Skip to content

Posts from the NYPD Category

11 Comments

Family of Victoria Nicodemus: Get Reckless Drivers Off NYC Streets

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to share her department's efforts to curb traffic fatalities. Image: David Meyer

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to talk about DOT street redesigns. Photo: David Meyer

The family of Victoria Nicodemus is calling on NYPD to do more to get reckless drivers off city streets.

Nicodemus died last December when Marlon Sewell struck her with his SUV on a Fort Greene sidewalk, in a crash that injured two other pedestrians. Sewell, whose driving record reportedly includes incidents of unlicensed driving and speeding in school zones, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation. This month a judge declined to revoke Sewell’s license, which was reinstated after he killed Nicodemus, because Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

Since the vigil and art installation held in her memory, Nicodemus’s siblings have joined other victims of traffic violence and their family members at Vision Zero events, to advocate for more serious charges against Sewell and changes in laws and policies that enable motorist negligence.

At a public event last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller spoke to representatives from DOT and NYPD. Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the area of Fort Greene where Nicodemus was killed, scheduled the forum in response to her death.

While Miller commended both departments for their ongoing Vision Zero efforts, he pressed NYPD to hold dangerous drivers accountable. “I’m wondering why there can’t be more done to immobilize a car, or impound a car, or create some sort of repercussions that have more of an impact that simply arresting a guy, saying ‘Ticket! We arrested him!,’ and letting him walk out the next day and get back in his car,” he asked Dennis Fulton, an NYPD crash investigator.

Fulton said the department is committed to filing additional charges against Sewell, but is limited by current laws. “I understand your sister, you know, she was on the sidewalk, she had no chance — and that’s pretty evident from the video,” Fulton said. “We’re going to act within the parameters that we’ve been dealt and we’ll do our best to bring criminal charges against the individual.”

“These are legislative proposals that we can pursue,” said Fulton, “but the police department acts within the parameters of those particular laws.”

Thompson’s office didn’t send anyone to last night’s event.

Read more…

9 Comments

Felony Hit-and-Run Charge for Driver Who Allegedly Killed Can Reng Ma

A suspect was arrested and charged in the hit-and-run killing of cyclist Can Reng Ma in Sheepshead Bay, and NYPD is making exculpatory statements on the alleged driver’s behalf.

Can Reng Ma

Can Reng Ma

Junior Hicks was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony, according to court records. WABC reported that Hicks, 31, is from Queens.

On Tuesday Ma, 54, was riding his bike on Avenue U, on the way home from his job at a nearby lumber supply company, when he was fatally struck by the driver of a rented box truck. Police arrested Hicks yesterday afternoon.

No charges were filed for the act of taking Can Reng Ma’s life.

WABC spoke with relatives and friends of the victim, who reportedly came to the U.S. from China seven years ago:

Around the warehouse, Can Reng was known for his work ethic, generosity, a humble soul who adored his wife, daughter, and teenage son.

“We do love him, we feel so sorry about him,” [co-worker Kimmie] Kwok said.

Police told the press the person who killed Ma may not have seen him — a ready-made defense, since under state law prosecutions for hit-and-run crashes hinge on whether it can be proven that the driver knew or had reason to know a collision occurred. The vast majority of New York City motorists involved in hit-and-run crashes resulting in injury and death are never charged with a crime.

After Hicks was taken into custody, an NYPD spokesperson told Gothamist a “preliminary investigation indicates that Hicks did not know he had struck someone.”

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, issued a statement today praising police for making an arrest, and called on NYPD to stop “making unauthorized statements to news outlets even though evidence [is] still being collected.”

Read more…

11 Comments

NYPD: Still Defending Hit-and-Run Drivers to the Press [Updated]

A video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver suspected of killing him approaches from behind. Image: WNBC

Surveillance video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver who killed him approaches from behind. NYPD told the press the driver may not have known he hit Ma because his truck was big and the crash happened too fast. Image: WNBC

Update: As of late Wednesday afternoon police have a suspect in custody and charges are pending, according to NYPD.

A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist in Sheepshead Bay yesterday, and NYPD made excuses for the driver to the media.

