Skip to content

Posts from the NYPD Category

76 Comments

Sidewalk Biking Enforcement and NYC’s New Criminal Justice Reforms

The City Council just passed a package of bills — collectively known as the Criminal Justice Reform Act — encouraging police officers to issue civil instead of criminal summonses for “quality-of-life” offenses like possessing an open container of alcohol or littering. Sidewalk biking wasn’t one of the offenses included in the bills, but a reform NYPD made to its enforcement of sidewalk cycling appears to have served as a proof of concept for the rest of the package.

Spearheaded by Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, the legislation aims to reduce NYPD’s issuance of criminal summonses that have disproportionately penalized communities of color for minor offenses. By issuing civil instead of criminal summons for transgressions like public urination, possession of an open container of alcohol, littering, excessive noise, and violating park rules with civil penalties instead of criminal summonses, the intent is to reduce the severe impact of enforcement.

While council members had initially hoped to eliminate criminal penalties for these offenses altogether, the version of Intro 1057-A passed today requires NYPD to develop guidelines dictating when to apply civil or criminal summonses for each offense. The bill states that the City Council has “concluded that criminal enforcement of these offenses should be used only in limited circumstances.”

A major impetus for the reforms is the disproportionate impact that enforcement of those five offenses has carried in communities of color. Sidewalk biking has historically been enforced in much the same wayA 2014 study showed that from 2008 to 2011, 12 of the 15 NYC neighborhoods where police issued the most sidewalk biking summonses were majority black or Latino.

“There’s been inequitable enforcement of cycling on the sidewalk,” said attorney and bike law expert Steve Vaccaro. “They haven’t been going after senior citizens on the Upper West Side the same as they go after young black men in East New York.”

Subdivision “b” of Section 19-176 of the city’s administrative code levies a maximum civil penalty of $100 for biking on the sidewalk. But subdivision “c” spells out a misdemeanor variation when someone bikes on the sidewalk in a “manner that endangers any other person or property” — and that carries a maximum penalty of 20 days in jail.

Read more…

6 Comments

Driver Who Killed Xiali Yue Pleads Guilty to Violating Victim’s Right of Way

Cropsey Avenue and 21st Avenue in Brooklyn, where Alexander Smotritsky killed Xiali Yue with a car. The white arrow indicates the path of the victim, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver. Image: Google Maps

Cropsey Avenue and 21st Avenue in Brooklyn, where Alexander Smotritsky killed Xiali Yue with a car. The white arrow indicates the path of the victim, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver. Image: Google Maps

A driver who struck and killed a woman in a Brooklyn crosswalk pled guilty to a Right of Way Law violation.

The crash happened at around 8:13 on the morning of March 16, 2015. Xiali Yue, 61, was crossing Cropsey Avenue at 21st Avenue in Bensonhurst, in a crosswalk with the walk signal, when Alexander Smotritsky hit her with a Ford compact as he turned right from 21st onto Cropsey, according to Patch and Daily News stories published shortly after the crash.

Smotritsky, then 39, was charged under Section 19-190, also known as the Right of Way Law, which is an unclassified misdemeanor. Police also charged him with careless driving, a traffic infraction.

The Right of Way Law took effect in August 2014. The crash that killed Yue was one of the early instances of NYPD applying the law to penalize a motorist for killing a person who was following traffic rules.

The Daily News used the prosecution of the driver who killed Yue — the paper’s editorial board said she was “fatally bowled over” — to criticize Section 19-190 as a “tool for changing driving habits that are generally tolerated.” Historically, sober drivers who killed people in New York City crosswalks could expect to receive no penalty at all, as long as they stayed at the scene and cooperated with police.

Section 19-190 carries a fine of up $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records say Smotritsky entered a guilty plea on April 19, and on April 29 was sentenced to a $200 fine.

1 Comment

NYPD Still Keeps Crash Reports Under Lock and Key

Two years into the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero initiative, NYPD still refuses to release crash investigations to the public.

NYPD refuses to disclose basic information pertaining to the crash that killed Brooklyn cyclist James Gregg, such as where the trucker who hit Gregg was going, and what was in his trailer. Photo: Eric McClure

The most recent case: NYPD denied a freedom of information request from a New York Times reporter who asked for documents related to the crash that killed cyclist James Gregg in Park Slope last month.

Gregg was killed on April 20 by a tractor-trailer driver on Sixth Avenue near Sterling Place. That’s not a truck route, and based on photos of the scene, there is a strong possibility the truck that hit Gregg was too long to be operated legally on NYC surface streets. But an officer at the scene suggested Gregg had acted recklessly by trying to hitch a ride, which also describes what a cyclist desperately trying to fend off an oversized truck might look like. NYPD later said Gregg “for unknown reasons fell to the ground,” and eventually ticketed the trucker for equipment violations driving off-route, but he was not charged by police or District Attorney Ken Thompson for taking Gregg’s life.

Not satisfied with the shifting narrative from police, the Times’s Andy Newman filed a FOIL request on April 24, reports street safety advocate Charles Komanoff, who posted the NYPD letter denying the request on the Right of Way web site.

Newman asked NYPD for Collision Investigation Squad reports, any police determination concerning what caused the crash, the driver’s name and address, information on any summonses issued and charges filed against the driver, information on the driver’s route and cargo, the length of the truck trailer, and whether police determined that the truck driver broke laws relating to truck routes and passing at a safe distance.

On May 11, Lieutenant Richard Mantellino rejected Newman’s request on the grounds that granting it “would interfere with law enforcement investigations or judicial proceedings.”

NYPD’s handling of the crash — reflexive victim-blaming followed by conflicting police statements and a refusal to release information that would shed light on what happened and how the investigation was conducted — adhered to a script that has not changed in years, with or without a Vision Zero policy framework in place at City Hall.

