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Reinvent Albany: NYPD Needs to Open Up Its Traffic Summons Data

Last week, the NYPD unveiled an online view of “TrafficStat,” the department’s system for tracking traffic crashes. While the site has some data that’s not available on DOT’s Vision Zero View tool, it leaves a lot to be desired, according to the government accountability and transparency watchdog Reinvent Albany.

The NYPD is making its "TrafficStat" tool available to the public. Image: NYPD

NYPD’s “TrafficStat” map falls short . Image: NYPD

In a blog post today, Reinvent Albany notes that the TrafficStat site merely maps data that was already available. And crucially, NYPD’s portal lacks data about where police are enforcing traffic laws, which the agency has refused to release for years.

Geo-tagged information about summonses remains the key missing piece of open NYPD data. Without it, the public has no insight into how traffic enforcement efforts are linked to crash-prone locations. Open data on summonses, says Reinvent Albany, would be “extremely useful to researchers who want to understand the connection between police enforcement and traffic injuries and deaths, and to advocates and community leaders who are concerned about the level of police traffic enforcement in their neighborhood.”

Reinvent Albany also says NYPD needs to do a better job of making its underlying crash data publicly accessible. There is currently no way to get this data via the Traffic Stat site, event though it’s available from the city’s open data portal:

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NYPD and the Paranoid Narcissist’s View of Change on NYC Streets

What to make of the weekend’s New York Post cover story blaming NYC’s terrible traffic on bus lanes, bike lanes, and pedestrian plazas? Glad you asked.

If you have trouble making sense of the Post story, here’s the thesis: The city is in the grips of a powerful cabal that spans two very different mayoralties, according to unnamed sources. These forces have conspired to lay down bus lanes, bike lanes, and pedestrian plazas for a single nefarious end — to make driving so miserable that people abandon their cars.

It’s standard-issue backlash fare that ignores all the rational, public-welfare-maximizing reasons for policies that shift trips away from car travel. But instead of random loons or Koch-funded hacks telling motorists to grab their tinfoil hats, it’s anonymous police sources, including “a former top NYPD official” and “a former NYPD traffic-safety officer.” They warn the Post’s readership that “the traffic is being engineered.”

These former police officials may or may not speak for the current leadership at NYPD. But they probably represent a substantial faction within the department. So it’s worth taking a closer look at what this piece in the Post says about how certain members of our police force view our streets and how they’re changing.

The anonymous police sources have no concept of how most New Yorkers get around.

If you’re a paranoid narcissist who drives a lot, the Post’s conspiracy theory is appealing because it places you at the center of the universe. All these changes to the streets are about you and your car. You, the put-upon motorist, have every right to feel aggrieved about that new bus lane, because the city painted it just to make your life miserable. “The traffic is being engineered” to piss you off.

This is how the anonymous police sources cited by the Post view the streets of our city. To hold this perspective, they have to overlook basic facts about how most New Yorkers live.

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City Hall Puts NYPD’s TrafficStat Crash-Mapping Tool Online

The NYPD is making its "TrafficStat" tool available to the public. Image: NYPD

The NYPD is making its TrafficStat crash-mapping tool available to the public, but data on where police issue traffic summonses is still not available. Image: NYPD

Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced today that the city will make “TrafficStat,” NYPD’s tool for mapping and analyzing traffic collision data, available online to the public. It’s an improvement over the city’s existing crash-mapping tool but lacks one very important type of information — data about where police are enforcing traffic laws.

The TrafficStat site enables users to track crashes by location, going a few steps further than the city’s existing Vision Zero View tool. Collisions can be broken down by type, contributing factor, day of the week, hour of the day, precinct, and patrol borough. The data was previously available on NYC’s open data portal, but the TrafficStat site puts it in an easy-to-view format.

The site will also be updated more frequently than Vision Zero View — once a week on Tuesdays, as opposed to once a month.

