Multiple Pedestrian Deaths Across Boro in One Week Spark Mourning and Protest Plans

By Celia Bernhardt |

It’s been a deadly week for pedestrians in Queens: at least three were fatally struck by a vehicle in separate incidents. 

On Wednesday, March 13, eight-year-old Bayron Palmoni Arroyo and 10-year-old Bradley Palomino were struck by a 52-year-old with a history of reckless driving. The two brothers were walking with their mother in a crosswalk at 31st Ave and 100th St in East Elmhurst when a pickup truck hit them. Bayron died at the scene. 

The driver, Jose Barcia, is being charged with criminally negligent homicide, failure to yield to a pedestrian, failure to exercise due care, and driving at an unsafe speed. He pleaded not guilty to the homicide charge, and was let out on supervised release. Streetsblog NYC reported that Barcia’s license currently remains valid, and that no restrictions have been placed on his use of a car. ABC7 reported that Barcia has been ordered to return to court June 24. 

Just a day before, a fatal crash occured in Middle Village. 43-year-old Natalia Garcia-Valencia was crossing 80th st when she was struck, and later died at Elmhurst Hospital. 38-year-old Mitchell Roderick, a Long Island resident, made a right turn that is illegal for trucks not making local deliveries, Streetsblog NYC reported. He was driving a Department of Environmental Protection truck. 

Then on Thursday, March 14, 58-year-old Elisa Maria Bellere lost her life. The Flushing resident was jogging in Bayside when she was hit by a 73-year-old man in an SUV on the Clearview Expressway service road. She was later pronounced dead at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Queens. QNS reported that it was unclear whether or not the car had a green light at the time. 

An “emergency” march for pedestrian safety is planned for March 22 at 4 p.m. at PS110, 43-18 97th Place. State Senator Jessica Ramos, Assemblymember Ron Kim, Families for Safe Streets, Transportation Alternatives, and other civic organizations are leading the march, titled Queens Children’s March for Safe Streets. 

“There is a crisis of traffic violence in the World’s Borough,” reads a description for the event from Transportation Alternatives. “Join us as our communities are ringing the alarm bells, we cannot allow anyone else to be killed on our streets.”

Group criticizes DOT rollout in Ridgewood

Residents hope for pedestrian ramp at Stanhope & Fairview

By Jessica Meditz

As of Dec. 1, the troublesome intersection near Grover Cleveland Park in Ridgewood, where a man was killed in 2019, has brand new crosswalks and stop signs.

After spending the better part of 2022 fighting for these safety signals and pleading with the Department of Transportation (DOT), Ridgewood residents Nicole Galpern and Becca Kauffman have achieved their “Crosswalk Fantasy” at Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue.

The duo co-founded Crosswalk Fantasy Committee in response to the man’s death and a public unease about the lack of safety in that intersection.

It wasn’t much longer after their celebrations, which included a “Party at the Crosswalk,” lots of signage and high visibility workwear fashion statements, that a local civic group pointed out what they saw was missing: a pedestrian ramp.

Juniper Park Civic Association took to Twitter on Saturday, Jan. 7 to point out the omitted part of the job and call on Councilman Robert Holden to take action.

“Kind of weird to see supposed safety advocates ‘proclaim a crosswalk fantasy realized’ when there’s no pedestrian ramp here. Half-assed @NYC_DOT jobs should never be celebrated,” the group tweeted. “@BobHoldenNYC hopefully will see that the job gets done.”

Juniper Park Civic Association took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with the incomplete project.

During their communication process with the DOT, Galpern and Kauffman turned to local leaders to help spearhead their efforts, including Holden and Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5 – both of whom penned letters of support for the implementation of crosswalks and stop signs at the intersection.

Daniel Kurzyna, Holden’s chief of staff, said that from his recollection, he does not remember the topic of a pedestrian ramp coming up explicitly, but only because he thinks it’s a given that a ramp should be installed, also.

“Naturally, when a crosswalk is installed, it should be paired with a pedestrian ramp…We’ll be reaching out to the DOT about this,” he said.”

Galpern and Kauffman told the Queens Ledger that they asked the DOT for a “redesign of the intersection,” which should have included the pedestrian ramp.

“We’d be thrilled if [Holden] sent the DOT a letter of support for a pedestrian ramp,” they said.

Pedestrian ramps are a requirement under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), and the DOT says on their webpage that “any alteration triggers the obligation to provide ADA-compliant ramps to the maximum extent feasible.”

Despite some pushback from Twitter user, @BushridgeBrigad, who accused JPCA of mocking the Crosswalk Fantasy Committee, the civic association maintains that its criticism is of the DOT for not completing the job.

Christina Wilkinson, JPCA secretary, said she takes issue with the Committee’s signage that was left up weeks after their “Party at the Crosswalk.”

“It should be noted that bolting laminated signs to public property and flyers on poles is illegal, could result in Sanitation fines and illegal postering makes it harder for community groups to maintain the cleanliness of the neighborhood,” she said.

