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Van Bramer demands traffic study for Thomson Avenue

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (r.) stands with LaGuardia Community College students at a news conference to demand the city Department of Transportation investigate the safety of Thomson Avenue. Photo by Rebecca Henely
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City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) called for the city Department of Transportation to do a traffic safety study of Thomson Avenue last week in light of a car crash that killed a 16-year-old boy and injured four LaGuardia Community College students.

“We are here to offer condolences to the family and friends of Tenzin Drudak, but also to say, ‘Never again,’” Van Bramer said.

Tenzin, a Tibetan teenager who lived in Woodside and attended Applied Communications High School, was hit by a 2002 maroon Dodge Charger traveling eastbound on Thomson Avenue March 11. Tenzin later died at Elmhurst Hospital Center that day. The minivan also struck four LaGuardia Community College students, who were listed at the hospital in stable condition.

The Wall Street Journal said the driver was 36-year-old Mohamed Keita, of Charlotte, N.C. He received a summons for driving without insurance, police said.

The accident occurred across from 20-30 Thomson Ave. in Long Island City, a LaGuardia building that also is home to several schools, including Applied Communications. Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley and several students of LaGuardia as well as the nearby high schools joined Van Bramer in demanding the DOT improve safety along Thomson Avenue from Skillman Avenue to Van Dam Street.

“Every day we cross that street, we feel threatened by the cars,” said Shah Amanat, president of the LaGuardia student government.

DOT spokesman Scott Gastel said in an e-mail the agency has been working with the college to improve safety as the college plans an expansion. He said one plan under consideration is installing sidewalk extensions at the intersection, which would increase the sidewalk at the end of the block and encourage traffic to go slower.

Gastel also said the fatal crash this month had been the first at that intersection in the last decade and in 2011 there was one crash that caused an injury.

But Van Bramer said with the intersection so close to the Ed Koch-Queensborough Bridge and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, many motorists speed on Thomson Avenue while coming from Manhattan.

“It is impossible to spend any amount of time here and not conclude that it could be made safer,” he said.

The DOT announced Monday that pedestrian fatalities are up due to speeding. In Albany, the state legislature is considering a law to test speed cameras in the city. Van Bramer introduced a City Council resolution which passed Wednesday calling for the legislature to pass the bill and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other legislators advocating for it.

Van Bramer and the students requested the DOT do a comprehensive study of the area, install more of the barriers along Thomson Avenue, look at the timing of the lights along Thomson Avenue at Van Dam Street and put more traffic agents near LaGuardia.

“No one should have to fear being hit by a car on the way to school or work,” he said.

Students had left flowers and notes for Tenzin on the tree that the minivan hit.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 12:23 am, March 22, 2013
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