On Thursday, June 5, tragedy struck the northeast Bronx as a young boy, playing near the entrance of the Allerton Library on Barnes Avenue, was hit by a car while crossing the street with his bike.
Community members reported that Michael Needham, a student in the lower grades at P.S. 76, was in a coma as of June 13, leading to calls for a speed hump on the block.
Lilliana Sandoval, the mother of a young boy around Needham’s age, remembers the incident with horror.
“It took 15 minutes for the ambulance to come,” Sandoval recounted the ordeal as best as she could. “He was bleeding a lot, but no one wanted to touch him.”
“Everyone was crying,” Robertson said. “It was horrible.”
The library and the surrounding area is a popular hangout after school for local youth, according to parents and librarians.
“The children hang out here all the time,” local resident Judith Sanjuro said.
Residents are concerned that drivers on Barnes Avenue often speed down the street, don’t respect stop signs, sometimes come down the wrong way on the one-way street, and even drag race in the vicinity.
Local activist and minister Irene Estrada-Rukaj organized a petition, committed to getting 500 signatures to submit to the community board in order to display the public outcry for the speed hump.
Estrada-Rukaj organized local children and parents to collect the signatures on Friday and Saturday around Allerton Avenue, between Boston and White Plains Roads.
“Children are leaving get well signs all over the railing of the ramp,” said branch librarian Margaret Fleesak, noting how the kind gesture also serves as a warning to other children.
The principal of P.S. 76, The Bennington School, Louise Sedotto, emphasized the increased need to encourage safety in a letter sent to parents on June 10 urging caution and advising on bike rules.
“When riding a bicycle, you should always wear a helmet,” she wrote. “It is the law in New York State.”
While a tragedy occurred, the closing of ranks in the Allerton community to fight for the speed bump can be seen as one positive outcome of the ordeal.
“We’re a very close community and when something happens, we bind together,” Estrada-Rukaj said.