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Vance Deal: $400 Fine for Unlicensed Driver Who Killed Senior in Crosswalk

An unlicensed driver who fatally struck a senior as she crossed the street with the right of way will pay a $400 fine, pursuant to a plea arrangement with Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

NYPD and Manhattan DA Cy Vance declined to charge an unlicensed motorist for causing the death of a senior who was crossing the street with the right of way. The driver was fined $400 for driving without a license. Photo: Brad Aaron

NYPD and Manhattan DA Cy Vance declined to charge an unlicensed motorist for causing the death of a senior who was crossing the street with the right of way. The driver was fined $400 for driving without a license. Photo: Brad Aaron

Keiko Ohnishi was walking with a cane across Madison Avenue at E. 98th Street on September 4 at around 9:47 a.m. when Kristin Rodriguez, 25, drove a minivan into her while making a left turn from E. 98th onto Madison, according to NYPD and the Post.

“[The van] hit her and she [flew] up and back down and he kept on going with her under him,” witness Tracy Molloy told the Post. “He was trying to make the light like every New York City driver.”

“I walked over and started to pull her dress down, and the driver was panicking,” said Neud Clermont, another witness. “He was like, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t see you!’”

Ohnishi, 66, was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital in critical condition. She died from her injuries. Streetsblog was made aware of her death via the NYPD monthly crash data report and WNYC’s Mean Streets project.

Rodriguez, whose van had North Carolina plates, was summonsed for failure to yield and charged with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, according to the Post and court records. He was not charged under city code Section 19-190, known as the Right of Way Law, which as of August makes it a misdemeanor to strike a pedestrian or cyclist who has the right of way. NYPD and Vance did not upgrade charges against Rodriguez after Ohnishi died.

Aggravated unlicensed operation is an unclassified misdemeanor, the lowest level misdemeanor category. It is seemingly the default charge against unlicensed drivers who kill New York City pedestrians, and is also applied when unlicensed drivers commit non-criminal traffic infractions. Third degree aggravated unlicensed operation carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Drivers who plead guilty are normally fined with no jail time.

At a Fordham Law School event in November, Vance said he is prevented from prosecuting drivers who kill in cases that “may not have the facts to support a criminal prosecution and conviction.” For this crash and others like it, however, the Vance team clearly had enough evidence to bring a criminal case, yet declined to charge an unlicensed motorist who failed to yield for taking a life. Since the driver was charged with unlicensed driving and failure to yield, this case also seems to satisfy the so-called “rule of two.”

On Wednesday, Rodriguez, who was free on $1,000 bond, pled guilty and was sentenced to a $400 fine and $88 in fees, court records say. There is no indication that the court took action against his driver’s license. Rodriguez is scheduled to pay his fine in March.

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NYPD Still Doesn’t Investigate All Fatal Traffic Crashes

In 2013, Ray Kelly made the only significant traffic safety policy change in his exceptionally long tenure as police commissioner. Kelly promised to increase the staffing of NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad — where, at the time, only 19 detectives were assigned to investigate crashes in a city with about 300 traffic deaths and 3,000 serious injuries every year. To ensure that more crashes received serious attention from NYPD, Kelly also said the department would retire a rule that limited CIS investigations to cases in which the victim was deemed “likely to die.”

One year into Vision Zero, NYPD is still letting some fatal collisions slip through the cracks of its crash investigation protocol. Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Under the old rule, NYPD not only failed to investigate the vast majority of crashes resulting in serious injury, it also failed to investigate many fatal crashes. With police officers making spur-of-the-moment medical assessments about whether victims would die, the results were predictably inconsistent. In some cases, like the crashes that claimed the lives of Stefanos Tsigrimanis and Clara Heyworth, NYPD failed to promptly investigate because the victims were not initially deemed likely to die. Critical evidence could not be properly collected.

The new resources and the new rule were supposed to prevent fatal crashes from slipping through the cracks. Kelly issued a memo establishing a new standard, stating that officers would ”respond when there has been a critical injury or when a Police Department duty captain believes the extent of injuries and/or unique circumstances of a collision warrant such action.”

