LONG ISLAND CITY — The Department of Transportation has made a number of traffic changes at a busy Queens intersection where a 16-year-old boy was struck by a van and killed on his way to school in March.
Tenzin Drudak died and five other pedestrians were injured March 11 after a minivan careened off the road and onto the sidewalk at the intersection of Thomson and Skillman Avenues in Long Island City. The driver lost control of the car after reaching for a carton of milk, according to news reports at the time.
Thought it's unclear if road design changes would have done anything to prevent the accident, it spurred calls from local residents and elected officials for safety improvements at the busy triangular intersection.
The corner is a frequent crossing point for students from LaGuardia Community College and several other nearby schools, including Applied Communications High School, where Drudak was a sophomore.
"Obviously, we're here responding to a tragedy, but we want to avoid more tragedies," City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said at a press conference Monday, where he highlighted several traffic changes the Department of Transportation has made at the intersection since Drudak was killed.
The most significant change is the closure of a small section of 30th Street, where it had been legal for cars to turn right onto Skillman from Thomson.
But officials said many drivers also used the ramp-like roadway to make an illegal left from the other direction, from Skillman onto Thomson — making it confusing and hectic for those trying to cross.
"Thomson Avenue felt like the Daytona 500," said Alex Perez, who graduated from LaGuardia Community College this year and was one of several students to advocate for changes at the intersection after the accident.
"Even when I was given the signal to cross, I would have to look both ways to make sure," he said.
The DOT has now blocked off the right-turn ramp with planters and blocks of concrete, and has also added a countdown clock to the cross walk signals on the corners of Skillman, Thomson and 30th Street, and has eliminated the left hand turn off of Thomson onto Skillman, officials said.
A traffic barrier was also erected in the middle of Thomson Avenue to stop drivers from trying to cut across from Skillman onto 30th Street, DOT's Queens Commissioner Dalila Hall said.
"You have to be really eager to do something illegal now to get around those barriers," she said.