In another Twitter reply, JPCA argued that it’s a positive thing that more safety measures were implemented, but “no community minded group posts illegal signage bragging about a routine civic request being fulfilled.”

Kurzyna assures that Holden is committed to ensuring the safety of those in the area.

Our office is actively reaching out to the DOT to inquire about the progress of installing pedestrian ramps at Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue,” he said. “The installation of crosswalks at this location was an important step forward, and we will continue advocating for better measures that keep our community safe.”

Stop signs, crosswalks added to intersection of Stanhope St. and Fairview Ave.

Safety signals approved by DOT following group’s activism

By Jessica Meditz

Residents rallied earlier this year to express their concerns of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue. Photo: Erik Augustine

Following residents’ months of advocacy and pleading with the DOT, new stop signs have been implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue in Ridgewood.

As of Dec. 1, crosswalks are now at the intersection.

Residents say the intersection, just steps away from Grover Cleveland Park, has been a danger to pedestrians and the community at large for as long as 20 years.

In late 2019, a man was hit by a car and killed at this intersection, and other residents have said they felt unsafe crossing the street due to the lack of safety signals.

In response, Ridgewood residents Nicole Galpern and Becca Kauffman co-founded Crosswalk Fantasy Committee early this year.

The goal of the organization is to raise awareness of the intersection, get the community involved and make requests to the DOT in hopes to achieve the goal of stop signs and crosswalks at the T-shaped intersection.

Crosswalk Fantasy Committee has been advocating for safety signals at the intersection since early this year.

“It just became this glaring, strange void in city infrastructure. You could just stand there for minutes upon end and never get any reprieve from drivers,” Kauffman said.

“We felt like it was going to be important to amplify the voices of the neighbors here and their experience of the street, because unlike someone sitting at an office at the Department of Transportation receiving a uniform request, these people are actually on the ground experiencing the dangers of being a pedestrian in their own area.”

Galpern shared that she and Kauffman both became passionate about making the intersection safer, and wanted to put in the work to get the safety signals implemented.

The team was in constant communication with the DOT since March, submitting requests, making phone calls and sending their petition — which garnered over 600 signatures following the rally they held at the intersection on March 19.

They also spoke with Community Board 5, who submitted a letter to the DOT on their behalf. They also received support from community leaders such as Juan Ardila, Councilman Robert Holden and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

In addition to the standard bureaucratic, straightforward ways of getting the request off the ground, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee wanted to execute their mission in a creative and engaging way.

“I loved the idea of a more creative approach to this, doing something more colorful and not making a civic duty so dreary in our neighborhood. I thought it should be more engaging and I think we came over our desire of making this a more pleasant experience,” Galpern said.

Kauffman considers their initiative to be a socially engaged art project, as seen by the compilation of artwork, audio recordings, photos, postcards and more they’ve put together.

Inspired by the role of a crossing guard, Kauffman has a personal goal of being an Artist in Residence of the NYC DOT.

Becca Kauffman admires the role of crossing guards, and sees this project as a performance on the street in a public space. Photo: Erik Augustine

“I’m really intrigued by the crossing guard as a utilitarian role. It also is a performance on the street in public space, and I think of it choreographically like a dance…kind of like a mime act in a way,” they said.

“I wanted to perform as a crossing guard at the intersection. I think of it as a sort of like theatrical intervention at this rally and march that we organized together. We had a bunch of volunteers too, and we all donned high visibility workwear.”

Crosswalk Fantasy Committee received an email from the DOT on Aug. 4 saying that after “months of evaluation,” the stop signs and crosswalks were approved.

On Nov. 17, the new stop signs were implemented at the intersection of Stanhope Street and Fairview Avenue. The crosswalks were painted shortly after, following a “high priority” ranking by the DOT.

The crosswalks were painted on Dec. 1.

The pair feel that the crosswalks are essential, as cars appear to miss the new stop signs or are ignoring them.

In celebration of the new safety signals, Crosswalk Fantasy Committee plans to host a “Party at the Crosswalk” on Sunday, Dec. 18. The community at large is welcome to attend.

For more information and updates about Crosswalk Fantasy Committee’s activism and the status of the intersection, follow the group on Instagram @crosswalkfantasy.

