Queens CB 2 Committee Supports Fixes Where Driver Killed Teen on Sidewalk

In the wake of Tenzin Drudak's death, DOT is proposing to close this turn lane and restrict left turns at Skillman and Thomson Avenues. Photo: ##http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2013-05-thomson-skillman-qn-cb2.pdf##DOT##

On March 11, Tenzin Drudak, 16, was on the sidewalk on Thomson Avenue across from Applied Communications High School, where he went to school, when the driver of a maroon Dodge Caravan careened across three lanes of oncoming traffic, between metal barriers, onto the sidewalk, injuring four and killing Drudak.

The driver, Mohamed Keita, 36, was reportedly distracted by spilt milk as he was speeding through the intersection. Police issued Keita a summons for driving without insurance, but did not file charges.

In the wake of Drudak’s death, Queens Community Board 2, LaGuardia Community College, and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on DOT to make changes to the intersection, which sees lots of foot traffic from nearby schools as well as heavy vehicle congestion caused by drivers using surface streets to and from the toll-free Queensboro Bridge.

In April, DOT adjusted signage and traffic signals at the intersection, adding countdown signals for pedestrians on Thomson Avenue at 30th Street, 30th Place, 31st Street, and 31st Place.

Last month, the agency presented a safety plan [PDF] to CB 2’s transportation committee that would prohibit right turns from westbound Thomson Avenue to Skillman Avenue, with the short right-turn ramp blocked by flexible posts or granite blocks. DOT also proposed installing planters in the former turn lane, to be maintained by LaGuardia Community College. The plan would also prohibit left turns from eastbound Thomson Avenue to Skillman Avenue.

The committee approved the plan, with the exception of the left turn ban, in a 6-0 vote. At the committee meeting, DOT said it was looking to implement these changes as quickly as possible [PDF]. However, the plan did not come up for a vote at this month’s full board meeting, and CB 2’s full board next meets in September.

DOT says it will also study whether to install electronic signage telling drivers how fast they are traveling, and has begun examining other changes for the intersection and surrounding area, including additional turn restrictions and pedestrian improvements. A particular area of concern for DOT is the crosswalk at 30th Street on the south side of Thomson Avenue, which has high pedestrian volumes and significant conflicts with turning drivers. DOT and LaGuardia Community College are also undertaking longer-term studies of traffic safety improvements in the surrounding area.

  • Foo

    City is missing a connector from LIE to Queensboro Bridge.

  • h.

    I ride through this intersection every morning. Northbound drivers on Skillman making the left to get to the bridge always jump the light. Sometimes southbound drivers on Skillman will give me the pre-emptive right hook where they creep ahead of me, into the crosswalk, then in front of me so they can beat the light jumpers. To combat this, now I jump the light there as well. All this because people are choosing the free bridge over the tolled tunnel.

  • KillMoto

    The high cost of a free bridge. One human life, four other innocents injured, and all via only one incident. How long must bystanders blood be used to finance a free bridge?

  • Anonymous

    Bravo to Councilmember jimmy van Bremmer for fighting so hard for pedestrian safety. In Chelsea Hell’s Kitchen in manhattan, a woman was killed in February at 41st street, the second fatality at the same intersection in recent years. Four months later we are still waiting for ANY improvement from the DOT! Very disheartening.

  • Driver

    Free or tolled, there would still be heavy traffic in this area. Have any of you seen the backups headed to the tolled QMT in the AM? It’s not as if all the people using the bridge could simply take the tunnel, even if the cost were the same.

    I don’t think there is any indication that the driver was even headed towards the bridge or was even attempting to make a left turn at this intersection. It seems like he was going straight and lost control due to his own distraction.


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