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Driver Kills 80-Year-Old in Midtown Precinct That Barely Enforces Speeding

W. 57th Street at Seventh Avenue, where a driver hit and killed 80-year-old Richard Headley. Image: Google Maps

W. 57th Street at Seventh Avenue, where a driver hit and killed 80-year-old Richard Headley. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed an 80-year-old man walking in a Midtown police precinct that rarely enforces the speed limit. NYPD and District Attorney Cy Vance filed no charges.

Richard Headley was crossing W. 57th Street at Seventh Avenue at around 8 p.m. Sunday when a 23-year-old man, driving eastbound on W. 57th, hit him with an Audi sedan, Gothamist reported.

Inspector John B. Hart, CO of the Midtown North Precinct. Precinct officers ticket a motorist for speeding about once a day, on average.

Inspector John B. Hart, CO of the Midtown North Precinct. Precinct officers ticket a motorist for speeding about once a day, on average.

Anonymous “police and sources” told the Daily News the octogenarian “was not in the crosswalk when he was struck.” As usual, the actions of the motorist who took the victim’s life — how fast he was driving, if he was distracted, how he failed to avoid striking an 80-year-old in the street in front of him — were not addressed.

Headley died in the hospital on Monday. The driver who killed him was not charged criminally and did not receive a traffic ticket.

Headley was killed in the Midtown North/18th Precinct, where officers ticketed 80 drivers for speeding this year as of March. The precinct issued just 183 speeding summonses in 2015.

Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the Midtown North Precinct since last August, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Crash data mapped by the city show Midtown North ranks among the worst precincts in terms of density of traffic injuries.

If you’d like to voice your concerns about traffic violence to Inspector John B. Hart, commanding officer of Midtown North, the precinct community council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 7:00 p.m. at the station house, 306 W. 54th Street. Call 212-767-8447 for information.

Richard Headley was killed in the City Council district represented by Dan Garodnick.

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Truck Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Killing Heather Lough at NYBG

A truck driver struck and killed a woman outside the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx last week. He has been charged with reckless driving and failure to yield.

Heather Lough. Photo via YouCaring

Heather Lough. Photo via YouCaring

The victim, 29-year-old Heather Lough, was heading to her job at the botanical garden on the morning of Wednesday, April 27, when Robert Owens, 45, hit her with a commercial box truck, according to NYPD and an online memorial page established to raise funds for Lough’s burial expenses.

The crash happened at around 9:30 a.m. outside NYBG’s Mosholu Gate. Police said Owens drove out of the botanical garden and made a left turn onto Southern Boulevard, striking Lough with the front bumper of the truck on the passenger side. An anonymous tipster told Streetsblog witnesses saw Owens “on his phone” at the time of the collision.

NYPD said Lough was leaving the Metro-North Botanical Garden Station, across the street from the NYBG, when she was struck. It’s not clear if Lough was biking or walking (the tipster said Lough was seen walking her bike), but in either case, she would have had the right of way.

Lough was taken to Jacobi Hospital with head and body trauma. She died on Monday.

Police charged Owens, who lives in Manhattan, with reckless driving. He was also charged under the city’s Right of Way Law. Both offenses are unclassified misdemeanors. The NYPD public information office said the department’s Collision Investigation Squad is still investigating the crash.

A second source who works at NYBG and asked to remain anonymous said the intersection is “very dangerous” and drivers “regularly speed through the light.”

“She was wearing her helmet, followed the signs, and did everything right,” Lough’s memorial page reads. “However, the driver was not paying attention, and ran over her.”

It’s unknown who owns the truck Owens was driving. A botanical garden representative told Streetsblog Owens does not work there.

Read more…

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78th Precinct: Don’t Blame Us For Deadly Trucks on Neighborhood Streets

Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct has developed a well-earned reputation for taking street safety seriously, but it wasn’t on display at last night’s precinct community council meeting, where local residents grilled police on the death of cyclist James Gregg last Wednesday and the lack of truck route enforcement in Park Slope.

78th Precinct Commanding Officer Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo.

78th Precinct commanding officer Frank DiGiacomo.

Deputy Inspector Frank DiGiacomo, the precinct’s commanding officer, and Wayne Bailey, who serves in the volunteer position of precinct community council president, spent the meeting deflecting responsibility from the precinct and pointing fingers elsewhere.

