Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

A block away from where an 11-year-old boy was run over by a dump truck in December, about 100 people attended City Councilman Daniel Dromm’s (D-Jackson Heights) forum Tuesday centered on improving traffic in Jackson Heights.

“This is what I thought a very good turnout,” Dromm said, “but it’s an interest of concern.”

The councilman said he had wanted to do more to improve traffic safety in Jackson Heights and had been in discussions with the city Department of Transportation, but the death of Miguel Torres, who was struck by the rear wheels of a white dump truck turning right onto Northern Boulevard from 80th Street, spurred him to get into greater discussions with the DOT. Police had not found the driver as of Wednesday afternoon.

“That just increased the urgency with which we needed to address some of these problems,” Dromm said.

The panel was held at IS 145, at 33-34 80th St. in Jackson Heights, where Torres went to school. Representatives from the 115th Precinct, the DOT and Transportation Alternatives, a public transportation advocacy group, attended. Transportation Alternatives and the civic group Jackson Heights Green Alliance co-hosted the event with Dromm.

The forum discussed both preventive and enforcement measures when dealing with traffic safety, which Yu-Ting Liu, of Transportation Alternatives, referred to as the “carrot” and the “stick” approach.

“There’s a lot of pedestrian safety and traffic calming programs that are available,” Liu said.

Two of the most commonly discussed solutions were speed tracking cameras and slow zones. Queens Deputy Borough Commissioner Delilah Hall said the DOT is in favor of speed tracking cameras, which have the potential to warn motorists speeding the same way that red light cameras have prevented drivers from running the lights.

Liu said getting drivers to slow down is of grave importance as speeding kills four times as many people as drunk driving and the difference between being hit at 30 mph and 40 mph is an 80 percent survival rate vs. a 70 percent death rate.

“Speeding matters,” she said. “Every mile per hour matters.”

The developed slow zones, which were implemented in July 2012, set 20 mph zones in residential areas as well as adding speed bumps and other traffic-calming measures. Some sections of Jackson Heights, Corona, Elmhurst and Auburndale received slow zones, but to do this the area must have natural boundaries and must not be a bus or truck route.

As a major thoroughfare, the intersection where Miguel was hit could not become a slow zone, Hall said.

“We will continue to work with you on how to make Northern Boulevard safer,” Hall said.

Liu said to make changes in terms of traffic safety, it is important to be specific, organized and articulate about what you want as a community.

“Get organized about what your problem is, document it and work with your local elected officials,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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