Ridgewood residents rally to end traffic violence following fatal hit-and-run

Maritza Namuche speaking at the rally (Photo by Rebecca Roche)

Ridgewood residents rallied with civic associations and elected officials on Wednesday, Aug. 17, to call for an end to traffic violence after a man in his 70s was killed in a hit and run on Sunday, Aug. 14. 

A 74-year-old man named Be Tran was killed in a hit and run on Sunday evening, Aug. 14, while crossing the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Seneca Avenue in Ridgewood. 

A 74-year-old man was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in Ridgewood, Queens, on Aug. 14, 2022. (Photo by Lloyd Mitchell)

The rally, organized by the Ridgewood Tenants Union (RTU) and Transportation Alternatives, was held just feet from where Tran was killed. 

Adrian King, the owner of King’s Juice Bar, witnessed the incident and said that he has been calling for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to install a traffic signal at Weirfield Street and Seneca Avenue, which is located in a school zone and is the only intersection on Seneca Avenue from St. Felix Avenue to Dekalb Avenue without a traffic signal. 

The business owner expressed his frustration at the lack of communication from the department and elected officials. 

“They (DOT) don’t answer the phone. You call the senator’s office, you call whoever’s office — it doesn’t matter. They’re non-responsive,” King said. 

Raquel Namuche, one of the organizers of the events, then read out an email from the Queens liaison for the DOT, which said, “We will be in touch about the study at Weirfield Street.” 

A DOT spokesperson told QNS that “the circumstances of this tragedy are terrible, and we join the community in mourning the loss of Mr. Tran following this hit & run. We will study this Ridgewood intersection for potential safety improvements.”

Photo by Rebecca Roche

Robert Diaz, who lives at Myrtle Avenue and Seneca Avenue, has been documenting accidents that occur at the intersection and granted QNS access to his videos. 

Martiza Namuche, a RUT member, said that she has been concerned about drivers in the area since her son began attending school at P.S. 77. Namuche also spoke about her frustration at the conditions for residents in the area. 

“The worker, Mr. Be Tran, who died this Sunday, showed us that the city does not care for our security. We the people of New York are facing problems with the increase of our rent. We have no affordable places to live and more than that, we have to run to save our lives,” Martiza said. 

Maritza Namuche speaking at the rally. (Photo by Rebecca Roche)

Senator Michael Gianaris detailed the process by which the DOT has to install a traffic signal. 

“The city has it backward. What the city does is they study an intersection and they score it. And part of the score is how many crashes have there been, how many people have been killed, how many people have been injured,” Gianaris said. “So they have to wait until that happens to get the score high enough to realize that the intersection needs protection.”

Senator Michael Gianaris (Photo by Rebecca Roche)

Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez highlighted her frustration around the circumstances of Tran’s death who was working as a delivery driver on the evening of the incident. 

“If we’re looking at crash statistics, if we’re looking at street murders, the amount of people of color and immigrants that are dying on our streets is worthy enough of calling it a public health crisis,” Gutierrez said. “Someone who is still working at 74, risking their life every single day to provide for their family and to contribute to an economy in a city that says, ‘I don’t care about your safety,’ is a slap in the face to his family and their story of coming here to the United States.”

Councilwoman Jennifer Gutierrez (Photo by Rebecca Roche)

Michelle Bounkousohn, another RTU member, concluded the rally by reading a poem in Vietnamese in memory of Be Tran, followed by a moment of silence.

The congregation then built a vigil at the intersection where his death occurred. 

Michelle Bounkousohn holding a photo of Be Tran. (Photo by Rebecca Roche)