Read more…

11 Comments

No Right of Way Charge for Driver Who Killed Toddler in Bronx Crosswalk

The driver who killed 3-year-old Mariam Dansoko narrowly avoided striking her mother and a younger sibling. Will Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark file charges against him?

The driver who killed 3-year-old Mariam Dansoko narrowly avoided striking her mother and a younger sibling. Will Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark (right) file charges against him?

Update: Darcel Clark’s office sent us this statement: “Our office is investigating the incident with the NYPD Accident Investigation Squad, as we do with any fatality or serious injury when a pedestrian is struck.”

NYPD and Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark have not charged the driver who struck and killed 3-year-old Mariam Dansoko in a crosswalk near Yankee Stadium Monday.

Mariam, her mother, and a 2-year-old sibling in a stroller were crossing E. 164th Street at Gerard Avenue north to south when a 21-year-old man hit Mariam with a 2014 Nissan while turning left from Gerard, which is northbound, onto E. 164th, according to NYPD and published reports. DNAinfo reported that Mariam was on her way to preschool when the crash occurred, at around 8 a.m.

“There’s no charges at this point,” an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog. True to NYPD protocol when a motorist kills a pedestrian and is not charged or ticketed, police shielded the driver’s identity.

We have a message in with Clark’s office asking whether the DA is investigating the crash.

E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue are one-way residential streets that meet at a signalized intersection. There is no dedicated turn phase, meaning motorists and pedestrians are signaled to enter the crossing at the same time. If they entered the crosswalk before the pedestrian signal flashed orange, Mariam’s family would have had the right of way.

E. 164th Street at Gerard Avenue. The white arrow indicates the path of Mariam and her family, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, according to NYPD’s account of the collision. Image: Google Maps

E. 164th Street at Gerard Avenue. The white arrow indicates the path of Mariam and her family, and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, according to NYPD’s account of the collision. Image: Google Maps

Read more…

78 Comments

Driver Kills Toddler in the Bronx as NYPD and the Press Declare “Accident”

E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue, where a driver killed a 3-year-old this morning. Image: Google Maps

E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue, where a driver killed a 3-year-old this morning. Image: Google Maps

Update: WPIX identified the victim as Mariam Dansoko. WPIX and other outlets are reporting that the driver, a 21-year-old man, was turning left from Gerard Avenue onto E. 164th Street when he hit her.

A driver killed a 3-year-old girl in the Bronx this morning. NYPD filed no charges and almost immediately told the press the crash was an “accident.”

An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog the victim “was walking behind her mom” at E. 164th Street and Gerard Avenue, not far from Yankee Stadium, when she was hit by the driver of a black Nissan.

The crash occurred at around 8 a.m. The police spokesperson had no details on who had the right of way. The driver was not charged criminally and was not issued a traffic ticket.

Media reports said the victim’s mother was pushing a stroller with a second child inside. They were not reported to be injured.

Details are still scarce, but the Post, the Daily News, and WABC all repeated information from the police concerning the actions of the child and her mother, while downplaying or ignoring the role of the driver who took the child’s life.

“The little girl tried to keep up, but was struck by a driver,” the Post said.

“The collision appeared to be an accident, police said,” read the News.

Read more…

46 Comments

City Hall Announces NYPD Crackdown on Drivers Who Endanger Cyclists

NYPD will target drivers who block bike lanes and other violations that put cyclists at risk through Friday, according to City Hall. Photo: Hilda Cohen

NYPD will target drivers who block bike lanes and other violations that put cyclists at risk through Friday, according to City Hall. Photo: Hilda Cohen

NYPD will crack down this week on motorists who put cyclists at risk.

The “Bicycle Safe Passage Initiative,” which coincides with Bike to Work Week, will last through Friday. Officers in precincts citywide will focus enforcement on motorists who commit traffic violations that “endanger bicyclists,” according to a City Hall press release. Traffic enforcement agents will concentrate on bike lane blocking, double parking, and no standing violations.

“We believe in protecting everyone on our streets,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “This targeted initiative will make sure New Yorkers on bikes have clear bike lanes and safe conditions as more and more people take to the streets.”

“We are focusing on violations that can endanger our city’s cyclists, and making sure New Yorkers can safely travel on bike lanes throughout the five boroughs,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in the release.

This should be standard procedure, of course, particularly in the Vision Zero era, but it’s good to see this kind of enforcement from NYPD.

14 Comments

Red Light Runner Who Killed Cyclist in Midwood Charged With Drugged Driving

Avenue P and E 12th Street, facing west.

Avenue P and E 12th Street, facing west. Image via Google Street View

The driver who ran a red light and killed a cyclist in Midwood last night has been charged for driving while impaired by drugs. It’s not clear yet whether NYPD and DA Ken Thompson will file additional charges.

At around 10 p.m., Eduard Nikhman, 26, drove his Honda Accord through a steady red light heading westbound on Avenue P, T-boning a southbound vehicle on E 12th Street and propelling it into the path of a man cycling northbound in the western crosswalk, inflicting fatal injuries. The victim’s name has yet to be released pending notification of his family. Gothamist has posted security camera footage of the collision.

NYPD charged Nikhman with driving while impaired by drugs, according to the department’s public information office (DCPI). NYPD did not reveal the substance in Nikhman’s system. When I asked whether the investigation might yield additional charges against Nikhman, DCPI referred me to Thompson’s office. The DA’s press office said Nikhman was arrested last night and has yet to be arraigned.

Avenue P is a wide, two-way street where drivers are “constantly speeding,” a local resident told CBS2.

The victim is the fourth cyclist known to have been killed by a motorist reportedly violating traffic laws in New York City in recent weeks.

Read more…

7 Comments

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.

16 Comments

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…

167 Comments

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.

Read more…