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

Safety signals approved by DOT following group’s activism, crosswalks to come soon

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

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.

Relatives of killed DoorDash worker demand justice; Tran family speaks out

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Locals built a memorial for Be Tran at the intersection of Myrtle and Seneca Avenues in Ridgewood.

Anh Tran wanted nothing more than for her 74-year-old father, Be Tran, to come home to Flushing and relax on the evening of Aug. 14.

She pleaded for him to stop working as a DoorDash driver so she could take care of him — in return for all the years he did the same for her.

“Don’t worry,” her father said to her in a text message.

Little did she know that those would be the last words she would ever hear from him.

During what is believed to be his last food delivery of the night, Be Tran was struck by a hit-and-run driver in a black BMW with Florida license plates at Myrtle Avenue and Hancock Street in Ridgewood.

Tran was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect is still at large and the case is being investigated by the NYPD Highway Collision Investigation Squad.

Tran’s death sparked feelings of shock, anger and sadness within the community, and activists rallied to demand more action from the city they live, work and commute in every day.

Nearly two weeks after the hit-and-run collision, community members and volunteer activists Chong Bretillon and Elizabeth Amber Gomez organized a candlelight vigil with the Tran family to honor his life and legacy.

“Thirteen nights ago on this very street, a man I called father, a man who spent his lifetime paying for his family, building and living the American dream, today we have gathered to celebrate his life,” Anh Tran said to the small crowd at the vigil.

“The cruel individual who killed my father and inflicted this pain upon my family and I is still out there,” she continued. “We have been shedding light and raising awareness about this horrific tragedy through the news, media and social media to bring justice and a semblance of peace in our hearts.”

Tran and her sister, Tina expressed their gratitude to the community for the endless support, including the memorial built by local activist groups on Myrtle and Seneca Avenues and all the donations that went toward their father’s funeral.

Tran started a GoFundMe page for her father on Aug. 15, where she described him as a “kind, caring, charismatic, funny and extremely hard-working individual.”

Close to 900 people donated — from other local DoorDash drivers to Tran’s high school classmates from Vietnam — to support the family, quickly raising over $40,000.

Early last week, Tran’s funeral was held at Quinn-Fogarty Funeral Home in Flushing.

His younger sister, Truyen Swinger, flew to Queens from her home in Florida when she heard the news about her brother.

She, Tran and their six other siblings were born and raised in Vietnam. Swinger said that Tran was in law school before he was drafted to the Vietnam War, where he served as a lieutenant.

“We went through thick and thin together…we survived the Vietnam War before we came to America,” Swinger said.

“My brother is a very hard worker and a very devoted father. This loss is just such a shock.”

Truyen Swinger and Anh Tran demanded justice for their brother and father, Be Tran.

Swinger said that “something must be done” for street safety citywide, especially to protect the elderly and disabled, and wishes people would drive slower and more carefully.

Her words struck up conversations on possible options for the DOT to implement to end traffic violence and accidents.

Juan Ardila, the Democratic candidate for Assembly District 37, which represents parts of Long Island City, Maspeth, Sunnyside, Woodside and Ridgewood, pointed out that there are five roads at the intersection where Tran was killed, and only four traffic signals.

“We all deserve to have safe streets and be able to work with peace and dignity. Especially coming from an immigrant background, where being a delivery worker is one of the few occupations that is attainable for working class people,” Ardila said.

“This is something that impacts all lives…immigrant populations, people of color and working class people,” he continued. “We need to ensure that we are responsive to this situation, that we understand the need and the demand because right now, we are asking for robust infrastructure and robust protection,” he continued. “It’s the No. 1 rule to look out for each other.”

Bretillon argued that this incident is being underrepresented, and believes that if it were a gun-related matter, it would have made state or national news.

Transit activist Chong Bretillon co-organized the vigil and advocated for the Tran family.

“Traffic violence happens every single day in this city and disproportionately impacts senior citizens, immigrants and people of color. The police do not enforce dangerous driving behavior, such as speeding and failure to yield. The DOT designs clearly dangerous intersections and terrible curb conditions despite years of complaints, crashes, injuries and deaths,” she said.

“Mr. Tran was a delivery worker and essential worker. Unlike people who work in offices, schools or buildings, his workplace was the streets. He brought hot, fresh food to people who are safe in their homes, who order online, who aren’t even thinking about the dangers that delivery workers face,” she continued.