Since the late 1990s, NYPD has used TrafficStat to guide traffic enforcement efforts. City officials said today that they want the public to see the role that TrafficStat plays in the mayor’s Vision Zero initiative.

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Matthew von Ohlen’s Alleged Killer Charged With Assault and Manslaughter

A Brooklyn man was arrested and charged yesterday for the death of Matthew von Ohlen, who was killed last summer as he rode his bike on Grand Street in Williamsburg by a motorist who left the scene.

Matthew Von Ohlen

Matthew von Ohlen

Prosecutors say that in the early morning hours of July 2, 56-year-old Juan Maldonado ran a red light, swerved into the bike lane, and crashed into von Ohlen on Grand near Graham Avenue, dragging him 10 to 20 feet before driving away, according to the Village Voice.

Von Ohlen, 35, was a co-founder of Bikestock, which operates bike repair vending machines. He was reportedly headed home to Ridgewood after a bartending shift in Manhattan when he was killed.

Investigators located the vehicle, a black Chevrolet Camaro, a few days after the crash, but NYPD said nothing else publicly about the case until yesterday. Police told Gothamist DNA evidence “has linked both von Ohlen and Maldonado to the Camaro.”

“A young man who was an active member of Brooklyn’s biking community lost his life because a speeding driver struck him in a designated bike lane and sped away,” said acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez in a statement. “This was not an accident, but rather a reckless act for which we intend to hold this defendant accountable.”

Maldonado was charged with assault, manslaughter, leaving the scene, and weapons possession — all felonies — as well as speeding, reckless driving, careless driving, and violating the victim’s right of way, according to court records. The top charge, assault in the first degree, is a class B felony with penalties ranging from five to 25 years in prison.

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, police said video evidence seemed to indicate the driver struck von Ohlen intentionally. The assault charge may suggest prosecutors will argue Maldonado acted with intent.

DNAinfo reported that on the day before von Ohlen was killed, Maldonado was fired from his job as a truck driver for a lumber company, in part because he repeatedly came to work intoxicated.

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Police Use Illegal License Plate Covers to Break Traffic Laws and Cheat Tolls

To gauge what police think about traffic laws and street safety, it’s instructive to observe how they abuse their authority with their personal vehicles.

On Twitter, @placardabuse does yeoman’s work posting images of personal cars with NYPD placards violating myriad laws, including blocking fire hydrants, blocking crosswalks, and parking on sidewalks. The placards don’t confer the right to break these rules, they just intimidate enforcement agents into giving the vehicle owner a pass.

Particularly brazen is the practice of obscuring license plates to evade toll readers and traffic enforcement cameras. The @placardabuse account has captured the illegal covers on numerous NYPD-placarded vehicles, some in the parking lot at 1 Police Plaza.

These plastic covers allow the license plate to be seen from a direct point of view but deflect light at an angle, preventing enforcement cameras from identifying the vehicle. They’re illegal in New York state because their purpose is to enable drivers to steal from and endanger the public with impunity.

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Driver Kills Jazmine Marin, 13, Near Ozone Park School; NYPD Blames Victim

A driver hit two teenagers, killing 13-year-old Jazmine Marin, at Cross Bay Boulevard at 149th Avenue in Ozone Park this morning. NYPD filed no charges against the driver and blamed the victims in the press. Image: Google Maps

A driver hit two teenagers, killing 13-year-old Jazmine Marin, at Cross Bay Boulevard at 149th Avenue in Ozone Park this morning. NYPD filed no charges against the driver and blamed the victims in the press. Image: Google Maps

Update: The motorist who killed Marin and injured the second victim was driving an early 1980s Chevrolet El Camino with a racing hood scoop, per a Daily News photo from the scene.

A motorist hit two teenagers near a school in Ozone Park this morning, killing a 13-year-old girl and injuring the second victim.

Jazmine Marin. Photo via Daily News

Jazmine Marin. Photo via Daily News

Jazmine Marin and another girl were walking east across Cross Bay Boulevard at 149th Avenue at around 6:40 a.m. when a 55-year-old man hit them with a Chevrolet sedan, NYPD told Gothamist.