A week ago, a big-rig driver struck and killed the 33-year-old Gregg on Sixth Avenue near Sterling Place, which is not a truck route. At the crash scene, officers blamed Gregg, telling passersby that he had been hanging onto the side of the truck’s trailer.

An initial NYPD statement on the crash said “no criminality” was suspected on the part of the truck driver, and that Gregg had “collided into [the] rear tire of the tractor trailer.” A second police statement said the truck driver overtook Gregg and “something like a wind force… sucked the bicycle toward the back of the truck.” The day after Gregg’s death, the department said that “for unknown reasons [Gregg] fell to the ground and was struck by the rear passenger tires of the tractor-trailer,” issuing five summonses to the driver for going off-route and various equipment violations.

It’s not unusual for police officers to jump to conclusions and erroneously blame victims for their own deaths. Gregg’s death occurred less than a week after police claimed Lauren Davis was biking against traffic on Classon Avenue when she was struck and killed by a turning driver. A witness who saw Davis traveling in the direction of traffic has since upended NYPD’s initial account.

Attendees at last night’s community council meeting chastised DiGiacomo for the false information that came out in the immediate aftermath of the crash that killed Gregg. When questioned about what the precinct could do to hold dangerous drivers accountable, DiGiacomo argued that the responsibility for investigating violent crashes lies with Highway Patrol. “It’s a highway investigation. Somebody died, they’re the professionals. It’s up to them,” he said.

Crash investigations are conducted by the Crash Investigation Squad, which, as DiGiacomo said, is part of the Highway Patrol. But precinct officers also respond to crash scenes, and it was an officer with the 78th Precinct who was telling passersby that Gregg had been hitching a ride on the side of the trailer. DiGiacomo asked for the officer’s name but gave no indication he would take steps to prevent victim-blaming conjecture at crash sites in the future.

The 78th Precinct only issued five truck route citations last year, and at the time Gregg was struck and killed, it had issued none in 2016. Then, following the crash, officers were seen ticketing off-route truck drivers.

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NYPD Admits It Wrongly Accused Lauren Davis of Biking Against Traffic

NYPD has amended the crash report that wrongly accused Lauren Davis of biking against traffic when she was struck and killed by a turning driver on Classon Avenue the morning of April 15.

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

Yesterday, Streetsblog published an account from witness Rebecca Ballantine, who was biking on Classon at the same time as Davis and said she was “absolutely sure [Davis] was not biking against traffic.” At the time we ran the story, NYPD’s public information office still said Davis was biking the wrong way when she was struck.

Now NYPD has updated its crash report, according to Nathan Tempey at Gothamist:

A department representative said this morning that investigators have amended their report to indicate that Davis was riding with traffic, and that they are in conversation with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office about possible charges.

While it’s good that police have corrected their mistake and are moving forward with the investigation, much of the damage has already been done. False information permeated the news cycle following the crash, feeding the perception that cyclists are culpable when they’re struck and killed by motorists.

Now the question is: What will NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Highway Patrol chief Michael Ameri, who’s in charge of the Collision Investigation Squad, do to prevent this from happening again?

NYPD’s premature judgment in this case is part of a broader pattern of police bias in crash investigations, which often leads to press accounts that erroneously blame victims.

One reform was suggested by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — himself a former police officer — at a memorial ride held for Davis and James Gregg, who was killed last week while biking in Park Slope.

Adams called on police to refrain from publicly discussing details of crashes while investigations are underway, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. “We should not assume that the cyclist was always the person responsible for a crash or had accepted the risk simply by climbing on a bicycle,” he said.

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Witness: Lauren Davis Was Biking With Traffic, Not Against, as NYPD Claimed

A witness who was biking behind Lauren Davis at the time she was struck and killed by a turning driver on the morning of April 15 says she is “absolutely sure [Davis] was not biking against traffic.”

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

The eyewitness account directly contradicts the version of events police have propagated since the immediate aftermath of the crash, when NYPD told several news outlets, including Streetsblog, that Davis was biking against traffic.

The discrepancy fits a pattern of police bias, in which NYPD supplies reporters with information exonerating drivers who kill pedestrians or cyclists immediately after a crash, forming the basis of most media coverage. With alarming regularity, those initial NYPD reports and press accounts are proven erroneous when witness testimony or video evidence implicating the driver surfaces later on.

No charges have been filed against the driver who killed Lauren Davis.

