Road safety advocates organizing awareness walk

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Jivanna Bennaiem, who has been pushing for greater pedestrian safety since her husband's death in 2016, pitches the walk to Great Neck Plaza trustees. She said Kensington officials approved the walk, Nassau County Police will assist and that organizers will be reaching out to the Village of Great Neck next. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Jivanna Bennaiem, who has been pushing for greater pedestrian safety since her husband's death in 2016, pitches the walk to Great Neck Plaza trustees. She said Kensington officials approved the walk, Nassau County Police will assist and that organizers will be reaching out to the Village of Great Neck next. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Families for Safe Streets and North Shore Action are working with local pedestrian safety advocate Jivanna Bennaiem and other locals to host the first Oren’s 5K & Fun Run in November, organizers said, in hopes of raising awareness about driving and walking safely.

Bennaiem, whose husband Oren was killed in September 2016 by a hit and run driver when trying to cross Middle Neck Road, said that the run – still being worked out logistically – aims to educate the public about the importance of driving safely and the consequences not doing so could have.

“It’s not about raising money,” Bennaiem said to Great Neck Plaza trustees at a Wednesday night board meeting, also noting efforts to reach out to various segments of the Great Neck community. “It’s about raising awareness.”

Bennaiem also touched on the walk in a recent letter to the editor, which recalls memories with her husband, how the Great Neck community rallied to help her after his death, and what people could do to make Great Neck safer.

“Each time I hear of someone getting hit by a car in our town or anywhere it brings it all back. The shock, the sadness, the way time stops,” Bennaiem said. “And like anything else or anywhere else we can be better.”

“We can drive slower, we can walk more mindfully, we can model to our children what it means to be a good citizen by the way we treat the people who are walking in our neighborhoods as well as how we act behind the steering wheel of our cars,” she added.

Amy Boshnack, one of the Great Neck residents that came out to support Bennaiem at a recent Great Neck Plaza board meeting, said the walk and fun run in the Grace Avenue Park is partially in memory of Oren, but mostly for raising awareness about the importance of driver and pedestrian safety.

“There are walks for MS, there are walks for Alzheimer’s, there are walks for AIDS,” Boshnack said. “A big portion of this education is just that awareness.”

In an email to subscribers, Great Neck-based grassroots group North Shore Action said pedestrian safety “is high on our list of local concerns” and that the run hopes to send a message.

“It is planned to take place in Great Neck on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 to bring awareness about the consequences of distracted driving, reckless driving, speeding, and to remind everyone to drive and walk mindfully,” the email said.

The email goes on to ask for volunteers to walk or help manage the race and contact them at northshoreaction@gmail.com

According to North Shore Action, the area of South Middle Neck Road and Middle Neck Road from Northern Boulevard to Redbrook Road – a “short 2.7 mile stretch” – had an average of 134 accidents and 23 injuries per year from 2011 to 2015.

The first eight months of 2016 also had 87 accidents, 14 injuries and one fatality – Oren Bennaiem – the group said.

Update: The walk is scheduled for Oct. 7.

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