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Elected officials tout new 5-year plan to improve road safety in Queens

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NEW YORK — Improving street safety for pedestrians and cyclists is the aim of a new five-year plan announced Tuesday in Queens.

CBS New York spoke to families in Astoria calling for change after losing loved ones in traffic collisions.

Carmen Larino’s 38-year-old daughter, Karina, was walking home from work in May 2020, when she was hit by a vehicle and killed.

“Karina’s death has left a hole in our family,” Larino said through tears. “She was just half a block away from our home when she was crossing at the crosswalk to go home. A woman ran her over with an SUV.”

Larino now cares for her granddaughter. She said they’ll never fully recover, but they are working to make sure no other families suffer the same loss.

“If it saves lives, it’s worth doing,” Larino said.

Officials say 2023 has been one of the worst years for traffic fatalities since Vision Zero was implemented in 2014 with the goal of achieving zero traffic-related deaths. So far this year, there have been 924 crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists in western Queens, alone, resulting in 13 deaths.

Queens politicians, activists, and local leaders have been working on a plan that includes installing more protected bike lanes and designing streets to protect pedestrians.

“Chicanes … shaping the street to slow down and calm traffic, so that cars cannot drive fast,” Assembly member Jessica Ginzalez-Rojas said.

The plan also aims to increase the number of speed cameras and red-light cameras and crack down on reckless drivers.

“If we’re going to enforce these traffic laws, we need to expand automated enforcement,” state Sen. Kristen Gonzalez said.

One of the plans is to remove parking spots closest to a crosswalk or intersection so drivers and pedestrians can more clearly see one another.

“New York state bans parking within 20 feet of intersections, but New York City has overridden this law, allowing parking right up to the crosswalk. This dangerous exemption limits visibility for everyone,’ said Laura Shephard, of Transportation Alternatives.

Officials also want to limit personal ownership of oversized vehicles, and restrict truck use in residential areas.

Julie Huntington, of the group Families for Safe Streets, lost her father, Kim, in a truck accident 2019. He was 65.

“It was horrific. The over-height truck sheared off the under dressing of a bridge construction project. The debris pierced through my dad’s windshield and killed him,” Huntington said.

Huntington said so many people who contributed to the safety plan were, unfortunately, united by tragedy like hers. They hope it passes through local and state government and makes an impact.

The proposal suggests infrastructures projects through 2029. CBS New York reached out to the Department of Transportation. A spokesperson said the agency will review the report and continue to work with elected officials.

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