May 2, 2018 By Tara Law
The father of the 9-year-old boy killed by an elderly driver while crossing Northern Boulevard Monday is calling on the city to make the road safer.
Raul Ampuero’s son was struck dead by a Jeep Compass Monday while walking across Northern Boulevard near 70th Street. The boy, Giovanni Ampuero, was pronounced dead at Elmhurst General Hospital and his mother, Karen Manrique, who was walking with him, was left unscathed.
Now Raul Ampuero is asking the city to install more speed cameras, reduce the speed limit on Northern Boulevard and hire more crossing guards. According to Ampuero, the city has prioritized cars and other “material things” over safety for too long.
“Words are not going to heal my pain,” Ampuero said. “This shouldn’t happen to anyone.”
The driver, Juan B. Jimenez, 86, fled the scene after striking Giovanni and was later charged with leaving the scene of an accident, failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care, police say.
Giovanni was the fifth victim under 18 to have been killed on Northern Boulevard in the last six years.
Miguel Torres, 11, was killed by a dump truck as he was crossing 80th street to get to school on Dec. 27, 2012. Olvin Jahir Figueroa, 3, was killed by a drunk driver while walking with his mother across Junction Boulevard on Oct. 12, 2013. Noshat Nahian, 8, was killed while walking with his 11-year-old sister near 61st street on Dec. 20, 2013. And Ovidio Jaramillo, 17, was killed near Junction Boulevard while walking home from a funeral on Dec. 9, 2015.
It is Ampuero’s goal to make sure that Giovanni is the last child to die this way on Northern Boulevard.
Ampuero wants to meet with the mayor to discuss the importance of making the streets safer and make him aware of the gravity of his loss.
He remembers Giovanni as a gentle boy who loved his older brothers— Giancarlo, 14, and Johnathon, 20— and had a “special gift” for making babies happy.
“I’m proud to be his dad, and I’m proud that God gave him to me for nine years,” Ampuero said.
Ampuero plans to attend a vigil from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. this Saturday in front of I.S. 230, 74-10 34th Ave, which is is intended to honor Giovanni and to draw attention to the dangers of Northern Boulevard
The event is being hosted by street safety organizations Make Queens Safer, Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Volunteer Committee.
“It was a preventable death,” said Cristina Furlong, co-founder of Make Queens Safer and a Jackson Heights resident. “It’s such a horrible slap in the face to people who are working for safe streets.”
While Queens Boulevard, the notoriously dangerous “Boulevard of Death,” has become safer since the implementation of Vision Zero, Northern Boulevard has continued to claim lives, Furlong said.
“It’s the new ‘Boulevard of Death,’” Furlong said. “You would think people would’ve gotten the message by now.”
Now, Furlong is renewing her call for the city to install more speed cameras along Northern Boulevard and to bring the street up to the Vision Zero Design Standard— a set of guidelines designed to maximize street safety. It is time to end the city’s “piecemeal reaction to tragedy,” said Furlong.
Furlong feels a special sense of urgency because she is the mother of her own 9-year-old son. Although Furlong speaks to him frequently about street safety, she feels that it is impossible to protect him completely from dangerous drivers.
“There’s not much I can do to protect him from a reckless driver, except to make him hyper vigilant,” said Furlong.
A fundraiser has also been set up by Michelle Rhee, a friend of Giovanni’s mother, to cover the family’s funeral and other expenses. The fundraiser has collected 101 donations worth a total of $7,590.