Marin sustained head trauma and died at Jamaica Hospital. The second victim was hospitalized with a leg injury.

Cross Bay Boulevard at 149th Avenue is a wide street designed to facilitate fast driving. A motorist killed 59-year-old pedestrian Francisco Camacho at the intersection in 2012.

The victims of today’s crash were approaching a nearby middle school, but it’s unknown if they were students there.

NYPD withheld the driver’s identity and blamed the children in the press. From the Daily News:

The 55-year-old driver of the sedan remained at the scene. It appeared that he had the green light at the time and that the girls were crossing outside of a crosswalk, police sources said.

No charges were filed. Anonymous police sources told WNBC “no criminality is suspected.”

Jazmine Marin was killed in the 106th Precinct, where officers had ticketed 372 drivers for speeding this year as of September, and in the City Council district represented by Eric Ulrich.


NYPD: No Charges for School Bus Driver Who Killed Woman in Bronx Crosswalk

A school bus driver struck and killed Carmen Puello in a crosswalk in University Heights. The white line indicates the path of the victim — it’s unknown which direction she was walking — and the red arrow indicates the approximate path of the driver, according to NYPD. Police filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A school bus driver struck and killed Carmen Puello in a crosswalk in University Heights. The white line indicates the path of the victim — it’s unknown which direction she was walking — and the red arrow indicates the approximate path of the driver, according to NYPD. Police filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A school bus driver killed a woman in a crosswalk in University Heights last week. NYPD filed no charges.

Carmen Puello, 43, was crossing Sedgwick Avenue at West Fordham Road at around 12:30 last Friday afternoon when the driver, eastbound in the center lane of West Fordham, struck her while turning right onto Sedgwick, NYPD told WCBS.

Carmen Puello at left. Photo via WCBS

Carmen Puello at left. Photo via WCBS

“He passed the light and when he passed the light, he realized he was supposed to make a right turn,” said a witness. “By the time he got past the yellow, he zoomed across and she was already in the intersection and he hit her.”

The bus driver hit Puello “with the front of his vehicle, knocking her to the ground,” NYPD crash investigators told WNBC. “The driver subsequently ran her over and left her lying on the roadway.”

Puello was pronounced dead at Saint Barnabas Hospital.

Sedgwick Avenue at West Fordham Road is a wide intersection with concrete medians in the crosswalks. Between 2009 and 2015, 107 people were injured in crashes at the intersection, according to city crash data. A majority — 74 — were motor vehicle occupants, a sign of collisions occurring at high speeds.

Motorists injured 33 people walking and biking at Sedgwick and West Fordham between 2009 and 2015, and injured four pedestrians there this year as of August.

Adhering to protocol when police don’t file charges, NYPD did not release the bus driver’s name to the press, identifying him or her only as being 47 years old. We called NYPD this afternoon for an update, and to ask who had the right of way, but the department’s public information office had no knowledge of the crash.

The crash that killed Carmen Puello occurred in the 52nd Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Fernando Cabrera.


Off-Duty NYPD Cop Who Killed SI Pedestrian Found Guilty of Homicide

Off-duty NYPD cop Joseph McClean hit William Hemphill with an SUV in Staten Island in 2013. He was convicted of homicide and leaving the scene. Image: WABC via Staten Island Advance

Off-duty NYPD cop Joseph McClean hit William Hemphill with an SUV in Staten Island in 2013. He was convicted of homicide and leaving the scene. Image: WABC via Staten Island Advance

An off-duty NYPD officer was found guilty at trial last week for the hit-and-run killing of a pedestrian in the Mariners Harbor section of Staten Island.

William Hemphill, 51, was crossing Richmond Terrace, near Simonson Avenue, to get food before work at about 6:18 a.m. on October 4, 2013, when Joseph McClean struck him at a high rate of speed with a Ford SUV, the Advance reported.

