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Forest Hills vigil planned for Queens Blvd. victims

Leaders of a Forest Hills activist group plan on holding a vigil at 6 p.m. on July 31 to address the safety of Queens Boulevard following the recent accident that killed two women as they were crossing the boulevard.

The vigil will be held on the sidewalk next to the intersection of 78th Avenue and Queens Boulevard, where J.P. Morgan bank workers Caprice Bush, 23, of Jamaica, and Sharon Rivers, 34, of the Bronx, were hit by a silver BMW SUV while standing on an island median during their lunch break on July 10.

"Words can't describe the tragedy of that accident," said Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), the chairman of the City Council's transportation committee, who plans on attending the vigil. "Clearly we need to do more to protect pedestrian safety. Accidents such as this fatal accident are tragedies that we must absolutely do what we can to prevent in the future."

Bush was killed instantly by the BMW, which flew into the air and flipped over after being hit by a Subaru Forester, which police said ran a red light on 78th Avenue. Rivers died early the next day in Jamaica Hospital.

The driver of the Subaru, Valeri Frumkin, 63, of Kew Gardens, was issued a summons for running the red light, police said. He has not been charged with any criminal offenses as of yet, pending further investigation of the accident, said a spokeswoman for the Queens district attorney.

Frumkin is believed to have blacked out during the accident and allegedly has no recollection of running the red light, Newsday reported.

"This is a death boulevard. Four people have died at that intersection," said Estelle Chwat, the co-president of the Forest Hills Action League, which is organizing the vigil. "And we don't know how many people have been injured and crippled on the boulevard."

According to the city Department of Transportation, 83 people have died on Queens Boulevard since 1993, including four this year. In December, Chwat and her husband dedicated a Japanese red maple tree to all the victims of Queens Boulevard.

"We have a highway in the midst of a residential area," said Chwat, 79, who has lived in Forest Hills for 43 years. "Our side streets are being funneled from the Grand Central Parkway, and people going out to the city are using our Queens Boulevard as a throughway."

Chwat called for the placement of traffic officers along busy intersections of the boulevard and for a re-engineering of the boulevard to make it into more of a residential street.

Other elected officials who have confirmed that they will attend the July 31 vigil include Councilman Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (D-Howard Beach), Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and state Assemblyman Michael Cohen (D-Forest Hills).

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, ext. 155.

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