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Photo by Alex Robinson
By Alex Robinson

Make Queens Safer hosted a town hall meeting Sunday evening to discuss a growing number of pedestrian deaths with elected officials, police and a representative from the city Department of Transportation.

Dozens of concerned residents came to the meeting to ask questions about what the city and state were doing to combat reckless driving on Queens’ streets.

“There’s something wrong when young children can’t even cross the streets and sidewalks in safety to and from school. More needs to be done,” U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) said to the meeting at Renaissance Charter High School, at 35-59 81st St. “We deserve to live in a more livable place, and that means that we demand we have safer streets.”

Make Queens Safer is an advocacy group that formed after a 4-year-old boy was hit and killed by a car in October while he was crossing the street with his mother on Northern Boulevard.

“We decided that couldn’t go unnoticed,” said co-founder Christina Furlong “Since then, countless children have been killed in our streets across the borough.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio recently announced an attempt by his administration to completely eradicate pedestrian deaths by using a Swedish approach to traffic safety called Vision Zero. He is scheduled to make an announcement with a detailed outline of the plan Feb. 15.

Make Queens Safer and residents were hoping they might get answers and short-term solutions to problems at particularly dangerous intersections at the meeting, but Nicole Garcia, a DOT representative, was unable to divulge much specific information before the mayor’s announcement.

“In advance of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero announcement, I can’t really say too much about what’s in store,” she said. “I’m primarily here to listen to your concerns and report them back to the agency so we can work together in the future.”

State Assemblymen Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights) and state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) also attended the meeting and took questions on what the state government is doing to improve safety for pedestrians.

Moya said he is supporting a piece of legislation that would lower the city’s speed limit to 20 miles per hour and another bill that would make injuring someone while driving with a suspended license a Class E felony.

The two state lawmakers, however, acknowledged the limitations of trying to address city issues in the state chambers. Peralta also explained the difficulty of getting state lawmakers to provide the city with home rule over such issues.

“Allowing another municipality to do their own thing without coming to Albany waters down the power of Albany and some individuals don’t like to give that up,” he said.

Although they were not able to get the specific answers they were seeking, organizers said they were happy with the meeting.

“There is always more talk than action, but every time there is a lot of talk, if there are a few steps forward, then we’re going in the right direction and we’re going to solve problems,” cofounder Dr. Laura Newman said.

At the end of the meeting, the group’s organizers encouraged everyone to sign a pledge they distributed on yellow paper called the Safe Driver’s Pledge.

“I take this pledge because I never want to kill or injure a person because I am driving recklessly, thoughtlessly, selfishly or angrily,” the first line read.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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