Tenzin Drudak, a student at Applied Communication High School, was killed and four LGCC students were injured when a minivan veered off the road and jumped the curbside barriers along Thomson Avenue last Monday.
LGCC students joined Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and community members signed a petition to request that the Department of Transportation (DOT) perform a comprehensive traffic study of the area that surrounds the school.
“This situation along Thomson Avenue is a ticking time bomb for the thousands of students, local residents and workers who use this busy corridor each and every single day,” Van Bramer said. “It is time for the Department of Transportation to act because we cannot afford another tragedy to strike when it is least expected.”
In addition to the study, Van Bramer suggested the installation of more barriers to separate the pedestrian walkway from the busy thoroughfare, more traffic agents to assist with students crossing the road and a collaborative effort to decrease the amount of traffic in the area surrounding the school.
“We cannot have this happen again and we need the DOT to come in here and really take a look at Thomson Avenue in this corridor and make it safer for everybody,” he said. “We should not have anymore memorials like the one behind us.”
Van Bramer said DOT should begin the study within a week, otherwise he will be back protesting with the community.
“We’ll shame them if we have to. This is too important,” he said. “It’s insane that young people would be mowed down waiting to cross the street to go to school and it’s absolutely irresponsible to not act.”
Drudak’s friend Tenzin Shamphel, 16, spoke for his fellow students from International High School, who joined the rally for safer streets at the roadside memorial.
“We are very sad that this situation has happened to him,” Shamphel said. “He was a family guy and he was a good student.”
Shamphel said Drudak loved to play basketball and wanted to be a rapper.
Joe Conley, chair of the Community Board 2, hopes that this will be the last accident along this street, and that DOT will use this as a lesson on how to better address busy intersections.
“This roadway favors faster traffic coming in and out of Manhattan than it does the community around it,” Conley explained. “It’s a shame that a student had to give his life to call attention to this.”
Conley said requests for traffic studies in the area have long been ignored.
“For years, CB2 has requested pedestrian safety improvements from 33rd Street to Van Dam Street,” he said. “We are hopeful that the DOT will now implement safety improvements to prevent any further injuries or deaths.”
Michael Murphy, communications director with Transportation Alternatives, joined the crowd on Thomson Street to call for better street planning and more attention to high-volume intersections, especially near schools.
“Tragedies like these are preventable and tragedies like these must be prevented,” he said. “Crashes like these can be prevented with more effective street designs and better enforcement of our traffic laws, and this must be done if a community like this is to thrive.”