March 14, 2013 By Christian Murray
The Department of Transportation faced heavy criticism Thursday morning for failing to take preventive measures that might have saved the life of a Woodside teenager who was killed by an out-of-control minivan while walking along the sidewalk on Thomson Avenue on Monday.
Tenzin Drudak, a 16-year-old from Tibet, was killed when the driver of a maroon Dodge Caravan lost control and careened onto the sidewalk (by 30th Street) at about 10:30 am on Monday. The driver was distracted after reaching for a carton of spilled milk, police said.
Drudak was on his way to Applied Communications HS at the time he was struck.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer held a press conference at the place Drudak was killed on Thursday and urged the Department of Transportation to add more sidewalk barriers; increase the amount of time allotted for pedestrians to cross the wide street (at the traffic lights); and conduct a comprehensive study of the traffic flow in the Thomson Avenue area.
Van Bramer said that the existing metal sidewalk barriers along Thomson Avenue are old and do not cover the entire area. In fact, the minivan that killed Drudak was unimpeded by such a barrier and was brought to a halt after striking a tree. Four La Guardia students were also injured.
Van Bramer said he had been urging the DOT to increase the amount of time given to pedestrians to cross the street at traffic lights on Thomson Avenue for some time. “Every day there are near misses …and yet the DOT tells us the signals are working properly.”
Meanwhile, Shah Amanat, the head of the LaGuardia student association, said he submitted a petition that included the names of 500 students to the DOT in July calling on the agency to review the pedestrian-crossing times.
Armanat said that he received a response in November that the signal timing was fine.
However, a spokesman for the DOT, said “safety is always DOT’s first priority and the agency was already working with LaGuardia Community College to improve pedestrian safety and access at this location as part of the college’s planned expansion. Safety enhancements that are under consideration include sidewalk extensions at this intersection.”
Furthermore, the DOT said that “this week’s fatal crash was the first at that location in at least the last decade.”
Van Bramer discussed other possible solutions at the press conference. He said that in Manhattan crossing guards often work on intersections directing traffic during rush hour—something that he would like to see in this area. He said it was worth considering the creation of a pedestrian bridge, although he did recognize that it would involve a major expenditure.
Van Bramer argues that the DOT is more interested in getting cars to Manhattan as quickly as possible—to the detriment of the 17,000 LaGuardia students and the attendees of 3 nearby high schools.
“Students should not have to risk their lives going to school,” Van Bramer said.
Van Bramer spoke at the memorial site of Drudak, which was the tree that ultimately stopped the careening minivan. At the foot of the tree, there were several candles and flowers. Tied to the trunk were several letters. One letter read: “We will miss you. The good always die young.”
Meanwhile, several of Drudak’s friends—mostly immigrants from Tibet—attended the press conference.
Tenzin Delek, a close friend, said Drudak was interested in hip-hop culture and liked to wear fancy clothes. “He had a tattoo of his mom on his chest,” Delek said, and he liked to hang out with his two dogs. “He was cool.”
First and foremost, have someone monitoring the traffice making the left hand turn from Skillman onto Thomson. they go straight through the light, and the students who have the light to cross are always almost getting mowed down by these drivers. Its been going on for years, and even the DOT do it, so who do you complain to, if the higher-ups are doing it? The day of the accident, I was crossing the street, I had the light, and all of a sudden a car was upon me. went through the light. I was so upset. and a little later, someone came into my office and said students were lying on the ground outside, etc… That could have been me. Something has to be done.
SERIOUSLY? He probably got the Tattoo when was in Nepal or Tibet. I can’t believe that you took that insignificant detail away from this heart shattering story. A mother lost her son, kids lost their friend, a 16 year-old lost his life. Thank you Van Bramer for urging DOT to put safety first. We need to protect those children even at the expense of a slower less convenient commute for drivers.
I teach HS just outside the city and about 25% of kids have tats in my school, those are the ones they display for anyone to see, the # might be even higher. Most are done by a ‘local guy’ out of his apt somewhere.
If a driver is caUght while under the influence, their vehicle must be permanently confisticated. Make wrongful death cases open and shut, particularly in the case of drunk drivers.
NY State law regarding tattoos for minors here:
It’s illegal to tattoo someone under 18. Someone broke the law by tattooing him.
oh yap it is truth that it is breaking the law getting tattoo under 18 but he got those tattoo back to his country when he went summer vocation at Nepal but in Nepal there is no law about breaking law when you are below 18 yrs old
hey NEWWHIRLEDORDER what does him having a tattoo of his mom have anything to do with this? so what if he had a tattoo. BIG DEAL.
Terrible. Yeah he “spilled his milk”, ok.
More like he was probably texting. Someone check his phone records. Regardless, distracted driving should lead to some prison time for this dummy.
A 16 year old should not have a tattoo.
Those schools should never have been opened on the approach road to the bridge.
This is an awful loss. Prayers for the young man and his family. This could have happened to anybody.
Just a thought: how about harsher punishments for maniacs who drive like recklessly?
Hey Bernie, I’m thinking that the studies and the barriers on QB have made things less dangerous for the community. It’s probably cut way back on jay-walking. In a city where pedestrians greatly outnumber cars, a situation that allows vehicles to routinely drive well over the speed limit needs to be address. If people want to drive fast, get on the highway. Thompson Street is heavy with pedestrians- traffic should be restricted on that street to pedestrians and bus traffic only!
Regulations that restrict behaviour which is potentially harmful to others does have a valuable purpose and cannot be discounted.
Whats needed here are large footbridges (similar to the one in Queens Plaza) or tunnels underneath these large intersections. One that spans Thomson Avenue and another that spans Van Dam St. That way pedestrians can get to where they need to safely without impeding traffic. Some provision would need to be made for the handicapped also like elevator assistance perhaps.
This was a stupid accident and a sensless loss of life, I feel sad for the young man and his family — Hey, Van Bramer, to blame anyone else but the operator of the vehicle is a waste of time and taxpayer’s money — NYC is congested with people cars trucks and bicycles. The world is a dangerous place, always has been. All the barriers and regulations and studies you propose will not change that.
Educate morons to not reach for spilled milk when driving a vehicle.
i think the cross walk time are sufficient. now unless your going to take your time crossing the street, well thats on you. but to increase the cross walk time would increase traffic in that area. which i think is not good. add the sidewalk metal barriers, thats good but end it there.