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Parents Push for Greater Traffic Safety in Queens After Fatal Accidents

By Katie Honan | November 11, 2013 9:40am
 Olvin Jahir Figueroa, 3, was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver in Corona — and was the "tipping point" for a group of Jackson Heights moms to work to push for safer streets. 
Olvin Jahir Figueroa, 3, was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver in Corona — and was the "tipping point" for a group of Jackson Heights moms to work to push for safer streets. 
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Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras Office/Figueroa Family

JACKSON HEIGHTS — Laura Newman, a psychologist and lifelong Queens resident, posted a note on a community listserv after hearing about the death of Olivin Jahir Figueroa, 3, who was struck and killed by an alleged drunk driver while crossing the street on Northern and Junction boulevards in October.

Olvin's death came in the wake of two other deaths: Miguel Torres, 11, who was killed last December on Northern Boulevard when a dump truck struck him; and Jackson Heights resident Luis Bravo, 19, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking in Woodside.

“I am so sad about the death of our latest neighborhood CHILD to die being fatally hit by a vehicle on our local streets,” she wrote in early October. “But I am also ready now to fight big time.”

Others responded, and they soon formed a small but hard-working committee of parents and residents.

The group, called Three Children Too Many, has organized a rally on Tuesday, Nov. 12, for safer streets in Corona and Jackson Heights, which organizers hope will spark a traffic safety movement.

“Our march seems to be timed well with, sadly, kids being killed,” said group member Cristina Furlong, 43, a mom and Jackson Heights resident who says she was inspired to join after reading Newman’s posting.

“I can't imagine the pain that these families go through. And, some days, it feels like it's a walk alone.”

She pointed to the death of Lucian Merryweather, 9, who was recently struck and killed by a driver in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, to stress the importance of taking their Queens movement citywide. 

That fight, for Newman and others, will include educating children and other residents about traffic safety while also beginning a push to implement permanent change, including traffic calming methods and tougher police enforcement.

Tuesday’s march will travel through Corona and Jackson Heights, passing by the 115th Precinct, as well as local schools, with education being a pivotal part of their movement.

Erica Fontana, 32, is a teacher and mother of two young children who hopes to work traffic safety into the local curriculum.

"There's so many schools in so few blocks — Catholic, private, public schools," she said.

The group has received support from local civic groups, like the Jackson Heights Beautification Group, which Furlong said that groups successful efforts to push for a greener neighborhood has inspired her to to work towards safer streets. 

They've also received the support of politicians, including Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Councilman Danny Dromm and state Sen. Jose Peralta.

Ferreras, whose office set up a fund to help pay for the burial of Figueroa and has proposed and helped fund many short and long-term traffic mediating projects, said creating safer streets is a community-wide effort.

“I think that in the interim, we, as a community, need to exercise responsibility and vigilance,” she said. “Obey traffic laws and if you see something happen in the district, such as a drunk driving incident, report it. This could potentially save someone’s life."

The march for improved safety for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers begins at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 12. It begins on the corner of Northern Boulevard and 100th Street and finishes in front of the Post Office on 37th Avenue and 78th Street. For more information, visit their Facebook page.