queens by motor vehicles, a decline of 7 percent from 2013, but an increase of 7 percent from 2015.