Tweaks to Thomson Avenue across from LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City should make the congested area, where a 16-year-old was killed last March, safer.
On March 11 a driver took his eyes off the road for a second to grab a carton of milk, police said, and jumped the curb, hitting and killing Tenzin Drudak, who was waiting to cross the street to Applied Communications High School.
In the months following students and faculty from neighboring schools joined Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) to call on the Department of Transportation to make changes.
More safety additions will come, but so far the DOT has eliminated confusing turns on and off Thomson Avenue and installed 18-second pedestrian countdown clocks at 30th Street, 30th Place, 31st Street and 31st Place.
“The safety measures implemented on 30th Street between Skillman and Thomson are first steps towards addressing safety concerns around the vicinity of LaGuardia Community College,” said Shahir Erfan, college spokesperson.
First, the left turn onto northeastbound Skillman from eastbound Thomson has been eliminated.
“That left turn that vehicles were making would surprise students,” said David Allen, the assistant principal at Bard High School Early College. “Students’ safety is our ultimate priority. It breaks your heart when something tragic happens to a student.”
BHSEC is one of three high schools near Thomson.
In addition to these changes, the high school would like to see a crossing guard assigned to the corner, Allen said.
A lack of crossing guards near schools has been an issue throughout Queens. The NYPD says the deficiency is not due to lack of money, but because it’s difficult to hire people who are willing to work the sporadic schedule for a couple hours when students go to school in the morning and then another couple in the afternoon.
Secondly, the extension of 30th Street between Skillman and Thomson avenues was blocked off with planters. The little mini-street paved with gray bricks spanning only about 30 feet looked more like an add-on than a legitimate roadway and caused confusion between pedestrians and cars who both thought they belonged there, officials said.
“This closes off another point of confusion,” Van Bramer said. “By closing off the mini-street the DOT has created a pedestrian plaza and taken a significant step to making the area safer.”
Before the fatal accident red barriers lined Thomson. The location where the car hit Drudak did not have a barrier because of the entrance to this now-discontinued block, Van Bramer said.
The red barriers on the westbound side where Drudak was hit were covered with a fresh coat of paint, while the C-shaped (almost bicycle rack-looking) barriers on the other side of Thomson Avenue continue to be neglected and show their years in flaky paint and rust.