By Carlotta Mohamed
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) were scheduled to meet with the commissioner of the city Department of Transportation Friday to discuss traffic lighting changes along Northern Boulevard after a 9-year-old boy was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Jackson Heights.
Giovanni Ampuero was crossing 70th Street and Northern Boulevard with his mother April 28 when an 86-year-old driver making a left turn struck and killed Ampuero, according to Assemblyman DenDekker. Just days after Ampuero’s death, the DOT implemented a Leading Pedestrian Interval at the intersection where he died, which gives pedestrians a seven-second head start before cars can turn.
“While that is not exactly what we wanted, it is a step in the right direction. But what about the rest of Northern Boulevard?” said DenDekker.
DenDekker said that after U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and other elected officials from the city and state representing Northern Boulevard met WHEN?DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenburg in City Hall, the DOT agreed to walk along Northern Boulevard from 58th Street to Junction Boulevard to inspect every intersection.
“A study which began today will include local elected officials walking block by block with NYC DOT to review every intersection,” DenDekker said. “The immediate study will include LPI’s, All Pedestrian Phase Lighting, Split Phase Leading Pedestrian Lighting for the left turning lanes and other traffic turning calming recommendations.”
Ampuero is the fifth child involved in a fatal hit-and-run incident in Queens in less than 6 years along Northern Boulevard. In December 2012, Miguel Torres, an 11-year-old sixth-grade student at IS 145, was killed while crossing 80th Street and Northern Boulevard. In December 2017, Noshat Nahian, an 8-year-old third-grade student at PS 152 was struck and killed while crossing 61st Street and Northern Boulevard, according to DenDekker.
“They were all crossing in the crosswalk with a green signal when they were struck by drivers failing to yield to the pedestrians in the crosswalk,” DenDekker said. “We must try to prevent these terrible incidents. One way is to hold the drivers accountable for the terrible reckless operation of their vehicles and another is to try, by design, to make our roads safer.”
Zeeshan Anis, 35, of East Tremont in the Bronx, who attends the Baitul Ateeq Muslim Center every Friday on 62-17 Northern Blvd., said it is deadly for pedestrians trying to cross the road.
“I’ve been coming here for eight years now and the road conditions have not changed,” Anis said. “There are schoolchildren that have to cross these streets and sometimes cars don’t stop.”
Anis said there should be more of a police presence along the busy intersections on Northern Boulevard to make sure the children are safe.
Peralta said now is the time for the DOT to step up and put a stop to the unnecessary deaths on Northern Boulevard.
“We cannot allow Northern Boulevard to become the new old Queens Boulevard, which was known as the Boulevard of Death,” Peralta said.
Reach reporter Carlotta Mohamed by e-mail at cmoha