Rebecca Ballantine was biking north on Classon Avenue at around 8:30 a.m. that Friday after seeing her son onto a school bus. She first noticed Davis stopped at a red light facing north on Classon at the intersection of Gates Avenue, wearing a helmet. Ballantine proceeded when there was a gap in traffic, before the light turned green, she said, while Davis stayed behind.

Soon after, Davis overtook Ballantine heading north, in the direction of traffic. Davis worked at Pratt, and Classon would have taken her to the campus.

At the time the driver, a 41-year-old woman, struck Davis at Lexington Avenue, two blocks north of Gates, Ballantine says she was behind Davis but less than a block away.

Ballantine said her impression of the lead-up to the collision is not completely clear, but she saw the moment of impact. “I thought [Davis] was going [straight] on Classon as the driver made the turn,” she said, describing a “left-hook” scenario in which the driver failed to yield. (NYPD told reporters that the driver turned left from Classon onto Lexington.)

One thing Ballantine is certain of is that Davis, contrary to NYPD’s account, was not riding the wrong way. “I am absolutely sure she was not biking against traffic,” she said. “I was very aware of her.”

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Pat Lynch Makes the Case for Automated Traffic Enforcement

If there’s one thing to glean from the story of Joseph Spina — the NYPD officer who got caught on tape telling a motorist, “Mayor de Blasio wants us to give out summonses, okay?” — it’s that NYC needs more automated traffic enforcement.

Whatever you think of NYPD’s decision to suspend Spina without pay, the incident has brought to the surface the disdain that officers feel for enforcing traffic laws. If police are so squeamish, maybe the job should be entrusted to a system that doesn’t get embarrassed by the prospect of protecting New Yorkers from speeding and careless driving.

One officer told the Post he blames the mayor “all the time” when issuing traffic citations. And PBA President Pat Lynch, the man NYPD rank-and-file elected to represent them, complained that Vision Zero “boils down to police officers enforcing traffic laws” (right, can you believe it?) and “subjecting New Yorkers to expensive summonses that many cannot afford to pay.”

For the record, NYPD traffic summons activity in 2014 and 2015 did not measurably increase compared to the previous three years under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. What shifted was the proportion of tickets issued for the most dangerous violations — speeding and failure to yield.

More to the point, Lynch doesn’t seem to care in the least about saving New Yorkers from the anguish and pain caused by dangerous driving.

Read more…

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Another Person Killed by Turning Motorist in the 109th Precinct

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

An ambulette driver was charged under the Right of Way Law for striking and killing a pedestrian in Flushing.

The crash happened Tuesday at around 8:57 a.m. The victim — a 57-year-old man whose name has not been released by police, pending family notification — was crossing 35th Avenue in the crosswalk when Ramon Ortiz, 55, struck him with an SUV while turning left onto the avenue from Prince Street, according to NYPD and reports from the Daily News and QNS.com.

The victim died at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Ortiz was arrested and charged with violating the victim’s right of way, a police spokesperson told Streetsblog.

The victim was at least the third pedestrian killed by a motorist in the 109th Precinct this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. In at least one other case the victim was struck by a driver making a turn. The precinct is where a driver who failed to yield killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in 2013.

Officers in the 109th Precinct ticketed 867 drivers for failing to yield and 738 drivers for speeding in 2015, according to NYPD summons data. In response to a series of pedestrian fatalities last year, the precinct and local electeds made a show of blaming people for their own deaths.

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

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NYPD on Parking Perks for Press: Do as We Say, Not as We Do

The City Council’s attempt to return parking privileges to the New York press corps faces opposition, ironically enough, from the New York City Police Department.

Intro. 779, sponsored by transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez and 34 of his colleagues, would allow people with press-designated license plates from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut to “park where parking or standing is otherwise prohibited except where standing or stopping is prohibited to all motor vehicles” without any time limit or payment, so long as the driver is “engaged in the covering of a news event or matter of public concern.”

A car with state-issued press license plates parked illegally on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: David Meyer

A car with state-issued press license plates parked illegally on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: David Meyer

While the bill would not provide physical parking placards for press vehicles, the effect would essentially be the same. There are supposed to be limits on the parking privileges conferred by placards, but in practice, placards are routinely abused as a blanket exemption from all parking laws.

“Let me make it clear, our members are not looking for some sort of perk. This is about allowing working journalists to more efficiently relay information to the people of New York City,” said Steve Scott of the New York Press Club. “We can’t do that if we’re circling the block looking for a place to park.”

