Tenzin Drudak, 16, was waiting to cross the street at the corner of Thomson Avenue and 30th Street earlier this year when a van crossed into oncoming traffic before jumping the curb and killing the teenager.
Almost immediately, elected officials and community members called on DOT to make the area around LaGuardia Community College (LGCC) safer.
In response, DOT created a 550-square-foot pedestrian open-space on the northeast corner of Thomson and Skillman avenues, allowing pedestrians to cross the street more safely.
Formerly, it was a small road that allowed northbound cars on Skillman Avenue to cut through to Thompson Avenue.
DOT also added a barrier down the middle of the street to prevent cars from cutting across the double yellow lines.
“We needed to calm the cars down,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. “We were seeing such an amazing amount of traffic, which is not surprising given that the Queensborough Bridge is right behind us.”
“You have to be really eager to do something illegal now,” said Dalila Hall, Queens borough commissioner for DOT. “We’re continuing to work. This is not the end, this is just he beginning.”
LGCC officials estimate that 60,000 students are coming and going to the campus daily, many crossing at the intersection of Thomson and Skillman avenues.
“The focus has been on making this a safe place,” said Dr. Gail Mellow, president of LGCC. “When you think that we had to see a young man loose his life waiting exactly where he needed to be, waiting to go to school, the tragedy is unimaginable for all of us.”
“As a student, we cross this street every day and night to go to school,” said 21-year-old Alex Perez, a 2013 LGCC graduate who is headed to Princeton in the fall. “It was like a racetrack with cars that had little regard for students.”
But at least one person openly wondered why it took so long to make safety a priority.
“It’s a huge step forward to putting people first on the streets of New York City,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “Let’s all look forward to next year because our new mayor and new City Council will face a big question: Will it require this type of herculean effort to win basic safety improvements?”