But even after Kelly set the new rule in place, even in the purported Vision Zero era under Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor de Blasio, NYPD still doesn’t promptly investigate all fatal crashes.

WNYC’s Kate Hinds and Kat Aaron report that NYPD doesn’t announce about a quarter of traffic deaths — those missing fatalities end up in spreadsheet compilations but not in the press alerts the department sends out in the immediate aftermath of a fatal crash. One of the victims overlooked by NYPD’s public announcements was Douglas Matrullo, who was struck by a hit-and-run driver about three months ago and died at Bellevue eight hours after the collision. Hinds and Aaron report:

A spokesperson said that’s because the officers who responded to Matrullo’s crash didn’t think his injuries were serious enough to warrant calling in the Collision Investigation Squad, the specially-trained unit that gathers evidence at crash scenes.

A crash victim died and NYPD never investigated — this is exactly the scenario that retiring the “likely to die” rule was supposed to prevent.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: The Fourth Avenue Protected Police Staging Area

Officers relax in the Fourth Avenue bike lane yesterday, which has become the department’s parking lot during nearly two weeks of protests. Photo: Stephen Miller

Nearly two weeks ago, a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict an NYPD officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. Since then, protestors have taken to the street on a near-daily basis. To prepare for protests near Union Square, a popular demonstration spot, the NYPD has, for the past two weeks, diagonally parked a large group of vehicles in the Fourth Avenue protected bike lane from 14th Street down as far as 9th Street.

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Thanks to DOT’s redesign of Fourth Avenue earlier this year, police mopeds and vans now have a convenient parking spot during the past two weeks’ protests. Photo: Stephen Miller

With traffic often slowed as Fourth Avenue approaches Union Square, particularly during protests, cyclists heading uptown are forced to mix it up with cars as they pass van after van with officers staying warm inside. It’s a regular problem around precinct houses, magnified to an even larger scale, and another small reminder from the NYPD: It’s their city. You just live in it.

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Teen Driver Kills Senior on Street With No Sidewalks, NYPD Blames Victim

Ignascio Andal, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a driver on a street with no sidewalks in Jamaica Estates. NYPD said "no criminality is suspected." Motorists have killed at least three pedestrians this year in the 107th Precinct. Image: Google Maps

Ignascio Andal, whose path is indicated in white, was killed by a driver on a street with no sidewalks in Jamaica Estates. NYPD said “no criminality is suspected.” Motorists have killed at least three pedestrians this year in the 107th Precinct. Image: Google Maps

A teenage driver ran over a senior on a street with no sidewalks Sunday, and NYPD cast blame on the victim. The crash occurred in a police precinct where motorists have killed at least three pedestrians in 2014.

At around 3 p.m. yesterday, 84-year-old Ignascio Andal was walking westbound on Wicklow Place when a 17-year-old driver in a 2013 Mazda hit him after turning right from 188th Street, according to NYPD.

The Daily News published photos, taken after dark, which indicate Andal was pushing a four-wheeled cart.

Wicklow Place is a suburban-style residential street with no sidewalks that forms a T intersection with 188th Street. NYPD had no information on who had the right of way, how fast the driver was going, or what prevented him from seeing the victim — nothing pertaining to the driver’s actions other than his direction of travel. NYPD said Andal was “in the middle of the roadway.” Andal was declared dead on arrival at New York Hospital Queens.

NYPD told Streetsblog the investigation is ongoing, but said “no criminality is suspected.” According to the Daily News, “cops say that the 17-year-old driver is not being charged with a crime.”

According to crash data compiled by Streetsblog, Andal was at least the third pedestrian killed by a driver this year in the 107th Precinct, where as of October officers had summonsed 157 drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians in 2014, and issued 523 speeding tickets. All three fatalities happened in the City Council district represented by Rory Lancman.

