BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Jackson Heights elected officials, community leaders, nonprofit organizations and residents gathered at IS 230 on Saturday for a vigil for Giovanni Ampuero, a 9-year-old boy who was killed in a hit-and-run at 70th Street and Northern Boulevard.
“I came because I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired of having to come to events like this,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). “This is an issue of car violence and it must be treated the same as gun violence.”
Make Queens Safer, a nonprofit organization that fosters street safety in Queens, called on the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to produce a safety plan for every inch of Northern Boulevard and create school traffic-safety plans to ensure safe passage to and from school for all schoolchildren. The group also wants the state legislature to pass a bill to increase penalties against hit-and-run drivers, and for the City Council to pass the Vision Zero Design Standard to ensure that streets are designed to prevent dangerous driving. Make Queens Safer also called on the public advocate’s office to create a program to provide support for victims of traffic violence.
“This is our community and we failed Giovanni,” said Laura Newman, the founder of Make Queens Safer. “We failed five other children who lost their lives to cars and reckless drivers on a one-mile stretch of Northern Boulevard in fewer than six years.”
Following the vigil at the middle school, a crowd of attendees walked with flowers in hand to the site of the boy’s death.
Ampuero’s mother, Karen Manrique; father, Raul Ampuero; and brothers, Giancarlo and Johnathon Ampuero, attended the vigil.
“Giovanni is going to be remembered for the rest of our lives,” said Raul Ampuero. “He was a beautiful child. Burying your child is the worst thing I think any parent can do. It’s very difficult for our kids to cross Northern Boulevard. We don’t know if a car will run a red light. I’ll do whatever is necessary so that this doesn’t happen to any other parent.”
Ampuero’s older brother also shared heartfelt words about his brother.
“My brother was an angel, he was everything to me,” said Giancarlo. “Me and him made a promise that if he died, or I die, we said we will always stick together as brothers for life.”