Prosecutors said the collision severed Hemphill’s spinal cord, broke 14 of his ribs and both of his legs. McClean, who according to prosecutors had spent the previous night drinking at a bar, left the scene.

The crash occurred six hours after McClean ended his shift at the 121st Precinct, the Daily News reported.

“The guy hit him so hard he landed a block away. He hit him and he kept on going,” the bodega’s owner told the News.

McClean was charged with felony leaving the scene, homicide, and driving while ability impaired. In court, McClean’s attorney put the victim on trial, arguing that Hemphill had prescription drugs and cocaine in his system, and therefore caused the collision.

From the Advance:

“How do we know whether the alcohol made any difference? It wouldn’t have,” said [Attorney Howard] Tanner, who addressed jurors for more than two hours. “It is the greatest fear of all of us. Someone running out into the street and we have no chance [to avoid hitting them]. It’s not criminal. … This was a tragic accident. All the stars aligned in the wrong way.”

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A Trucker Ran Over a Cyclist, So the 84th Precinct Ticketed Cyclists

Hours after a truck driver ran over a cyclist at Jay and Tillary streets yesterday, officers from the 84th Precinct were out ticketing cyclists.

Streetsblog reader Paul Vogel, a.k.a. @D00rZ0ne, tweeted photos of officers ticketing people on bikes during the evening rush at the intersection, where a driver in what appeared to be an oversized rig critically injured a 35-year-old man Tuesday morning.

As we wrote yesterday, it is illegal to operate a tractor-trailer carrying boxed or other loose cargo on New York City streets if the total truck length exceeds 55 feet. NYPD did not ticket or charge the driver.

As of August, the 84th Precinct had cited just nine drivers for truck route violations in all of 2016, giving trucking companies carte blanche to put people in danger while breaking city traffic laws.

We called the 84th Precinct this morning. Both officers we spoke with said they didn’t know anything about yesterday’s collision or whether precinct officers were enforcing truck regulations after the crash.

If you’d like to speak with Deputy Inspector Sergio Centa, commanding officer of the 84th Precinct, about street safety and traffic enforcement, the precinct community council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. Call 718-875-6850 for location information.


Drivers Have Killed Seven People in Bike-Obsessed 19th Precinct in 2016


19th Precinct CO Deputy Inspector Clint McPherson and City Council Member Ben Kallos

Blanca Pagan, the senior who was struck last Friday by a driver who failed to yield, was at least the seventh pedestrian killed by a motorist this year in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side. Deputy Inspector Clint McPherson, the precinct’s commanding officer, has prioritized ticketing people on bikes, with encouragement from local City Council members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.

Pagan, 73, was in the crosswalk at York Avenue and E. 89th Street at around 3 p.m. when Pjerin Gjerji hit her with a Chevrolet van while turning right from York onto 89th, NYPD told Gothamist. Police charged Gjerji, 48, with failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.

Pagan, who lived nearby, was a retired nurse who came to NYC from Puerto Rico when she was a child, the Daily News reported. She died less than three weeks after a motorist struck and killed Lee Strong while backing into a crosswalk at Third Avenue and E. 71st Street, also in the 19th Precinct.

City crash data show the 19th Precinct has a high rate of traffic injuries compared to other precincts. Motorists have killed at least 13 people walking in the 19th Precinct in the last 24 months, according to data compiled by Streetsblog.

The crash that killed Blanca Pagan occurred in Kallos’s City Council district. To hear McPherson and Kallos tell it, cyclists are the 19th Precinct’s most pressing traffic hazard.

McPherson was named the precinct CO this year after his predecessor, Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, was identified as a target of an NYPD corruption investigation. “From what I understand, bikes are a big problem,” McPherson said at a precinct community council meeting, not long after taking over for Grant — who himself concentrated on bike crackdowns as motorists killed people in crosswalks.

“One of the top complaints I get in the district is about bikes,” Kallos told Our Town after a bike ticket blitz earlier this year, which according to Our Town was conducted in collaboration with Kallos and Garodnick.

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