Following the tragic death of 9-year-old Giovanni Ampuero last Saturday on Northern Boulevard in Woodside, local residents are holding a vigil and rally in his memory this weekend.
The Make Queens Safer organization and Transportation Alternatives Queens, in partnership with Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, will hold the rally at 5 p.m. on Saturday, May 5, near the site of the deadly hit-and-run: the corner of Northern Boulevard and 70th Street on the border of Woodside and Jackson Heights. Details for the vigil can be found on the Make Queens Safer Facebook page.
On April 28 at about 1:23 p.m., Ampuero and his mother Karen Manrique were walking across Northern Boulevard when they were struck by Juan Jimenez’s SUV. The young boy died after he was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital Center. The 86-year-old driver told law enforcement that he did not realize that he hit anyone with his car. There is currently a campaign on YouCaring to donate to Karen Manrique and her family during this difficult time.
The wake for Ampuero is on Thursday, May 3 from 2 to 9 p.m. at Funeral Home Drago. A funeral mass will be held at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on Friday, May 4 at 10 a.m.
Cristina Furlong, co-founder of Make Queens Safer said that she has been advocating for structural and rule changes to be made on Northern Boulevard. She added that the work done on Queens Boulevard is the ideal model for change, and the former “Boulevard of Death” has a revamped reputation because of it.
“They’ve had a 60 percent reduction of injuries on Queens Boulevard, which is an example of when [the Department of Transportation] decided to be proactive,” said Furlong.
The Queens advocate co-founded Make Queens Safer with Laura Newman in 2013, after three children were killed within 10 months on Northern Boulevard from car-related collisions.
“It’s really raw in our community. We can’t wait for children to die [to make a change],” Furlong said.
She added that changes to Northern Boulevard have been made, but “nothing comprehensive” has been done to fix the issue. Some of the changes made to Northern Boulevard include the construction of 11 islands from 61st to 102nd streets, according to the Department of Transportation.
After requests from local officials, the DOT proposed pedestrian safety improvements, including new crosswalks, simplified vehicular movements, turn restrictions and timing changes.
Local elected officials have passed laws and made proposals in favor of safe driving. Assemblyman DenDekker introduced two pieces of legislation in 2016 that would improve the effectiveness of speed cameras. According to the New York State Assembly’s website, the legislation would crack down on unsafe drivers and protect pedestrians from traffic-related crashes and fatalities.
Two important parts of the legislation were to allow speed cameras to be operational when school is not in session and ensuring that if a vehicle has five traffic camera violations within one year, the vehicle’s registration would be suspended for six months.
“I have a 9-year-old son and he’s the safest kid you can imagine. But there’s nothing that can protect him from a reckless driver. The fact that [collisions are] repeated is totally unacceptable,” Furlong said.
She also said that in addition to structural improvements, changes also had to be made within the Department of Motor Vehicles, including a driver test for senior people.
Assemblyman DenDekker and other elected officials will hold a press conference on Friday, May 4 at 2:30 p.m. sharp. It will take place at 70th Street and Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights.
Story updated on May 3 at 5:06 p.m.