BY TRISHA SAKHUJA
The Western Queens community has gathered to mourn yet again, after a child was killed in Woodside last week, the fourth child to die because of automobile accidents this year alone.
Just days after a crash involving a truck driver with a suspended license took the life of eight- year-old Noshat Nahian, State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) introduced legislation that would make it a felony for drivers to drive with suspended licenses and kill or seriously injure someone in the process.
On Dec. 20, Nahian was hit and killed by a truck while walking to Gwendoline Alleyne PS 152 with his 11-year-old sister, at 61st St. and Northern Blvd., in Woodside.
On Dec. 23, Gianaris gathered with local elected officials, Paul White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, and other community groups at the crosswalk where Nahian’s life was taken away.
Gianaris also proposed the immediate impoundment of the license plate of a vehicle being operated by someone with a suspended license.
Since drivers like the one involved in the recent tragedy are charged with only a misdemeanor, Gianaris said he is hopeful that these bills will become law and help prevent more tragedies like this one.
“Nothing is more important than protecting our children and this tragic accident is a stark reminder that we must redouble our efforts to make our streets safer, including bringing chronically reckless drivers to justice,” he said. “A little boy is dead because this driver was still on the road despite repeated unsafe driving violations.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D- East Elmhurst) said before another tragedy occurs, the City needs a comprehensive street safety plan.
“Speed cameras and other technologies, as well as school crossing guards, need to be included,” he said. “And we need vigorous enforcement of existing traffic laws and to create new, smart laws such as the one Senator Gianaris is proposing.”
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said the investigation is ongoing as to exactly how this occurred, but he understands all streets, including Northern Boulevard, must be safe and livable and no child should ever die simply trying to cross the street on his way to school.
“With the implementation of this bill, we will be able to prevent countless fatal collisions that have claimed the lives of innocent victims like 8-year-old Noshat Nashian in Woodside,” Van Bramer said.
White said from 2007 to 2011, no less than 180 New Yorkers died by drivers with suspended licenses.
“We as a City, as a State, as a society, finally recognize this problem for what it is, which is the number one killer of children in New York City,” White said.
White said because of the fear some live in about reckless driving, “we are not able to walk and enjoy our City.”
Through this legislation, we would be saving lives, preventing injuries and giving our kids the freedom they need, White added.
“This is a long over due common sense legislative change that would finally make the punishment fit the crime when it comes to lawless driving in New York City,” he said.
Reach Trisha Sakhuja at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Tsakhuja13.