Can Reng Ma, 54, was riding west on Avenue U near E. 9th Street at around 5 p.m. when he was hit by the driver of a box truck traveling in the same direction, according to the NYPD public information office and published reports. The driver did not stop.

Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC

Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC

Police told AMNY the truck was a 2016 Freightliner with Indiana plates, and the Post reported that it was a Ryder rental. The driver remained at large this afternoon, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog.

Ma, who came to the U.S. from China seven years ago, was on his way home from work when he was hit, according to WNBC, which posted video of the victim riding on the street as a large Ryder truck overtakes him. His death was the first reported cyclist fatality of 2016.

Locals told WNBC truck traffic poses a significant danger on this segment of Avenue U, where drivers double-park to unload. “Some days it is unbelievable what goes on over here,” one man said.

In New York City, most drivers who harm people and leave the scene are never charged with a crime. Provided police make an arrest, to win a hit-and-run conviction, state law requires prosecutors to prove a driver knew or had reason to know he hit someone and caused injury — a surprisingly high burden. Many cases are dropped, or are not pursued at all, once a driver claims he “didn’t see” the victim. Even the city’s recently adopted hit-and-run civil penalties depend on the drivers’ word.

Though establishing a hit-and-run driver’s knowledge that a collision occurred is crucial to seeing justice done for the victim, NYPD sources, as they have in the past, offered the person who killed Can Reng Ma a preemptive defense.

Read more…

7 Comments

TA: Quicker Action on Vision Zero Can Save Thousands of Lives

Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 10.30.20 AM

At the current rate of improvement, the de Blasio administration is 31 years behind schedule on Vision Zero. Image: Transportation Alternatives

The de Blasio administration is making progress on street safety, but not fast enough to achieve the mayor’s Vision Zero target of eliminating traffic deaths by 2024, Transportation Alternatives says in a new report. At the current rate of improvement, it will take nearly 40 years to reach that goal.

Advocates from TA, Families for Safe Streets, and other groups took to the steps of City Hall this morning to call for swifter, more aggressive action from city and state officials.

TA Executive Director Paul Steely White said the city needs to cut traffic fatalities by 40 percent per year — as opposed to the present rate of 10 percent.

“We’re here to say that Vision Zero is working, but Vision Zero isn’t working fast enough,” White said, adding that there are “scores of ways the mayor, his agencies, and other key players can do a better job implementing Vision Zero and deliver Vision Zero on time so we can save lines.” Among those recommendations — budgeting more resources for DOT to implement street redesigns.

Released this morning, TA’s 2015 Vision Zero Report Card grades elected officials and public agencies on their street safety performance.

Read more…

29 Comments

NYPD Still Resisting Attempts to Reform Parking Placard Abuse

Fraudulent parking placards are rampant in NYC, but NYPD remains opposed to a bill that would require the city to include a barcode on placards to ensure proper enforcement.

It may look official, but this “Amtrak police surgeon” placard was not issued by the city. Still, NYPD is in no hurry to cut down on placard fraud. Photo: Noah Kazis

Testifying before the City Council transportation committee today, NYPD Assistant Commissioner Richard Schroeder cited “significant fiscal, operational, and technological issues that… cannot be resolved within the one year effective date of the legislation” as one reason why the department opposes Intro 326, sponsored by Council Member Dan Garodnick. When Garodnick introduced a similar bill in 2011, it also met resistance from NYPD.

Schroeder said the legislation doesn’t give NYPD enough time to build a secure database of placards issued to city agencies by DOT and NYPD. He also noted that barcodes would not be able to completely prevent the fraudulent reproduction of placards, since they can be easily scanned and copied. He said NYPD was open to other strategies to improve enforcement, and expressed hope that DOT’s adoption of pay-by-phone parking technology could help mitigate the problem.

DOT Assistant Commissioner for Parking Operations Mike Marisco later testified that pay-by-phone “will also provide opportunities for much more efficient ways of managing permits.” While that’s intriguing, it’s not at all clear how placard management will be improved by a better parking meter payment system. Fake placards, after all, let people park without paying a cent.

There are approximately 104,000 valid NYC parking placards in circulation, with the largest chunk distributed to members of NYPD. They entitle the placard holder to park for free in any legal parking spot.

