And although there has been an increased presence from officers, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblywoman Marge Markey say more can be done to assure safer streets.
“Unfortunately the laws are way too weak,” Gianaris said at a press conference last weekend at the intersection where the elderly woman was killed on her walk to a bingo hall at the intersection. “There are lives being lost and people are not being brought to justice because of it.”
Gianaris recently introduced legislation in the State Senate that would make unlicensed driving a felony. Abel Tinoco, the driver of the 2002 Mitsubishi Montero that killed Hurtado, refused to take a breathalyzer following the accident and had a history of license suspensions, according to Gianaris.
“Until we change the laws and change policies, we are going to be standing here over and over again,” he said.
Markey announced that she too is introducing similar legislation this week in the Assembly that would make the crime a Class E felony, carrying a four-year prison sentence.
“It’s imperative that we make our driving regulations stronger so that people don’t lose their lives,” Markey said. “Maspeth has had several people in the past ten years killed while crossing Grand Avenue or 69th Street. It’s time that we put some teeth into legislation and hold people accountable for their deeds.”
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said she hopes the new legislation would deter unlicensed drivers from getting behind the wheel in the future.
“Too many New Yorker's lives are hanging in the balance when they are walking through the city because there are drivers that are not afraid to get behind the wheel and drive without licenses,” Crowley said.
The councilwoman previously called on the Department of Transportation to perform a study of Grand Avenue after a van veered off the street and injured five school children just up the road on 71st Street near I.S. 73.
“The DOT is putting together a plan to make the street safer,” she assured. “We hope that they have a plan that will help.”
Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said the legislation is long overdue.
“These are not isolated incidents, these are not accidents, these are preventable tragedies,” White said. “We can prevent this, we can put an end to these tragedies with this legislation that will finally let the punishment fit the crime of driving with a suspended license and mowing down innocent New Yorkers.”
Community advocate Dmytry Fedkowskyj met with members of the I.S. 73 PTA and P.S. 58 at the site of the accident this week to put out an additional call for traffic calming measures on the block.
“Nothing will change unless physical change takes place at this intersection,”Fedkowskyj said. “Not only do we have to make sure we hold the reckless driver responsible for Angela’s unfortunate and untimely death…but we also need to work together to make sure that we never have to lose another one of our community members to reckless driving again.”