The press was explicitly given a similar privilege until 2009, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg stripped it as part of a general cutback on placard distribution. Currently, vehicles with state-issued “New York Press” license plates may park in certain press-designated parking zones. Members of the media at today’s hearing conceded they already count on lenient traffic enforcement agents to give them a pass when they park illegally.

The agency with the most placards is NYPD, whose officers have made a laughingstock of the current system by parking their personal vehicles anywhere with impunity, with or without official placards. So it was more than a little ironic that NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton opposed the expansion of parking perks at today’s City Council transportation committee meeting.

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NYPD and DOT Back Bill to Expand Right of Way for Pedestrians

Legislation proposed by Public Advocate Letitia James would ensure that pedestrians who enter during the "Pedestrian Change Interval" have the right of way against turning vehicles. Image: DOT

Intro 997 would ensure that pedestrians who enter a crosswalk during the flashing “Pedestrian Change Interval” have the right of way under New York City law. Image: DOT

NYPD and DOT both support a bill to give pedestrians more legal protection under the city’s Right of Way Law.

The Right of Way Law took effect in August 2014 and made it a misdemeanor to hit a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way. But district attorneys and the police department often decline to bring charges under the law, citing a traffic rule that pedestrians who enter the crosswalk once the “Don’t Walk” warning begins to flash do not have the right of way. Compounding the problem, the flashing phase has become longer and the steady “Walk” phase has become shorter at many intersections where the city has installed countdown clocks.

Last fall, Public Advocate Letitia James sponsored Intro 997 to remedy the situation by extending the right of way to everyone in the crosswalk during both the steady “Walk” phase and the flashing phase.

In testimony today to the City Council transportation committee, James called the current rules a “fatal flaw” and “counterintuitive.” She argued that Intro 997 would bring the law in line with the standard practice of most New Yorkers. “At a time when our city is so rightfully concerned about addressing these avoidable deaths and injuries, fixing this problem seems like an obvious and important way to make meaningful progress,” James said.

DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo and Inspector Dennis Fulton of the NYPD Transportation Bureau expressed support for the bill, which Fulton said has “been the subject of robust discussions” between the James’s office, the City Council and the relevant city agencies. Russo told the committee that the bill would “align the law with the acknowledged reality on our streets and our concern for pedestrians’ safety.”

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No Charges for UES Motorist Who Killed Senior While Backing Up to Park

Mary Jo Myszelow was killed by a driver backing up to get a parking spot on Madison Avenue near E. 95th Street. No charges were filed. Image: Google Maps

Mary Jo Myszelow was killed by a driver backing up to get a parking spot on Madison Avenue near E. 95th Street. No charges were filed. Image: Google Maps

Another New York City pedestrian has been killed by a motorist backing up in pursuit of a parking space.

At around 5:50 p.m. on March 26, Mary Jo Myszelow, 76, was crossing Madison Avenue near E. 95th Street, east to west, when she was hit with a 2013 Lincoln sedan. The Post reported that the driver, headed north on Madison, “spotted an available spot” and was backing toward it as Myszelow began to cross the street.

WNBC said Myszelow, who suffered a head injury, was “conscious and alert” at the scene. Reports conflict as to whether she died last Thursday or Friday.

Myszelow lived in Cornwall, in Orange County. An obituary published by the Middletown Times Herald-Record, which gives the date of death as March 31, says she once worked at RCA and the United Nations. “Besides being fluent in Italian, she taught English to children while living in Germany,” the obituary says. “As a world traveler Mary Jo visited China, Tibet, Australia, Turkey, Peru, Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, Mexico and the Galapagos Islands.”

The driver who killed Mary Jo Myszelow, whose name was shielded by police, was not charged criminally or issued a traffic ticket. NYPD said Myszelow was crossing in the middle of the block, but state law says “[t]he driver of a vehicle shall not back the same unless such movement can be made with safety.” An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog the investigation into the crash was ongoing as of this morning.

Myszelow was the second NYC pedestrian known to have been fatally struck by a driver backing up for a parking spot in the last four weeks. Motorists have killed six pedestrians while driving in reverse on New York City streets since May 2015, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

Mary Jo Myszelow was one of at least two pedestrians killed by motorists in the 19th Precinct in March. The crash occurred in Community District 8 — where NIMBYs scream bloody murder at the prospect of minor street safety improvements — and in the City Council district represented by Dan Garodnick.