The placard system is problematic for several reasons, including the fact that it creates a huge incentive to drive for tens of thousands of public employees in some of the most transit-rich parts of the city. Legitimate placards are often abused as entitlements to park illegally in bus stops, crosswalks, or no-standing zones. Fake placards are shockingly easy to produce and work as well as the real thing. The mere sight of something vaguely official-looking on a dashboard is enough to intimidate enforcement agents.

Read more…

16 Comments

NYC Drivers Killed at Least 16 People on Sidewalks and in Buildings in 2015

A woman who was struck by an unattended taxi in December died from her injuries this week. The driver was not charged by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Suhuyn Park, 22, and her 21-year-old boyfriend were walking at W. 51st Street and Eighth Avenue at around 8:30 p.m. on December 30 when a yellow cab, a Toyota minivan, rolled onto the sidewalk and struck them both, according to DNAinfo. The cab came to a stop after it hit another taxi.

From the Post:

The 67-year-old cabdriver had gotten out of the car to help his passenger to the sidewalk when the vehicle suddenly started rolling, cops said.

Park, who lived in South Korea, died Monday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Her boyfriend was treated for injuries and released.

No charges were filed. NYPD told the Daily News police “do not believe criminal activity played a role in the tragic accident.”

In 2009 a van left idling by a commercial driver killed toddlers Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez on a sidewalk in Chinatown. That driver was not charged by NYPD or former Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau. A state law named after Hayley and Diego created the offense of careless driving, but as is the case with the city’s Right of Way Law, adopted in 2014, NYPD barely uses it.

Park was the 16th person known to have been killed by a New York City motorist on a sidewalk or inside a building in 2015. There were five such fatalities in 2014, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog. Two of the 13 drivers involved in last year’s crashes were charged for taking a life.

At least one other person died as a result of motorist negligence over the holiday break. On Christmas Eve the driver of a commercial van struck and killed a 77-year-old woman at E. 21st Street and Gravesend Neck Road in Sheepshead Bay, according to the Daily News. Police charged Zafrom Ghafoor with careless driving and failure to yield.

No Comments

Will the City Council Press NYPD to Enforce the Right of Way Law?

NYPD is barely enforcing a key Vision Zero law more than a year after it took effect, and it seems the City Council isn’t planning to do anything about it.

He's the Energizer bunny of car-centric thinking. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The pressure is not on Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to take pedestrian safety seriously. Photo: Policy Exchange/Flickr

The aim of the Right of Way Law, also known as Administrative Code Section 19-190, was to give NYPD precinct officers a tool to penalize motorists who injure or kill. The law made it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians and cyclists who have the right of way. After it took effect, NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said all 35,000 uniformed officers would be trained to enforce it.

The Right of Way Law is a centerpiece of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Failure to yield is the top contributing factor in 27 percent of pedestrian fatalities and severe injuries, according to DOT’s 2010 pedestrian safety study. But NYPD is not applying the law in proportion to the scale of damage caused by drivers who fail to yield.

Precinct cops are starting to use the Right of Way Law, but mostly to issue traffic summonses, not misdemeanor charges. The misdemeanor provision remains the province of the Collision Investigation Squad — and CIS has applied it in just a handful of cases.

Last fall Mayor de Blasio’s office told Streetsblog that, in addition to misdemeanor cases handled by CIS, precinct cops are issuing Section 19-190 summonses for failure-to-yield violations that don’t result in physical harm. The violations are classified as traffic infractions, not crimes, and are subject to a $250 fine.

According to the city’s open data portal (enter “19-190” in the search field), NYPD cited 145 drivers for traffic infractions under Section 19-190 from September 2015, when NYPD began tracking the summonses, through mid-December. Of those 145 cases, 31 were dismissed.

Meanwhile, the number of Right of Way Law misdemeanor cases is stuck in double digits — DNAinfo reported Monday that 31 drivers who killed people were charged criminally in the first 16 months the law was on the books — though New York City drivers injured thousands of people in that time. Nearly all reported charges were filed after crashes worked by CIS, which handles only the most severe collisions, causing critical injury or death.

