After Child’s Death, Jackson Heights Forum Focuses on Schools and Speeding

In front of an audience of about 60 residents at I.S. 145 last night, city representatives and advocates answered questions about traffic safety in Jackson Heights. The forum was held in the wake of the death of 11-year-old I.S. 145 student Miguel Torres, who was run over by a dump truck driver at Northern Boulevard and 80th Street while crossing with the light.

115th Precinct commanding officer Michael Michael A. Cody speaks at Tuesday night's forum. Photo: Stephen Miller

“It broke my heart when I had to see the mother on the corner of 80th Street, hysterical because she had lost her 11-year-old son,” Council Member Daniel Dromm said. “The urgency to have this kind of forum became even more apparent.”

Organized by Dromm, the Jackson Heights Green Alliance, and Transportation Alternatives, the forum featured the council member, DOT Queens Borough Deputy Commissioner Dalila Hall, TA’s Ya-Ting Liu, and Deputy Inspector Michael A. Cody, commanding officer of NYPD’s 115th Precinct.

“Speeding, unequivocally, is the number one cause of traffic deaths in New York City,” far outpacing distracted driving, alcohol and illegal drugs, Liu said as the meeting began.

Deputy Inspector Cody, who started at the 115th Precinct six weeks ago, said the precinct has issued 39 speeding tickets so far this year. That’s on par with last year, when it issued 177 speeding tickets — about one every other day. By comparison, the precinct issued 1,090 tickets for tinted windows in 2012.

The department’s current lack of attention to speeding stands in contrast with how Cody spoke about intoxicated drivers. “A lot of times when I was a young officer, DWI was not considered a fashionable arrest,” he said. “We’ve come a long way … it’s a key part of our crime-fighting strategy.”

Dromm, a former public school teacher, focused his comments on improving pedestrian safety around the neighborhood’s schools.

Hall noted that I.S. 145, P.S. 69, and I.S. 230 are identified as priority schools in DOT’s Safe Routes to School program. DOT has been working with Dromm’s office on studying traffic-calming solutions such as curb extensions, as well as a potential bike corral at 80th Street and Northern Boulevard.

Prior to joining DOT’s Queens Borough office, Hall served as project manager for the Jackson Heights Neighborhood Transportation Study, which laid the groundwork for a number of traffic changes, including PARK Smart reforms.

“The fact that this forum is happening — it’s already so many steps ahead of other communities,” Liu said. The surrounding area is already mapped for three of the city’s first 14 Slow Zones; one has already been installed in Corona, with two more on the way in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst.

To stay involved, Liu urged residents to attend the 115th Precinct Community Council meetings. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19 at 7:00 p.m. at the 115th Precinct, 92-15 Northern Boulevard.