“Lack of safe infrastructure and lack of speed limiting street design means delivery workers are placed in unsafe conditions every single day. Not only that, but they’re vulnerable to violence, robberies and assault by other people. Their bikes are often stolen and lastly, they’re subjected to harassment and ticketing by the NYPD themselves.”

Anh Tran said that she wishes it didn’t take someone losing their life to resolve these issues.

“I just hope this incident can actually bring light to this, and hopefully they can take this seriously,” she said. “We don’t need any more New Yorkers to get killed, and I wouldn’t want any other family to go through what I’m going through.”

Tran said that she and her family will not stop searching for justice, and had just four words for the person who killed her father, “You will be caught.”

Ridgewood rallies for killed DoorDash worker

Groups, pols demand DOT make streets safer

By Jessica Meditz

[email protected]

Two back-to-back hit-and-run incidents took the Ridgewood community by surprise in mid-August.

On Aug. 14, 74-year-old Be Tran, a DoorDash worker and father of two, was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver at Myrtle Ave. and Hancock St.

In response, and to demand an end to traffic violence in the neighborhood, Ridgewood Tenants Union and Transportation Alternatives organized a rally on Seneca Ave. — in the vicinity of where Tran was killed.

Adrian King, the owner of King’s Juice Bar in Ridgewood, was on scene when the hit-and-run occurred.

For over a year, King has fought for a traffic signal at the intersection of Weirfield St. and Seneca Ave., due to the countless traffic accidents he’s witnessed.

“I’m so frustrated because I’ve been in Ridgewood for 40 years, and I love Ridgewood. The issue with Ridgewood is that it’s a community based on community, attention, love, dedication and looking out for each other. Today’s generation is a different world,” King said.

“Focus, pay attention, stop thinking about yourselves. When you’re on the street, anything can happen, forces that we can’t control,” he continued. “But if you collectively think about each other, it will be a better place anywhere in the world — so focus.”

Raquel Namuche, founder of Ridgewood Tenants Union, who has worked closely with King to combat this issue, informed the crowd that the Queens liaison for DOT responded to their inquiry for a traffic signal at the intersection.

“We will be in touch about the study at Weirfield St. We are unable to send a representative today,” the DOT representative said in an email. “We are also working to get details around the fatal crash on Seneca Ave., and are looking to see if there are ways to further enhance safety for all street users.”

Namuche argued that the DOT be more prompt and vigilant in regard to pedestrian safety in the community. 

“We need them to do it now. Here at this intersection, it’s been over a year. There’s been numerous accidents, and we can share videos of all the accidents that Mr. King and our neighbor, Robert Diaz, have been tracking here,” Namuche said.

“It is unacceptable. Mr. Tran should not have died. The hit and run on Wyckoff Ave. and George St. should not have happened. That should not be happening, not in Ridgewood, not anywhere in this city,” she continued. “And as long as it keeps happening, we know that DOT and the Mayor are not keeping us safe. And that’s what today is about. They are not enhancing our protection in any way, shape or form, and we need them to do it now.”

State Senator Michael Gianaris and Councilwoman Jennifer Gutiérrez accompanied the groups and numerous community members in attendance.

“I brought this intersection to the attention of the DOT a year and a half ago, and they are still studying it. This is a problem we see everywhere,” Gianaris said. “The city knows what it needs to do to make these places safe. They just need the will to do it.”

Gianaris explained that the city studies and scores a certain intersection before additional protections are added to it.

Part of the score is how many crashes the site has seen, and another is how many people have been injured or killed.

“Queens Boulevard used to be known as the ‘Boulevard of Death’ because so many people were killed in crashes, and after all those deaths, they finally did something about it,” Gianaris said.

“So they have to wait until that happens to get the score high enough to realize that an intersection needs protection,” he continued. “The city has it backwards.”

“Someone who is still working at 74, risking their life every single day to provide for their family and to contribute to an economy for a city that says ‘I don’t care about your safety’ is a slap in the face to [Tran’s] family and their story of coming here to the United States,” Gutiérrez, who represents portions of Ridgewood, said.

“The city has done way too much to empower drivers, at the cost of pedestrians, at the cost of cyclists, of our seniors and of our children. It’s time that we make that change,” she continued. “We need to continue to push DOT. It’s unacceptable that there exists a rubric for how many deaths need to occur for mitigation to happen. I am extremely frustrated.”

