After 7-year-old’s death, Astoria community demands better enforcement of traffic laws
The death of a 7-year-old girl after an SUV driver ran a stop sign in Astoria last month has sparked outrage among residents in the community, who have started taking their grievances to local police precinct meetings.
Alex Duncan moderates the subreddit r/MicromobilityNYC, where New Yorkers discuss things like street safety in the city. Enraged by the February death of Dolma Rinchen Naadhun, Duncan, who goes by Miser on Reddit, started posting and ultimately mobilized the community to take action.
According to the NYPD, a 46-year-old woman driving a Ford Explorer struck the child on Feb. 17 after running a stop sign on Newton Road and 45th Street. Naadhun was taken to Elmhurst hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
Several Reddit readers and residents of Astoria took to the 114th Precinct’s community meeting on Tuesday to demand that cops more strictly enforce traffic safety laws.
“Astoria as a community is rising up against car related injuries, maimings and deaths that we’re dealing with pretty routinely as a result of the pandemic but also before,” Duncan told Gothamist ahead of the meeting. “It really angered a lot of people, but honestly, there are many examples of people in Astoria being hit by cars.”
City and state lawmakers joined with Naadhun’s family last month in calling for the city Department of Transportation to implement a stop light at the intersection where she was hit. A DOT spokesman said the location has a low crash history. Five injuries have been recorded there since 2018, excluding the fatal crash.
At the meeting on Tuesday, 114th Precinct Deputy Inspector Kenneth S. Gorman said officers had written 450 parking tickets in the last 28 days, and almost 600 vehicle and traffic violations.
“Between the conversations we’ve had here, which have been very productive, and the community board and some specific association meetings, we’ve been able to target some of those areas and make sure that we have a safer environment out there,” Gorman said.
Duncan posted a video showing the difference between intersections in Hoboken, where parking near the intersection is banned and traffic deaths are down, and Astoria, where cars are able to park close to the crosswalk, blocking the view of the street for pedestrians until they’re too close to the road. The video struck a chord with several local readers of the subreddit, who began attending local precinct community meetings last month.
Street redesign in New York City takes a notoriously long time. Duncan and other residents who are concerned with street safety said they believe enforcement of existing traffic laws could yield more immediate results.
Father of two Danny Fosterman is a member of the subreddit and a six year resident of the neighborhood. He attended the meeting Tuesday to express his concern about pedestrian safety, and learn more about what can be done. He said he hoped that stronger enforcement of traffic laws could improve pedestrian safety.
“The safety of crossing the street in Astoria, it’s a daily thing. And instead of just complaining on Reddit and complaining to my friends, I actually want to start doing something about it,” Fosterman said. “I think that my main concern is just the attitude of drivers in Astoria, I mean, Queens in general, the drivers act like there’s no pedestrians, there’s no bikers, there’s nobody else on the road except for them. I feel like we need to change the mindset of the drivers in the area.”
It wasn’t just Reddit users who showed up. R.A. Guirand, also a father of two, isn’t part of the online community but said he decided to come to the meeting to talk about the same topic.
“I came because the quality of life and for my family basically like crossing the street with my children, taking my daughter to school, going to the grocery store, traffic has just been insane,” Guirand said. “It’s heavy traffic and the reverence for life is poor as far as I’m concerned and also safety for my family getting home as well… I want to work with the community affairs and police in creating a solution.”