Mourning the death of a Sunset teen.
On Monday, November 27, local elected officials held a vigil in memory of 14-year-old Edwin Ajacalon, who was killed after being struck by a car while riding his bike at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street on Saturday, November 25 at around 5:43 p.m. Reports claimed that Ajacalon, who came to the states from Guatemala and who was delivering food when he was struck, was dragged half a block before the vehicle that hit him stopped.
Councilmember Carlos Menchaca and Borough President Eric Adams hosted the event along with Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets at the corner where the youth died as a community vigil to mourn the teen’s loss and to demand action that saves lives.
“This is just a truly heartbreaking moment,” Adams said. “Here was a young child, saving money to bring back to his family in Guatemala, believing the streets here are paved with opportunity, not death. Some would look at the video and ask if he was following every bicycle rule on the road. Mistakes should not end in death. Our streets need to become safer to ensure that people can use the roadways in a safe fashion.”
Adams contended that precautions could be taken to ensure these deaths are limited. “We understand the NYPD is looking at the cameras to make a determination if the operator of the vehicle was speeding,” he said. “That is why we need more speed cameras in the city. The state legislature cannot continue to be in the way of this real manner to decrease these deaths and serious accidents.”
State Senator Jesse Hamilton agreed. “In the last year, there have been three deaths of young people in this community due to traffic accidents,” he said. “Whether you’re going to school or the supermarket, you should not walk the streets in fear. I and other colleagues in the State Senate will fight hard to make sure we get Edwin’s Law [named after Ajacalon] passed next year so we have speed cameras at intersections that we know are hazardous to people in our community. I pledge tonight to pass legislation for Edwin’s Law. It’s time for Albany to step up.”
Ajacalon’s uncle Eduardo Vicente attempted to say a few words to the crowd but started to cry and couldn’t speak.
Denise Felipe-Adams from Adams’ office spoke on his behalf. “He wants everyone to know that Edwin was a hard worker,” she said. “He came here to provide for his family back in Guatemala. He came here struggling. He didn’t know English, but he knew he wanted the American dream. His uncle shared with me that anyone who wants to contribute to the family, please contact the borough president’s office.”
Hank Miller of Families for Safe Streets discussed his own experience. “In a few weeks, we will mark a very similar vigil that was held shortly after my sister Victoria was killed not far from here,” he said. “We face an epidemic that kills hundreds every year but there is a solution. Better road design, using vision zero safety standards and protected bike lanes will save lives as will enforcing traffic laws, because speed kills.”
Following the statements, money was collected to help bring Ajacalon’s body back to Guatemala for a burial. A ghost bike was on display near a makeshift memorial with candles and photos of the teen.
“With a heavy heart, I just want to say that the death of Edwin today must be responded to with unity in this community and a continued effort to change the law and bring safer streets to every corner of this entire city,” said Menchaca. “Right here in Sunset Park. Edwin worked so hard. Let’s remember him today as we continue to fight for safer streets.”