Kathy Park Price, a Brooklyn organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said that residents of city streets know them best, and that the organization will stand in partnership with elected officials to do more.

Kathy Park Price, a Brooklyn organizer for Transportation Alternatives, spoke at the rally.

“We know what works and we need to take action immediately…We need to rely on street design and infrastructure to affect change,” she said.

“We know from the DOT that road diets, bike lanes, pedestrian highland, sidewalk expansions, turn calming and leading pedestrian intervals all deliver impressive injury reductions for everyone, including older adults,” she continued.

The program concluded with a moment of silence to honor Be Tran, and a poem read by Michelle Bounkousohn, a member of Ridgewood Tenants Union.

The poem was written in Vietnamese by Ngo Thanh Nhan, Bounkousohn’s grandfather, in memory of his life and legacy in the community.

The poem, Tran’s picture, flowers and candles were placed on the corner of Myrtle and Seneca Aves. as a memorial for him.

On Aug. 10, three people, including a mother pushing her child in a stroller, were hit by an unlicensed driver at Wyckoff Ave. and George St.

The suspect wanted for that incident has been identified as 28-year-old Tyshawn Baldwin.

The hit-and-run driver who struck and killed Tran remains at large, and the investigation is ongoing.

Area sees 3 hit-and-run incidents in few-day span

Two in Ridgewood, one in Elmhurst; one dead, one in critical condition

By Jessica Meditz

jmeditz@queensledger.com

Residents of Ridgewood, Elmhurst and its surrounding neighborhoods were shocked to hear the news of three separate hit-and-run incidents occurring within days of each other.

The first incident occurred on Aug. 10 in Ridgewood at Wyckoff Avenue and George Street, where a 28-year-old woman and a two-year-old girl in a stroller were struck, along with a 35-year-old man who was hit while unloading a truck.

Officers of the 104th Precinct conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle, and ordered the driver to step out. Instead, the suspect stepped on the gas and drove away.

The individual could not be located, but his 2021 Dodge Durango was discovered abandoned on Woodbine Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn shortly thereafter.

The two female victims sustained minor injuries, and the male was transported to Wyckoff Hospital with a compound leg fracture.

The second incident also occurred in Ridgewood, at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Hancock Street this past Sunday.

The scene where 74-year-old Be Tran was killed in Ridgewood. (Photo: Citizen)

Police say the driver of a black BMW was traveling east on Myrtle Avenue and struck a 74-year-old man who was crossing the street.

The male victim, Be Tran, was pronounced dead at the scene.

The suspect behind the wheel fled southbound on Seneca Avenue.

Tran was a father and worker for DoorDash.

ABC7 reported that the company released a statement after learning of his death: “This is a heartbreaking tragedy and our thoughts are with his loved ones during this unimaginably difficult time,” the company said.

“We are reaching out to his loved ones to extend our deepest condolences and offer our support. We stand ready to assist law enforcement with their investigation and hope those responsible for this horrible crime are brought to justice.”

The latest incident happened in Elmhurst early Tuesday morning.

At around 2 a.m., police responded to a 911 call of a pedestrian struck in the vicinity of Roosevelt Avenue and 76 Street.

Upon arrival, officers discovered a 45-year-old man, unresponsive, lying in the roadway with severe body trauma.

The victim was taken to NYC Health + Hospitals in Elmhurst, and is listed in critical condition.

Investigation by the NYPD Highway District’s Collision Investigation Squad revealed that the male victim was crossing Roosevelt Avenue when he was struck by a gray Honda Sedan traveling eastbound, which fled the scene.

The suspect remains at large.

Ridgewood Tenants Union, a tenant rights advocacy group, organized a protest in response to the death of Be Tran.

In a release, the group argued that New York City should work to become a safer place for pedestrians, and until more measures are taken, vulnerable communities remain in danger.

“They were all victims of reckless hit-and-runs that could have been prevented if New York City were a safer city for pedestrians. A block away from the latest fatality, residents have been calling on the DOT to install traffic signals in the school zone at Weirfield Street and Seneca Ave, the only intersection on Seneca Ave from St. Felix Avenue to Dekalb Avenue without a traffic signal,” the statement read. “Until these pedestrian protections are put in place, more traffic violence is bound to occur, putting children, the elderly and the community at large in danger.”

At press time, no arrests have been made in regard to all the incidents and investigations are ongoing.

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