To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Paul A. Valerga, the commanding officer of the 107th Precinct, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 107th Precinct council meetings happen at 8 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of the month at precinct, 71-01 Parsons Boulevard. Call 718-969-5973 for information. The 107th Precinct is also on Twitter.

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NYPD: 1,399 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, 16 Killed in Traffic in October

Image: NYPD

Image: NYPD

Twenty people were killed in New York City traffic in October, and 4,692 were injured, according to the latest NYPD crash data report [PDF].

As of the end of October, 124 pedestrians and cyclists were reported killed by city motorists this year, and 12,228 injured, compared to 135 deaths and 13,310 injuries for the same period in 2013.

Citywide, at least 15 pedestrians and one cyclist were fatally struck by drivers in October: three pedestrians in Manhattan; two pedestrians in the Bronx; four pedestrians in Brooklyn; five pedestrians and one cyclist in Queens; and one pedestrian in Staten Island. Among the victims were Cristina Alonso, Anna Maria Moström, Sau Ying Lee, Winnifred Matthias, Martin Srodin, Rylee Ramos, Florence Bello, Edgar Torres, an unnamed male pedestrian in the Bronx, an unnamed male pedestrian in Queens, and two unnamed male pedestrians in Manhattan.

Motorists killed at least one child and three seniors in October: Rylee Ramos, 8; Sau Ying Lee, 90; Winnifred Matthias, 77; and an unnamed 86-year-old pedestrian.

Motorists killed at least two pedestrians whose deaths were apparently not covered in the press. Most every month, there are pedestrian and cyclist deaths that go unreported other than the scant details provided weeks later in the NYPD dataset, which lists only the intersection closest to the crash and the victim’s mode of travel. These crashes are enumerated by WNYC on its “Mean Streets” page.

Across the city, 969 pedestrians and 430 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 12 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death: the Coca-Cola truck driver who hit an 86-year-old pedestrian on the Upper East Side. Based on NYPD and media accounts, at least four victims were likely walking or cycling with the right of way when they were struck, but police and district attorneys are known to have applied the city’s Right of Way law only once. Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

In four cases, immediately after a pedestrian was killed, police exonerated the driver by telling the press the victim was “outside the crosswalk.”

Read more…

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Driver Not Charged for Killing Girl, 10, and Injuring Mother in Borough Park

Workers clean the street after a motorist struck 10-year-old Blima Friedman and her mother. The Daily News reported that, according to NYPD, the victims were crossing "mid-block." Police charged the driver for taking the vehicle without permission, but did not charge him for killing Blima and injuring her mother.

Workers clean the street after a motorist struck 10-year-old Blima Friedman and her mother. The Daily News reported that, according to NYPD, the victims were crossing “midblock.” Police charged the driver for taking the vehicle without permission, but did not charge him for killing Blima and injuring her mother.

A motorist killed a 10-year-old girl and injured her pregnant mother as the pair crossed a street in Borough Park Tuesday night. Blima Friedman was at least the eighth child age 14 and under killed by a New York City driver in 2014, and the third in the last six weeks.

The crash occurred at around 8:57 p.m. The Daily News cited unnamed police sources who said Blima and her mother Sara Freeman were “crossing midblock” on 18th Avenue at 60th Street when Bilal Ghumman hit them with a Honda minivan. But a police spokesperson told Streetsblog the circumstances of the crash, including who had the right of way, remain under investigation, and photos of the scene appear to indicate the victims would have been at most a few feet outside the crosswalk.

Police said Ghumman, 22, was northbound on 18th Avenue when he made a left turn onto 60th Street and struck the victims. Ghumman was reportedly working as a valet for a nearby wedding, and NYPD said he was driving the minivan elsewhere without the owner’s consent. Ghumman had an outstanding warrant for a drug-related offense, according to NYPD and published reports, and he was arrested and charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

NYPD and Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges against Ghumman for killing Blima Friedman and injuring her mother.

From the Daily News:

The mother, apparently pinned under the vehicle, remained conscious after the collision and screamed for her severely injured daughter as both lay on the ground, witnesses said.

