History Repeats itself on Woodhaven Boulevard

By Ed Wendell


History repeated itself Monday morning. We woke up to the sounds of helicopters and text messages asking us if we knew what happened on Woodhaven Boulevard. 

July 25th, 2019 started the exact same way. That morning, just before 5 a.m., 56-year old Sivananaintha Perumal was struck and killed at 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard as he crossed the street to catch a bus to his job at Dunkin’ Donuts in Howard Beach.

The driver, 26-year old David Garcia from Woodhaven, was estimated to be going 92 miles per hour when he mowed down Mr. Perumal. He didn’t stop to see if the man was okay. He didn’t stop to call for help.

He killed a man and kept on driving. He was eventually arrested and charged with manslaughter.

On Monday, just before 5 a.m., a 54-year old woman was struck at 91st Avenue and Woodhaven Boulevard as she crossed the same street, leaving her in critical condition with severe head trauma. 

And the driver did the same thing, not stopping to check, not stopping to call for assistance. We have faith in the NYPD and expect that this driver will share the same fate as David Garcia did in 2019. 

They already have the make and model of the car (a Grey Kia) and with all the cameras on Woodhaven and Crossbay Boulevards, it’s a very good bet that they’ll catch this criminal quickly.

According to reports, the driver had turned onto the boulevard from 91st Avenue, which leads one to think that the driver may live here in Woodhaven. If they do, and if they read this column, here’s some advice:

Turn yourself in. Now. Today. You will face punishment but it will go easier for you if you confess rather than waiting for the police to figure out who you are and apprehend you. 

Your life, as it was, is over. This is who you are now. And you better pray really hard that your victim recovers or else you’ll soon be facing manslaughter charges and prison time, as you deserve to.

It’s galling that another family has to go through this. This boulevard in general and that intersection in particular, have been a persistent danger for far too long.

Back in 2019, residents in Woodhaven gathered late at night at that exact location to make a plea to drivers to slow down.

Close to two dozen residents joined the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association to hold homemade signs with simple messages. One asked drivers to slow down. Another reminded drivers that a man was killed at this spot by a car going 92 miles per hour.

Another sign appealed to their own interests, reminding them that speed kills drivers, too. Indeed, earlier that month in 2019, a 23-year old resident of Woodhaven was killed in a high-speed collision with a tree in Ozone Park. His car was traveling so fast that it was split in two.

One tragedy after another; one life lost after another. How many families destroyed; their lives never to be the same again? And the one thing most of them have in common is a speeding vehicle.

This accident has shined a light on this intersection and it is time to speak about solutions again. For starters, we need more enforcement. They need to cover that area with speed cameras, not only to discourage speeding, but also to make sure the next driver gets identified straight away.

Next, they should move the stoplights on the boulevard back 35 feet, putting some distance between where vehicles have to stop and the space where pedestrians walk. They also need to extend the time pedestrians are given to cross at that intersection. 

And finally, they need to severely punish any driver who flees the scene of a collision. If you can turn your back on a person you just struck with your vehicle, then we as a society should turn our back on you and tack an extra 10 years onto any sentence you might receive.

It is galling and heartbreaking that we are having this discussion again and again, over and over. So many lives ruined. It has to stop somehow.