By Jonathan Sperling
The death of a Far Rockaway boy struck by a vehicle just moments after exiting a school bus last week has further galvanized pedestrian safety advocates, who are drawing attention to the rising number of collisions in Queens.
Cameron Brown, 7, was fatally struck by a van while crossing Gipson Street near Healey Avenue on Wednesday. Brown is at least the 59th pedestrian or cyclist death reported to the NYPD since the beginning of 2019. That marks an approximately 41.5 percent increase compared to the same time last year.
Brown was at least the 21st pedestrian or cyclist killed by a car in Queens, prompting activists to question the circumstances that led to the child’s death.
“As people who have all personally felt the agony of loss, we are horrified that to date in 2019 there have been at least 61 fatalities on the streets of New York City, a 42 percent increase compared to this time last year,” said Families for Safe Streets co-founder Amy Cohen in a statement. The organization advocates for reducing traffic fatalities.
“While this trend is troubling, it is not exactly surprising. A host of street safety projects across the city have been delayed due to petty fights and parochial politics,” Cohen continued, noting the long-stalled fourth phase of the Queens Boulevard redesign.
Brown’s death hits close to home for Transportation Alternatives member and Families for Safe Streets co-founder Hsi-Pei Liao.
Liao’s daughter, Allison, was killed by a driver making an aggressive left turn at the intersection of Main Street and Cherry Avenue in Flushing in 2013.
“As a father who lost my four-year-old daughter in 2013, It's upsetting to hear that another child was killed recently to traffic violence,” Liao told the Eagle. “We see these situations as preventable with, and we need drivers who operate these multi-ton vehicles to be accountable for their actions.”
Families for Safe Streets has also been critical of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration’s implementation of Vision Zero. The increase in pedestrian fatalities this year should be, “triggering alarm bells that the de Blasio administration must create new processes to ensure that simple life-saving street redesigns can proceed at a pace necessary to get Vision Zero back on track and achieve the goal of zero deaths or serious injuries on our streets,” the organization said.
Families for Safe Streets will host a "Put Safety First!" emergency vigil on the steps of City Hall at noon on May 7.
Brown’s death also resonated with District 31 Councilmember Donovan Richards, who told the Eagle that his “heart was broken” when he heard about the tragedy.
“My heart goes out to Cameron’s family and while there’s nothing we can do to relieve them of their pain, the City must get serious about providing a safer environment for students traveling to and from school,” Richards said.
“I joined my colleagues earlier this year in a letter to the DOE requesting they consider implementing a pilot program that would include both GPS and stop-arm camera technology on school buses. We should be moving forward on this proposal to ensure we are utilizing every technological advancement possible to provide our youth with every protection we can.”