“We saw the lady and her child on the ground. She was in shock,” said witness Angel Santos, 18, who was walking to a bodega when he came upon the scene. “She was still on the ground. She was screaming, ‘Oh my God, is (she) OK? Is (she) OK?’”

The frantic woman was also grasping her belly, apparently in the first throes of labor, witnesses said.

“She was holding her stomach, she looked like she was in pain,” said Jasmine Torres, 19.

Freeman, 33, was taken to Lutheran Medical Center, where she delivered her baby. Both were in stable condition as of last night, according to the Times. Blima was declared dead on arrival at Maimonides Medical Center, NYPD said.

This fatal crash occurred in the 66th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by David Greenfield.

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Motorist With Now-Expired NYC Disability Placard Still Blocking Curb Ramp

The DOT disability parking permit on the dashboard expired weeks ago, but this driver continues to park in a no parking zone, blocking the curb ramp. Photo: Brad Aaron

The DOT disability parking permit on the dashboard expired weeks ago, but this driver continues to park in a no parking zone, blocking the curb ramp. Photo: Brad Aaron

And now back to Seaman Avenue. A few weeks ago we noted that motorists who obtain disability permits from the city can basically park wherever they want, even in “no parking” zones with curb ramps for pedestrians with disabilities. An unmarked crosswalk at Seaman and W. 214th Street, in Inwood, is a favorite spot for placard bearers, whether their parking credentials are legitimate or not.

The disability permit in the vehicle I photographed for the earlier post was set to expire at the end of October. Above is a picture of that same car, taken this morning, in the same crosswalk. On the dashboard was the same permit, with the same October 31 expiration date.

Not that a motorist needs a valid placard to block a curb ramp, thanks to NYPD and DOT. A DOT rule change implemented in 2009 allows drivers with or without a city permit to block crosswalks that aren’t demarcated with pavement markings or signage. On one recent morning (again, after the disability permit expired) this car was wedged into the crosswalk tight enough that pedestrians approaching from the other side of Seaman were forced to walk in traffic, in the pre-dawn darkness, to find an opening to the sidewalk.

For what it’s worth, I filed a “blocked sidewalk” complaint with 311 today. As far as I can tell there is no “blocked crosswalk” category on the 311 website, nor is there a mechanism to report disability permit abuse.

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Precinct Where Drivers Killed Seniors in Crosswalks Ramps Up Bike Tickets

Photo: Elie Z. Perler/Bowery Boogie

Handing out traffic tickets that do nothing to improve safety? This will end well. Photo: Elie Z. Perler/Bowery Boogie

If you’re an NYPD precinct commander interested in issuing lots of tickets to cyclists in a short period of time, the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge bike path is a tempting place to send your officers. While the intersection itself has fewer crashes than other parts of the neighborhood, the regular stream of cyclists funneling to and from the bridge path makes for easy pickings.

The Manhattan Bridge bike path touches down at the intersection of Forsyth and Canal Streets in Chinatown. Sheltered from most of the dangers posed by bridge-bound drivers using the western section of Canal Street, the intersection is usually busy with people walking and people on bikes. The traffic signal there often plays second fiddle to the eyes and ears of pedestrians and cyclists, who cross when there is no oncoming traffic.

Combine this setup with the fact that the Manhattan Bridge is one of the city’s most popular bike routes, and you’ve got a recipe for a ticket bonanza — not for run-of-the-mill jaywalking, of course, but for cyclists who choose to go against the light. On Sunday, the 5th Precinct parked a cruiser around the corner on Forsyth and stationed an officer there to hand out tickets. When one cyclist didn’t stop after the officer shouted, he was pushed to the ground.

“Seeing a guy get tackled off of a bike is not something you see every day,” said Elie Z. Perler, who saw the confrontation before posting about it on his neighborhood blog, Bowery Boogie. “It just seemed excessive.”

Read more…

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DOT Unveils Interactive Vision Zero Map, But NYPD Data Still Incomplete

Injuries are indicated in orange, and fatalities in red, on DOT's new Vision Zero map.

