Nov. 20, 2023 By Bill Parry
Loved ones of recent Astoria victims of traffic violence joined Families for Safe Streets members, elected officials and safe street advocates from Transportation Alternatives to mark World Day of Remembrance 2023 at a rally in Astoria Park on Sunday, Nov. 19.
Speakers called on the city and Albany to pass legislation such as Sammy’s Law to reduce speed limits across the five boroughs after 2226 people were killed and 2,247 seriously injured in traffic violence this year.
Following the rally, participants set out on a procession through the streets of Astoria stopping at three locations to remember victims who died in the neighborhood in the past year. They paused at the corner of 21st Street and Astoria Park South at a memorial for 38-year-old mother Karina Larino, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver just a block from her home in May 2022. Her daughter, Olivia Vasquez, her brother Manuel Larino and one of her co-workers at the MTA, where Larino worked at the LaGuardia Bus Depot in East Elmhurst, delivered remarks.
The march proceeded north along 21st Street to 21st Avenue where they gathered around a “ghost bike” dedicated to 16-year-old Jayden McLaurin. The youngster from the Ravenswood Houses was killed by a hit-and-run driver as he rode a Citi Bike at the location in May. He was remembered by his grandmother, his aunt Deja Daniels and his mother Porscha McLaurin, who is a member of Families for Safe Streets.
“My son Jayden deserved a chance to grow up. Instead, traffic violence robbed him of his future,” McLaurin said. “No parent should have to experience the pain that we, and countless parents across New York City, have felt. On this World Day of Remembrance, we need our leaders to commit to taking action to save lives across New York City. Traffic violence can and must be prevented.”
The march proceeded away from the waterfront along Ditmars Boulevard and then made its way to 29th Street and 24th Avenue, where 62-year-old Tamara Chuchi Kao was cycling when she was struck and killed by a cement truck driver in January.
Her husband David Biolsi was overcome with emotion as he remembered his late wife.
“Every traffic fatality that occurs in New York City is an unacceptable tragedy that tears families apart, underscoring the need for the government to act with the urgency of now to develop solutions that will make our streets safe for all who use them,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Too many people have been victimized by traffic violence, and too many victims’ families have been torn apart by the untimely loss of a loved one due to a crash. We must all be committed to preventing additional tragedies by making our city safer for drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and all who share our streets.”
State Senator Kristen Gonzalez and Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani attended the rally and march and reflected on the emotional remembrances on Nov. 20.
“Yesterday’s world day of remembrance at Astoria Park was heartbreaking,” Mamdani said. “Twenty six New Yorkers have been killed by traffic violence this year alone. We march for all of these for all of these losses in our community, including Karina Larino, a 38-year old Astorian who was killed last year by an SUV while crossing 21st street by Astoria Park South. These deaths are often called “accidents”, but they are not – they are the inevitable result of city policy and street design that prioritize the movement of cars over the safety of New Yorkers.”
“Yesterday’s powerful vigil and march, during which we heard from husbands, mothers, family members and friends of our community members and committed to turning our grief into action by prioritizing safety and community connectivity in street design,” Gonzalez said.
At the city level, Families for Safe Streets is fighting for holistic neighborhood-wide safety plans, which includes universal daylighting — repurposing parking spaces closest to intersections to improve visibility — Open Streets, school streets, bike boulevards, protected bike lanes, and more to keep every New Yorker safe.
“No loss of life on our streets is acceptable and our thoughts today are with those who have lost loved ones to traffic crashes,” a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Transportation said in a statement. “That is why we are working every day to deliver live-saving street redesigns, push for expanded automated enforcement, and develop effective education campaigns. This year, we are on pace to develop a record number of protected bike lanes — which have proven to enhance safety for everyone on our streets, including pedestrians and drivers — and have committed to dramatically expanding the city’s greenway network, including along the Queens waterfront near today’s event.”
Transportation Alternatives is demanding urgent action from Mayor Eric Adams to redesign streets for safety as legally mandated by the NYC Streets Plan.
“On World Day of Remembrance, we honor and remember the 226 New Yorkers killed and 2,247 seriously injured in traffic violence this year — these are not statistics, but our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends.” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said. “Each death and serious injury must be an urgent call to action for our elected officials to end traffic violence on our streets. New York City has the tools, data, and expertise to achieve Vision Zero, but we need the political will to make safety a reality for everyone who walks, bikes, and drives in New York. Today, and every day, we demand from our leaders – no more excuses, no more empty promises, no more endless studies — make our streets safe now.”