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Eyes on the Street: Cops With Placards Turn Ninth Avenue Into Parking Lot

Well, this is a pretty brazen display of entitlement from the placarded class.

Parking watchdog @placardabuse tweeted these photos of private vehicles parked in a turn lane on Ninth Avenue at 34th Street, creating a left-hook hazard for people riding in the bike lane.

At least one of the cars has a Midtown South/14th Precinct placard. The station house is just up the block, at Ninth Avenue and 35th Street.

Parking placards don’t confer the legal right to store your car in a turning lane, but for all intents and purposes that’s how they function, since enforcement agents are loathe to ticket vehicles with placards. Making matters worse, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has scaled back NYPD’s internal monitoring and enforcement of placard abuse.

The officer who answered the phone at the precinct did not know there were staff vehicles parked on Ninth Avenue. “We’ll look into it,” she said.

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Truck Driver Kills Cyclist Leah Sylvain in Bushwick — Victim-Blaming Ensues

Joseph Cherry struck and killed 27-year-old Leah Sylvain while she biked up the Evergreen Avenue bike lane early this morning. Photo: Google Maps

Joseph Cherry struck and killed Leah Sylvain on Evergreen Avenue early this morning. Photo: Google Maps

A fuel truck driver struck and killed Leah Sylvain, 27, as she was biking on Evergreen Avenue in Bushwick this morning.

Sylvain was traveling north in the bike lane when Joseph Cherry, also traveling north, turned his truck to the left across her path, fatally injuring her. Sylvain was lying on the road with head trauma when police and EMS arrived at 6:46 a.m. She was pronounced dead at Woodhull Hospital.

Cherry, 52, was charged with misdemeanor careless driving, two moving violations for failure to yield, and another unspecified violation, according to NYPD.

While Sylvain clearly had the right of way and Cherry broke the law by failing to yield, CBS New York‘s Ilana Gold reported that Sylvain “slammed into” the truck, citing police investigators. Gold’s video segment said Sylvain was riding on the sidewalk, which subsequent NYPD reports corrected, and that witnesses said she was “distracted on her cell phone.” The video has since been taken down, and the references to sidewalk riding and the cell phone have been removed from the online text of the CBS story.

Sylvain is at least the fifth cyclist killed by a New York City driver in 2016 — and the fourth in Brooklyn.

If you’d like to voice your concerns about street safety in the area to Deputy Inspector Maximo Tolentino, the commanding officer of the 83rd Precinct, the precinct community council meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the precinct house, located at 480 Knickerbocker Ave.

This morning’s crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso.

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Do the 19th Precinct and Ben Kallos Know Drivers Cause Most Street Carnage?

Per square mile, the 19th Precinct on the Upper East Side has one of the higher traffic injury rates in the city. Though motorists cause the vast majority of traffic injuries and deaths, the 19th Precinct continues to make an example of cyclists, with support from City Council members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.

Our Town reports that local officers ticketed 100 cyclists during a two-day period last week. According to NYPD data, the 19th Precinct ticketed just 11 speeding drivers this year as of the end of April — meaning precinct officers issued almost 10 times as many summonses to cyclists in two days as they issued to speeding drivers in four months. While the precinct has been more active citing motorists who fail to yield, issuing 395 tickets through April, that still works out to just a little more than three per day.

Motorists have killed at least 12 people walking in the 19th Precinct in the last 24 months, according to crash reports tracked by Streetsblog.

Our Town says last week’s bike crackdown was conducted in collaboration with Kallos and Garodnick.

“One of the top complaints I get in the district is about bikes,” said Kallos, who added that he was “deeply disappointed” by the community board’s continued inaction on bike lanes. “On the flip side, people on bicycles feel that pedestrians are not respecting the bike lanes… We are spending a lot of time working with motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians on education and sharing the road.”

Kallos says he was disappointed when Community Board 8 caved to complainers and failed to endorse new crosstown bike lanes, but with his calls for increased bike enforcement, he’s responding to the same sentiment. And his “sharing the road” happy talk implies that all street users are equally responsible for the carnage on Upper East Side streets, when reckless drivers do nearly 100 percent of the maiming and killing.

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78th Precinct Honors Mike Ameri’s Commitment to Safe Streets

The unofficial Michael Ameri bike lane on Bergen Street. Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

Michael Ameri made sure the 78th Precinct respected this block of the Bergen Street bike lane Photo: @BrooklynSpoke

The Bergen Street bike lane between Sixth Avenue and Flatbush was unofficially christened the “Inspector Michael Ameri Bike Lane” yesterday in honor of the late commander of NYPD Highway Patrol.

Outside the 78th Precinct, police officers, Public Advocate Letitia James, and local residents honored Ameri, who took his own life on May 13, for his commitment to safe streets. Ameri served as commanding officer of the 78th before taking the reins at Highway Patrol in July of 2014. It was at the precinct where he acquired a reputation for taking the safety of pedestrians and cyclists seriously.

Ameri shoveling the Bergen Street bike lane in 2014. Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Ameri shoveling the Bergen Street bike lane in 2014. Photo: N. Wayne Bailey

Early in 2014, Ameri began holding monthly community meetings on traffic safety in the 78th Precinct. Residents were pleasantly surprised by his responsiveness to their concerns. “That to me really gets to what Mike Ameri was all about,” said Eric McClure of Park Slope Neighbors. “He helped to embrace the community aspect of policing, and he really came to value Vision Zero.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.