On Tuesday, August 19, Allerton community activist Irene Estrada-Rukaj received a much-awaited response to an increasingly dangerous community need.
“I had tears in my eyes and I’m just rejoicing,” she said after a Department of Transportation spokesperson shared the good news – a speed hump would soon be installed on Barnes Avenue, between Allerton and Arnow avenues.
With tireless help from neighborhood residents and youth from the Mini-Olympics, Estrada-Rukaj began a grassroots campaign for the installation of a speed hump outside the Allerton Library, 2740 Barnes Avenue, after uncontrolled traffic took the life of a 10-year-old boy earlier this summer.
On June 5, a car struck Michael Needham, Jr. while he was crossing the street with his bike near the library. After 18 days in a coma, the P.S. 76 student passed away.
“I’m very happy to know they decided to install the speed hump because I really didn’t want someone else to go through what we did,” the deceased boy’s father, Michael Needham, said. “It’s too bad a child had to die before this could be done.”
Soon after the tragic event struck the Allerton community, local residents joined together for a petition drive that quickly generated more than 700 signatures.
“In order to make change in the community, it takes a lot of community effort,” Estrada-Rukaj said. “We had to teach the people that the only way things get done is when people unite.”
She further commented that she recently saw the vast population of students the speed hump would help protect, once again solidifying her efforts for its instillation.
“They were telling me the library is a refuge, their home,” Estrada-Rukaj explained about the response from community youth at the library’s end of the year reading program celebration, which was held Friday, August 15.
Also glad to have a deterrent to protect the kids from another devastating accident, Needham said, “I really believe the hump is going to help and the kids are going to be much safer.”
As much help as he believes it will provide the community, Needham said, the speed hump isn’t enough for him.
“If that hump was there before, my son could still be here with me,” he said.
Such a realization, he explained, is fueling his efforts to take preventative measures throughout the rest of the borough.
“It’s not just that library,” he commented about the Allerton location. “I believe those humps should be installed in front of every library.”
Estrada-Rukaj said she strongly recommends anyone concerned with local street safety to call 311 and request a DOT traffic survey. “It can only bring safer streets,” she explained.
©2008 Community News Group