Yang discusses public safety following shooting

A New York City mayoral campaign is an entirely different beast than a presidential campaign. However, the former has some perks.
“The food is infinitely better,” Andrew Yang joked while eating an array of authentic Chinese dishes. “When I am campaigning in New York I can just stop and get food somewhere, but when I was running for president it was like ‘well I’m in Iowa, what am I going to eat!’”
This past Sunday, Yang ventured to Spy C Cuisine in Forest Hills for lunch and a conversation with the restaurant’s owner, Thomas Lo. The Democratic candidate discussed the experience of running for mayor in the largest city in the country and detailed his plans for confronting problems that he believes are crucial to New Yorkers.
“The issues are more varied and local, and I like that you see very clearly how we can make people’s lives better here in New York,” Yang explained. “One of the consistent things I’ve heard is that people don’t necessarily feel like they’ve been included in city government. Some communities in Queens say they’re used to local officials showing up to get your vote and then disappearing until they’re up for election again.
“We are underinvesting in certain communities and we should change that,” he added. “And it does, unfortunately at this point, start with public safety.”
The mayoral hopeful referenced Justin Wallace, the 10-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Far Rockaway on Saturday, as an example of the community violence he aims on addressing if elected.
“One of the major problems that is going to keep us from getting shootings under control is that we’re not solving enough of them,” said Yang. “Right now, the solve rate for shootings in Brooklyn is only 25 percent. That means that three out of four shootings go unsolved and the shooters are still out and walking around. In many cases that means they will likely go on again to do something terrible as two thirds of the city’s shootings are gang related.”
Justin Wallace was killed inside his Far Rockaway home after a stray bullet struck him in the torso.
“Sometimes gangsters miss and harm innocent bystanders,” said Yang. “It’s also tragic if they hit the person they are aiming for, but it’s totally unacceptable that a child is getting shot in the Rockaways.”
Yang suggests transferring more officers and detectives into the gun violence and suppression unit in the hopes of doubling solved shootings and reducing the number of guns on the streets. He also discussed at length the need to invest more heavily in mental health resources as a preventative measure against crime. He referenced Alex Wright, the man who punched an Asian woman on the street in Chinatown last week, as an example.

“Alex Wright was arrested 17 times previously, about eight or nine times in the past year for actions like throwing hot coffee at a travel agent, throwing a rock at a window, cutting a man’s eye on the upper east side, and punching someone else,” Yang said.
“These are all things that he did before punching an Asian woman in Chinatown,” Yang continued. “Now one way of looking at this is as an Anti-Asian hate crime, but if you look at Alex Wright’s background he’s attacked all kinds of people.
“So the problem is that we have mentally ill people on the streets of New York who need to be in better, more supportive environments that will get them in the position to be healthier, but also in a position where they won’t be a danger to other New Yorkers,” he added.
Yang proposes increasing the number of available psych beds to confront the intersecting issues of public safety, mental illness, and homelessness. He also hopes to require additional de-escalation training for all NYPD officers, particularly as it pertains to situations involving a mentally ill individual.
“It’s personal to me because one of my sons is autistic, and in some of these cases we have seen autistic individuals who haven’t responded to police commands,” Yang explained. “So if police officers were trained to identify individuals who are autistic or mentally ill, then they would react differently than they currently do.”
Throughout the conversation, Yang also sang the virtues of direct cash relief and easily accessible bank accounts, two measures that he believes will also indirectly address crime and public safety.
Additionally, he suggested multiple direct reforms to the NYPD, including the appointment of a civilian police commissioner and new requirements ensuring that officers live within the five boroughs.
“The goal should be to have a police force that represents the incredible diversity of Queens and the rest of our city,” Yang said. “I was just in Jamaica and the new head of the precinct is Asian American. His name is Captain Chan, and I have to admit that I was a little surprised but it also made me very happy.”
While Yang explicitly stated that he is against defunding the police, he expressed hope that the recruitment of a more diverse and responsive police force would address the recent spike in hate-crimes and other violence.
To that same end, the vibrant candidate is confident that his own identity — as a political outsider and Asian-American — would address long-festering issues in New York City government.
“I think it would send a very powerful message to have a mayor from an immigrant community that hasn’t historically been well represented in our leadership and our city government,” Yang said. “And that is true for any community that feels like they have not been at the table when various decisions have been made, people who are just tired of the bureaucracy and people making excuses.”

Need to address safety in subways

Workers are steadily returning to their offices in Manhattan and across the five boroughs, but a new poll shows that 60 percent of them still fear for their safety.
But they aren’t worried about contracting COVID-19, they’re worried about their physical safety as they return to the city’s subway system.
Stations across the city were nearly deserted for the first few months of the pandemic last year except for the brave men and women working on the front lines, paving the way for an unsavory element to feel more comfortable taking over the system.
We have all heard the stories of random attacks, including people being assaulted or pushed onto the tracks or both, that have become far too common in the mass transit system. If the city is going to get back to work, people need to feel comfortable using the subways.
Would more cops patrolling the platforms and trains help? Mayor Bill de Blasio recently added 250 more cops to the 3,000 already safeguarding the subways, and it certainly can’t hurt.
But in addition to the criminal element, there is a far bigger problem with the homeless and mentally ill living in the stations. More cops won’t necessarily solve that issue.
Instead, the city and MTA need a social solution. They need people who are trained in dealing with the homeless and mentally ill to join the police in engaging these individuals and try to get them help.
Simply locking them up and then releasing them back on the street won’t accomplish anything.
After a year of us all worrying about our health due to the pandemic, we need to feel safe in the subways as our lives slowly return to normal.

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