East Siders Press Case for Traffic Enforcement to NYPD, Vance

Residents of the Upper East Side, fed up with reckless drivers and reeling from recent pedestrian deaths, took advantage of an opportunity to make their case directly to NYPD this week.

At a Monday night meeting of the 19th Precinct community council, reports DNAinfo, locals spoke of being afraid to cross the street, and asked why new vulnerable user laws were not being applied in the cases of Jason King and Laurence Renard.

“Careless drivers are killing people in this neighborhood on a monthly basis,” said Erin Lamberty. “If we’re going to teach drivers to slow down and use care, we need to charge VTL Section 1146 [the section incorporating Elle's Law and Hayley and Diego's Law] in every case of negligent injury or death of a pedestrian or cyclist.”

Yesterday it was reported that, following an investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the urging of Assembly Member Micah Kellner and state Senator Liz Krueger, the dump truck driver who backed over King last December in pursuit of a parking spot has been charged with violating Section 1146.

At the precinct meeting, Vance pointed out that Section 1146 is enforced by the NYPD and the Department of Motor Vehicles by way of traffic summonses and does not fall under the purview of the district attorney, except in cases of repeat offenders. Although the district attorney investigates crashes that kill or seriously injure, the ultimate decision to charge under Section 1146 is made by NYPD. “If you had found criminal misconduct it wouldn’t be Elle’s Law that we would use,” Vance said. “It would be vehicular manslaughter or vehicular misconduct.”

Deputy Inspector Matthew Whelan, meanwhile, said crash investigations are handled by NYPD Highway Patrol, not officers of the precinct. Steve Vaccaro, who heads Transportation Alternatives’ East Side committee, said he hoped to clear up confusion regarding the new laws through a joint meeting with the 19th Precinct and Highway Patrol.

East Siders may not be getting the answers they want yet, but if nothing else, you can bet their presence on Monday was duly noted. Community council meetings — every precinct has one most every month — offer citizens a rare direct audience with NYPD decision-makers and other higher-ups (like Vance, whose presence was a surprise to attendees). In my experience, council members and state legislators are often in attendance. I have also seen that people who show up for these meetings get results.

Another benefit: Normally, police hear a lot of complaints about cyclist transgressions and requests for more bike enforcement at these meetings. The street safety advocates who appeared on Monday were able to focus the attention of the officers — and the regular participants in the community council — on the dangers posed by deadly driving.