July 29, 2013 By Christian Murray
The Department of Transportation unveiled several traffic safety measures in Long Island City this morning, in response to the death of a 16-year-old high school student who was killed while waiting to cross Thomson Avenue by LaGuardia Community College in March.
This was the DOT’s first tangible response since the death of Tenzin Drudak, who was killed on March 11 by a driver who took his eyes off the road to grab a carton of milk and jumped the curb—hitting Drudak, an Applied Communications High School student, and four LaGuardia Community College students.
This morning the DOT announced that it has taken some bold steps to change the traffic patterns near the Thomson Avenue/Skillman Avenue intersection. These measures included eliminating a series of turns on and off Thomson Avenue—such as banning vehicles from making an eastbound left turn from Thomson Ave. onto Skillman Ave.
Furthermore, the DOT has blocked off the right turn from Thomson Ave onto Skillman Ave. through the creation of a 550 sq ft. pedestrian space. That space is filled with granite blocks and planters.
The DOT has also installed 18-second pedestrian countdown clocks where Thomson Avenue intersects 30th Street, 30th Place , 31st Street, and 31st Place.
Politicians, college administrators and high school principals have been pushing the DOT to make these changes for some time—even before the Drudak accident. LaGuardia students formed a petition about traffic safety issues well over a year ago.
Alex Perez, who just graduated from LaGuardia and will be attending Georgetown in the fall, was involved in putting the petition together. He said Thomson Avenue is “like the Daytona 500…a race track where the drivers have little regard for students and others.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said that while it is easy to pick on the DOT, “We have to thank them for taking these concrete steps.”
Van Bramer said that Thomson Avenue is one of the busiest streets in New York City, with the Queensboro Bridge and the Midtown tunnel located nearby.
However, he said, there needs to be a balance. “There are tens-of-thousands of students who come to the LaGuardia campus and nearby high schools each day too. And they need safe streets.”