“This year, Kate would be 21. She should be going into her senior of college,” said Jennifer Flynn, mother of Katie Flynn, a 7-year-old flower girl who was killed by a drunk driver going the wrong way on the Meadowbrook Parkway in 2005 on the way back from a family wedding in a limousine.
Flynn was joined by Nassau County officials and Long Beach Police Commissioner and Acting City Manager Michael Tangney — her uncle — in Long Beach City Hall on Friday to announce increased police patrols and an alcohol-free celebration called “First Night” for the New Year’s Eve weekend to encourage a safe way to ring in the new year.
“The first thing we’re going to do is encourage the public to enjoy an alcohol-free event that’s going to be at the ice arena,” Tangney said, referring to an annual party that offers games for children, ice skating, crafts, music, snacks and a New Year’s Eve ball drop at 6:30 p.m. The ice arena is located at 150 W. Bay Drive.
Long Beach city officials said “First Night” began as an initiative in Boston in the 1970s by groups of artists seeking an alternative way to celebrate the new year without alcohol or drugs.
“We’ll be putting out additional patrols, and if you’re out drinking and driving in Long Beach, we will get you,” he said, adding that police will also be searching for people who are driving while drugged.
“The vast majority of patrol officers are standardized field sobriety trained and they are also breath technicians, so we do have the resources, we do have the expertise and we will catch you,” Tangney said.
City officials also said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office provided a $5,000 grant to Long Beach, which would be used as an overtime grant for additional police officers.
“There’s so many people that have lost their loved ones — and lost is the wrong word — their loved ones have been killed by drunk drivers who just don’t care,” said Marge Lee of Dedicatedd, a group that assists victims of drunk or drugged driving and hosts awareness programs. “Please, this year, make a difference and care.”
“I hope that together that we can make the difference and a change, and we can look at drunk driving the way we really should look at drunk driving — it’s a crime, it’s a choice and it’s something that’s fully, wholly preventable,” Flynn said.