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‘Standard Practice’: Queens Panel Endorses Universal Daylighting as Driver Who Killed Dolma Goes to Court

Tuesday was bookended by a Queens driver who killed a 7-year-old girl appearing in court and a community board urging the city to daylight all intersections to prevent such crashes in the future.

12:01 AM EDT on June 21, 2023

Claudia Mendez-Vasquez appeared in Queens Criminal Court on Tuesday to face charges of killing 7-year-old Dolma Naadhun. Photo: Kevin Duggan

The city should clear all intersections of parked cars, a safety measure known as “daylighting,” members of Queens Community Board 1 unanimously voted on Tuesday — a response that came after drivers killed two children at crossings in the neighborhood this year. 

The panel’s recommendation to city officials passed the same day as the driver who killed young Dolma Naadhun, 7, at an Astoria intersection appeared before a Queens Criminal Court judge earlier that morning on low-level felony charges.

Daylighting — a state requirement that the city has exempted itself from — should be “a standard installation,” said CB1’s Transportation Committee Chair Dominic Stiller during the virtual board meeting, adding that the board's call to action was “intended to kind of support the Department of Transportation in their installation of these traffic calming devices as standard practice.”

The board approved a letter to that effect to DOT without any opposition or even discussion from members. 

Their missive, citing national design guidelines, urges the agency to daylight corners with physical infrastructure — not just paint — to keep cars from hogging the spaces near intersections, endangering countless lives. The city should either build out curb corners with concrete, or install granite blocks, planters, or bollards.

Officials should fold such daylighting and curb extensions into any future road resurfacing or sidewalk reconstruction, according to the civic panel, similar to how Hoboken, New Jersey, has managed to quickly deploy the life-saving infrastructure — the Garden State city has not had a traffic death since 2017.

In CB1 over just the past year alone, there have been a whopping 2,092 reported crashes, injuring 972 people — nearly three every day — and killing four.

"Ultimately, we are just asking DOT to follow the law," said Huge Ma, a board member also known for creating the pandemic-era Twitter bot TurboVax, said during an earlier discussion at the committee level. "It will save lives.”

Lives like that of Dolma, who was hit by a driver at Newtown Road and 45th Street, where cars routinely parked right up against or in the crosswalk, blocking visibility for New Yorker's walking across and motorists approaching intersections.

This treacherous setup is common across the five boroughs, but at that specific intersection DOT has since agreed to install a traffic light at the request of Dolma’s grieving father, and set up all-way stop signs a block over on 46th Street. 

In April, another hit-and-run driver hit and killed 16-year-old Jayden McLaurin at such speed that the teen's Citi Bike was virtually severed in half.

The motorist who hit Dolma, 46-year-old Claudia Mendez-Vasquez, came to Queens Criminal Court earlier Tuesday for a brief and uneventful appearance. 

She's facing a charge of criminally negligent homicide, the lowest felony, though it carries a prison maximum of four years. She's also facing lesser charges of violating a license restriction, failing to stop at a stop sign, failing to exercise due care, and reckless driving.

Mendez-Vasquez and her attorney declined to comment as they exited the courtroom. 

“She’s not talking to you, just leave, please,” her attorney David Cohen told Streetsblog.

The defendant is due back in court on Sept. 6. 

DOT’s press office did not immediately return a request for comment. 

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