March 3, 2023 By Michael Dorgan and Paul Frangipane
More than 100 people attended a candlelight vigil in Astoria Thursday, March 2, to honor the life of a girl who was fatally struck by an SUV in the neighborhood last week.
During the vigil, speakers called on residents to sign a petition to make the intersection where she died safer.
The vigil was held at PS85Q, located at 23-70 31st St., the school 7-year-old Dolma Naadhum attended before she was fatally struck by the driver of a Ford Explorer on Feb. 17. Naadhum was crossing Newtown Road and 45th Street with her mother and sister just before 6 p.m. when the driver — a 46-year-old woman — allegedly blew a stop sign and collided with her.
Naadhum’s former classmates lined the school’s front fence with white balloons to symbolize the purity of her life while other students and children in attendance left candles in front of a memorial. The memorial was erected at the entrance to the school shortly after Naadhun’s death.
Among the attendees were Naadhum’s family, educators and affiliates of PS85Q, along with state Sen. Michael Gianaris.
Naadhum’s father spoke briefly to the crowd and appealed for people to sign an online petition — created by his son — that calls for a traffic light to be erected at the intersection where she was hit. The petition also calls for traffic lights at the intersection of Newtown Road and 44th Street, as well as at Newtown Road and 46th Street.
Ann Gordon-Chang, the principal of PS85Q, said that the gathering was a celebration of Naadhum’s life and to cherish her memory.
“We’re here in the playground, a place where she often had fun, she played with her friends and it’s a good place, so we could have great memories about Dolma,” Gordon-Chang said. “We just want to have a moment to circle the family with a sense of love and community.”
Gordon-Chang said that the school is a community where people can turn in hard times. She also said it is important for residents to sign the petition.
“This is about the life of a child, this is about a community and this is a community that is here to work together to support Dolma and her family,” Gordon-Chang said.
“It’s also about the future. It’s about other children and how do we ensure the safety of all. That is something that we can all come together and make happen.”
The rally came nearly about 10 days after local Council members Julie Won and Tiffany Cabán wrote to the DOT urging the agency to make the sidewalk wider by installing traffic lights and other traffic calming measures such as curb extensions and speed bumps.
The DOT, in a responding letter to the lawmakers, said it is exploring putting in new safety measures at the intersection.
Gianaris said that Naadhum’s family has shown incredible strength in dealing with the tragedy and that they have set an example to the community.
“We pledge everlasting support to Dolma’s family and those of us in public office have pledged to make sure we fix Newtown Road where this happened to honor her father’s request.”
Laura Meletiadis, Naadun’s second-grade teacher, said that the young girl was full of life and loved her friends and family.
“She was always happy and always smiling,” Meletiadis said. “She loved her friends and had many. Everyone loved Dolma, staff and students alike.”
Naadhum, Meletiadis said, was proud of her Tibetan roots and often spoke about the region.
“She loved it — the land, the people, the food,” Meletiadis said. “My class has really felt the absence of Dolma and we will miss her tremendously. We loved her and she will always be our friend. I pray she is at peace. I pray her family finds peace.”