Paulina’s mother, Paula Rodriguez, said her daughter was a student at John Jay College studying social work and planned to begin a doctorial program at Columbia University this September.
Last week, Paulina’s family members, friends and elected officials stood at the intersection under a newly installed traffic light to tell the community the impact and severity of speeding in Cambria Heights, as well as the need for additional traffic calming measures.
“Shame on them, first of all, that it had to take my daughter’s life and maybe others, but I thank them for putting the traffic lights in as speedy as they did,” Paula said. “My child, even in death, is already saving lives.”
Paula is currently bringing a wrongful death lawsuit against the city in response to her daughter’s death.
Standing with the family, Councilman Leroy Comrie announced that he is currently pushing for legislation to ask police to check security cameras, traffic cameras and for residents to provide any pictures or recordings following an accident.
“Almost everyone has cameras on their storefronts now or their personal homes have cameras, and we’re asking the police department to look at those cameras,” Comrie said.
He explained that in today’s digital world, there is a responsibility to crack down on hit-and-run suspects and to better diagnose the aftermath of a fatal accident.
Comrie remembers growing up near the deadly intersection, and says it has been a long time coming for something to be done about this particular intersection.
“This is a light that’s been long overdue,” he said. “This has always been a difficult intersection to maneuver and unfortunately it took Paulina’s tragic death to get this traffic light installed.”
Comrie added that there was previously no light from 221st Street to 229th Street, and while the new traffic light is a step in the right direction, it is just one of many ways to tackle the issue.
Dalila Hall, Queens borough commissioner for the Department of Transportation, assured the city has been working with Community Board 12 on additional traffic calming measures for the area.
“This could include some markings to narrow down the road that should send messages to drivers that they need to slow down,” Hall said. “In the next couple of weeks we’re going to get our speed board out here.”
Speed Board Radar devices are set out at dangerous intersections to clock speeds and notify drivers they are driving too fast.
“Some of them, if you’re going over the limit, it turns into a walking skeleton to really drive the message home that you need to slow down and you’re being a danger,” she explained.
While these methods may raise some awareness, Hall stressed that drivers breaking the speed limit are a common occurrence and a difficult problem to tackle.
“Traffic signals aren’t speed-control devices, they’re devices to control the right-of-way and sometimes when you install a signal you can actually worsen the speeding problem,” she explained. “When people see it’s about to change and they want to make the light, they speed up to make the light, and that’s why we’re looking at these other improvements.”
Assemblywoman Barbara Clark was on hand to support the family and stress the need for traffic-calming measures in the area.
“What we have in this community is a lot of cars driving around and often they are driving too fast,” Clark said. “It will help at this intersection, but what we want is people to slow down, honor the stop signs and notice what other drives are doing.”
She added that the stoplight is a start in raising the awareness in the neighborhood, however more still needs to be done.
“Hopefully we’ll get enough attention, people will stop and think before they move and hopefully it will prevent tragedies like this from ever happening again,” she said. “All you can do is hope and do what you can and pray.”