Jersey City officials continue to work on traffic safety after 11-year-old’s death

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Safe Streets JC, pedestrian safety advocates, along with local officials, publicly showed support for beefing up traffic enforcement at a public meeting at the Hank Gallo Community Center on Tuesday night.

Steven Fulop

By Katherine Guest/Hudson County View

Tuesday night’s meeting came after Mayor Steven Fulop and Freeholder Bill O’Dea marched with Safe Streets JC in October, part of a push to make John F. Kennedy Boulevard safer.

The march occurred in light of the death of 11 year-old George Gonzalez, who was killed from a jitney bus days earlier.

Alexis Figueroa, 14, the victim’s sister, spoke to the audience of approximately 100 attendees, about the endurance of the roadway tragedy.

“It’s just hard knowing I am not going to see him. I am going to grow up without him. In my opinion there should be more crossing guards on Kennedy Boulevard. There’s just no one watching,” said Figueroa.

Three weeks prior to the incident, there had been three reported deaths on JFK Boulevard.

Since then, Kara Hrabosky and Paul Bellan-Boyer, co-founders of Safe Streets JC, have continued to mobilize the administration to make traffic safety in Jersey City a priority.

What first grew out of Duncan Avenue and JFK Boulevard, the group plans to expand it’s efforts during an colloquial February meeting, followed by another meeting with officials in March.

Ato Tuazon, member of Our Lady of Mercies and Jersey City Together, mentioned the dangers of police officers, ambulances and fire fighters being incapable of fulfilling their duties when roads are blocked by commercial trucks on residential streets.

“Keep in mind though seemingly minor, an accident can quickly become a matter of life and death,” stated Tuazon.

Tuazon also praised the City of Bayonne’s strict traffic enforcement, which implied Jersey City officials should emulate the city’s methods as an example for future regulations to Kennedy Boulevard.

“I’m sure a lot of you agree that Bayonne is a good example of what traffic enforcement is done all year round and has been effective method of minimizing accident and speeding, especially on Kennedy Boulevard, which I understand is one of the most dangerous roads in Hudson County.”

This year, there’s been 914 motor vehicle accidents and 65 incidences of endangerment of pedestrians by collision on JFK Boulevard, officials said.

In order to help reduce these numbers, the county Division of Traffic & Engineering is implementing additional pedestrian safety measures to increase pedestrian cross times, including signal changes, road adjustments and other beneficial improvements.

The improvements are being implemented as part of a $5.5 million of NJTPA grant funding.

Furthermore, Hudson County Undersheriff Andrew Conti said there has been an increase in enforcement and a total of 1,197 summons issued, as well as an increase in police officer enforcement of motor vehicle violations.

In addition to 14-year-old Alexis, Lisa Schillo Acevedo, LCCS parent, also spoke openly about school safety and a need for more crossing guards.

Lack of respect from drivers became another topic of discussion, prompting Schillo to suggest crossing guards be escorted by a police officer.

Fulop added that his administration is committed to improving traffic safety and in doing so, the city plans to hire 30 more crossing guards in short order.

Hrabosky, speaking directly to Fulop, highlighted the importance of engineering elements to Jersey City,  also reflecting on how under the mayor’s leadership of the city is helping add police officers to the force.