Injuries are indicated in orange, and fatalities in red, on DOT’s Vision Zero map.

As the Transportation Alternatives Vision Zero for Cities Symposium got underway in Downtown Brooklyn this morning, DOT released an interactive map of traffic crashes, street safety projects and more. One piece that’s still missing, though: NYPD enforcement data.

“Vision Zero View” maps injury and fatal crashes based on the latest available data, updated monthly, and features information from prior years dating back to 2009. Users can sort crashes to see injuries or fatalities, and filter based on the victims’ mode of travel (pedestrian, cyclist, motor vehicle occupant, or all of the above). The map includes a current count of known traffic injuries and fatalities.

Data is sortable by month and year, with summaries for each NYPD precinct, City Council district, and community board district. The “Street Design” tab has filters for displaying locations of leading pedestrian intervals, arterial and neighborhood slow zones, speed humps, Safe Streets for Seniors target areas, and “major safety projects.”

For example, the map shows motorists have killed one pedestrian in Council Member Mark Treyger’s district in 2014, and 133 pedestrians and cyclists and 236 motor vehicle occupants have suffered injuries there this year. There are no neighborhood Slow Zones in District 47, according to the map, and no major safety projects.

With the “Outreach and Education” tab, users can see where meetings, workshops, and other street safety related events are happening. Again, not much going on in Treyger’s district.

Until recently, up-to-date geocoded crash information was not available to the public. With this map, crash data and other information related to Vision Zero are available in a unified, frequently-refreshed, user-friendly format. Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan said today that NYPD has put aside funding to upgrade its Traffic Accident Management System (TAMS), on which the Vision Zero map is based, and that the department is working on a system to geo-code traffic summonses. Hopefully those improvements will come.

Software developers and safety advocates have long called for geo-coded traffic summons data, which would indicate where and whether police are enforcing traffic laws to make streets safer. Minus enforcement information, New Yorkers’ Vision Zero view remains obscured.

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70th Precinct Fines People for Choosing a Safe Place to Walk or Bike at Night

Brooklynites are asking the city to stop penalizing people for walking and biking on a park path that lets them avoid dangerous traffic on a nearby street.

Map: DOITT

The 70th Precinct has deemed the north-south biking and walking path through the Parade Ground off-limits after dark, fining people for using a bypass around dangerous Coney Island Avenue. Map: DOITT

The paved path through the Parade Ground south of Prospect Park links the park loop with low-traffic neighborhood streets, serving as an alternative to Coney Island Avenue, a wide street with four lanes of through traffic. In particular, the path allows people to avoid the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Caton Avenue, where drivers injured an average of two pedestrians or cyclists per year between 1995 and 2009, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. The path is also a designated bikeway on the New York City bike map.

It’s common for people to use the path at night, and over the summer, local residents asked the 70th Precinct to stop issuing criminal court summonses on the path after sunset.

At a September meeting of the 70th Precinct community council, Deputy Inspector Richard DiBlasio said NYPD was issuing summonses for the safety of people walking and biking, reported Ditmas Park Corner. ”Unfortunately, there’s been some recent crime in that area — there’s been an increase in crime in that area,” said DiBlasio. “We don’t want to prevent anyone from using our park, but when it gets dark in that park there are different rules because it’s not safe.” The Prospect Park Alliance posted new signs emphasizing that the path closes at night.

But people who use the park path are more concerned about traffic on Coney Island Avenue than traveling through the Parade Ground after dark.

“Many are coming and going to Prospect Park while others are walking home from the F train,” wrote local resident Olgierd Bilanow on a petition asking the Prospect Park Alliance and the city to change the rules and keep the path open until 1 a.m. “For all these people walking through the Parade Ground path is the easiest, safest and most pleasant way to go between home and Park Circle.”

On Tuesday, Bilanow posted an update: ”The 70th Precinct has vetoed any changes to the hours at the Parade Grounds.”