Read more…

25 Comments

Source: NYPD Lets Civilians Conduct Traffic Control for Hanukkah Parade

We never did get a response from NYPD about the motorized Lubavitcher Hanukkah parade where civilians with lights and sirens on their SUVs made a mess of traffic control on Sixth Avenue. But a source affiliated with the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council filled in the blanks, saying the parade is authorized by NYPD. The source asked to remain anonymous to preserve his relationship with police. While NYPD has not responded to our request to confirm this information, the source was clearly familiar with details of the parade, his account was internally consistent, and he had no discernible motive to mislead.

The parade consists of about 200 motor vehicles (including at least one RV called a “mitzvah tank” bearing the likeness of Rabbi Menachem Schneerson) and follows a route that begins in Crown Heights and ends at Sixth Avenue and 59th Street, where participants disperse to distribute menorahs, he said.

Accompanying the parade are three NYPD highway patrol cars and about 10 to 15 vehicles with Crown Heights Shmira, according to the source. Shmira is affiliated with the 71st Precinct through NYPD’s Civilian Observation Patrol program, which the department says consists of “volunteers” who “patrol their own neighborhoods and report suspicious and criminal activity that require Police attention.”

The training for the COP program includes how to block streets, the source said, and the Shmira members are authorized by NYPD to perform traffic control during this parade (and only during this parade). The black traffic control SUVs in the video belong to Shmira members, who are authorized by NYPD to have lights and sirens, according to the source. Other than the parade, he said, the lights and sirens are only supposed to be used when responding to “a real emergency call.”

h/t Bucky Turco for the initial tip and video

63 Comments

Video: Festival of Fake Police Lights Takes Over Sixth Avenue [Updated]


Bucky Turco
of ANIMAL fame took this video of what looks like a Lubavitcher Hanukkah parade in Midtown Saturday night. The video was shot on Sixth Avenue at 23rd Street shortly after 8 p.m.

“There were dozens and dozens of cars, most of which had their license plates covered,” Turco said via email. “It went on for minutes.”

As you can see in the video, men are corking traffic in SUVs equipped with police lights and sirens. One of the men blasts a Rumbler-type siren when Turco tries to get video of his license plate, which was taped over.

We called the NYPD public information office to ask if the department authorized the caravan, and if people who aren’t police are allowed to disrupt traffic and have vehicles with lights and sirens. We were directed to send an email, which is NYPD’s way of saying “Go away.”

Correction: A representative of Crown Heights Shomrim, Mendy Hershkop, contacted us to say that contrary to Streetsblog’s speculation in the initial version of this post, his group was not involved in this event and never engages in traffic control. “I don’t do it for this reason,” he said. “Blocking off streets isn’t what we’re trained for.” He attributed the actions in this video to Crown Heights Shmira, a separate group.

Read more…

19 Comments

Victoria Nicodemus, 14th Person Killed by Curb-Jumping NYC Driver in 2015

The blue dot is the approximate location of the crash that killed Victoria Nicodemus. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Victoria Nicodemus photo via Daily News. Map image: DOT Vision Zero View

The blue dot is the approximate location where a driver fatally struck Victoria Nicodemus on a sidewalk in Fort Greene. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Map: DOT Vision Zero View

An alleged unlicensed driver who witnesses say was traveling at a high rate of speed struck and killed a woman on a sidewalk in Fort Greene yesterday.

Marlon Sewell, 39, drove a Chevrolet SUV over the curb at 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue, at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, striking 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus, her 37-year-old boyfriend, and a 75-year-old man, according to reports.

Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. Witnesses said Sewell drove onto the sidewalk because he was driving too fast to stop for a B25 bus in front of him.

From the Daily News:

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” said witness Anthony Singh, 22, who works on the corner. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

“She lost a lot of blood,” he said. “Her body was really pale. They were pumping her chest while they took her away on the gurney.”

“This place was a madhouse,” said Byron Logan, 72, who was buying lottery tickets when the accident happened. “I’ve never seen so many people screaming.”

Nicodemus, an art curator who lived in Brooklyn Heights, died at Brooklyn Hospital Center. Her boyfriend and the third victim were hospitalized.

NYPD charged Sewell with aggravated unlicensed operation and driving without insurance. Aggravated unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, is the same charge police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction. It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, though plea deals usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone. Sewell was not charged by police or District Attorney Ken Thompson for killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims.

Read more…