After surge of traffic violence, Queens leaders demand safer streets especially for children

Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Following a tragic week on Queens streets where three pedestrians — 43-year-old Natalia Garcia-Valencia, 58-year-old Elisa Bellere and 8-year-old Bayron Palomino Arroyo — were fatally struck by unsafe drivers, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards announced that he has allocated $1.5 million in capital funding for street safety improvements on three of the borough’s most dangerous roadways.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards announced he has allocated $1.5 million for safety upgrades on Astoria Boulevard, Utopia Parkway and Beach Channel Drive on Monday. Photo courtesy of the Queens Borough President’s office

Richards made the announcement at 82nd Street and Astoria Boulevard in East Elmhurst on Monday morning, about a mile from where the 8-year-old boy was struck and killed by an impatient pickup truck driver from Flushing on Mar. 13 as he walked in the crosswalk at 31st Avenue and 101st Street with him mother and brother, who was injured.

Palomino’s classmates at P.S. 110Q held up his photo during a rally at the school last Friday. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Richards said there have already been 41 crashes with 30 injuries so far this year on Astoria Boulevard alone so he has earmarked $500,000 for safety upgrades such as curb extensions, new crosswalks, bus bulbs, new sidewalks, median tip extensions and left turn bays on Astoria Boulevard along with $500,000 each to similar upgrades on Utopia Parkway and Beach Channel Drive.

Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“The combination of poorly designed streets and unsafe drivers threaten our families. So we must take action on both. That’s what we’re doing in Queens, starting with $1.5 million in funding I have allocated to make a trio of high-trafficked borough streets safer for all,” Richards said. “We also need the state legislature to pass Sammy’s Law immediately. New York City, not Albany, should control speed limits on New York City streets. In the name of all those lost to traffic violence, we cannot wait any longer to act. Safer streets and lower speeds save lives.”

Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

On Friday afternoon, Richards joined lawmakers from across the borough, parents, children and community groups at P.S. 110Q in East Elmhurst for an Emergency Children’s March for Safe Streets.

“We, as adults and elected officials, have a responsibility to keep our kids safe,” state Senator Jessica Ramos said. “Our march made clear demands with one voice: we want Sammy‘s Law, we want scramble crosswalks, and we want at least one crossing guard at every school across the city.”

Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Ramos noted that traffic violence has killed more than 100 children since Vision Zero was implemented a decade ago, and more than half of the children killed in the last two years were from Queens.

Raul Ampuero became a member of Families for Safe Streets after his 9-year-old son Giovanni was fatally struck in 2018 by an elderly driver on Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights.

Families for Safe Streets member Raul Ampuero holds up a photo of 8-year-old Bayron Palomino Arroyo who was struck and killed on Mar. 13. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

“The pain that traffic violence brings is something that no family should have to experience,” Ampuero said while holding up a photo of Bayron. “By implementing the requirements of the NYC Streets Plan, we can prevent crashes and bring New York City closer to achieving Vision Zero.”

He called on the Adams administration to fast-track projects across all five boroughs.

“With bold action, we can stop traffic violence and build safe streets in all neighborhoods,” Ampuero said.

Flushing has borne the brunt of pedestrian fatalities over the last decade, surpassing any other area in New York City.

“We have reached crisis levels of preventable traffic crashes and we need to act now,” Assemblymember Ron Kim said. “Our children are seemingly in harm’s way any time they approach a crosswalk.”

Kim attended the funeral of 3-year-old Quintus Chen who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Nov. 29 on College Point Boulevard.

“We can not inflict any more pain and suffering on the families who are left picking up the pieces after their loved one is gone,” Kim said.

Communities across Queens have lost neighbors in East Elmhurst, Maspeth, Sunnyside, and Bayside in just the past week. State Senator John Liu, a member of the Transportation Committee, said the legislature needs to pass Sammy’s Law, which would allow New York City to lower the speed limit.

“As New Yorkers, we deserve the power to control our own speed limits because it’s a proven way of curbing reckless driving,” Liu said. “For now, we grieve with the family of Bayron Palomino Arroyo, a young life full of promise and unfairly taken too soon. Let’s pass the bill for Bayron, Sammy, Allison Hope Liao, and the countless other innocent victims of traffic violence whose legacies live on in the advocacy of everyone here today, protecting the lives of New Yorkers for generations to come.”

In addition to passing Sammy’s Law, advocates called for the Adams administration to restore funding for the nearly 500 crossing guards who were cut from the city budget.

“Each of these deaths is entirely preventable, and with the political will to change our streets, we can end traffic deaths,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said. “Every single family in Queens and throughout the five boroughs deserves better, and we will fight alongside them until every street, every intersection, and every sidewalk is safe.”