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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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NYPD Admits It Wrongly Accused Lauren Davis of Biking Against Traffic

NYPD has amended the crash report that wrongly accused Lauren Davis of biking against traffic when she was struck and killed by a turning driver on Classon Avenue the morning of April 15.

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

Yesterday, Streetsblog published an account from witness Rebecca Ballantine, who was biking on Classon at the same time as Davis and said she was “absolutely sure [Davis] was not biking against traffic.” At the time we ran the story, NYPD’s public information office still said Davis was biking the wrong way when she was struck.

Now NYPD has updated its crash report, according to Nathan Tempey at Gothamist:

A department representative said this morning that investigators have amended their report to indicate that Davis was riding with traffic, and that they are in conversation with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office about possible charges.

While it’s good that police have corrected their mistake and are moving forward with the investigation, much of the damage has already been done. False information permeated the news cycle following the crash, feeding the perception that cyclists are culpable when they’re struck and killed by motorists.

Now the question is: What will NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Highway Patrol chief Michael Ameri, who’s in charge of the Collision Investigation Squad, do to prevent this from happening again?

NYPD’s premature judgment in this case is part of a broader pattern of police bias in crash investigations, which often leads to press accounts that erroneously blame victims.

One reform was suggested by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — himself a former police officer — at a memorial ride held for Davis and James Gregg, who was killed last week while biking in Park Slope.

Adams called on police to refrain from publicly discussing details of crashes while investigations are underway, according to the Brooklyn Eagle. “We should not assume that the cyclist was always the person responsible for a crash or had accepted the risk simply by climbing on a bicycle,” he said.

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Witness: Lauren Davis Was Biking With Traffic, Not Against, as NYPD Claimed

A witness who was biking behind Lauren Davis at the time she was struck and killed by a turning driver on the morning of April 15 says she is “absolutely sure [Davis] was not biking against traffic.”

As head of NYPD Highway Patrol, Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri is responsible for police crash investigations.

The eyewitness account directly contradicts the version of events police have propagated since the immediate aftermath of the crash, when NYPD told several news outlets, including Streetsblog, that Davis was biking against traffic.

The discrepancy fits a pattern of police bias, in which NYPD supplies reporters with information exonerating drivers who kill pedestrians or cyclists immediately after a crash, forming the basis of most media coverage. With alarming regularity, those initial NYPD reports and press accounts are proven erroneous when witness testimony or video evidence implicating the driver surfaces later on.

No charges have been filed against the driver who killed Lauren Davis.

Rebecca Ballantine was biking north on Classon Avenue at around 8:30 a.m. that Friday after seeing her son onto a school bus. She first noticed Davis stopped at a red light facing north on Classon at the intersection of Gates Avenue, wearing a helmet. Ballantine proceeded when there was a gap in traffic, before the light turned green, she said, while Davis stayed behind.

Soon after, Davis overtook Ballantine heading north, in the direction of traffic. Davis worked at Pratt, and Classon would have taken her to the campus.

At the time the driver, a 41-year-old woman, struck Davis at Lexington Avenue, two blocks north of Gates, Ballantine says she was behind Davis but less than a block away.

Ballantine said her impression of the lead-up to the collision is not completely clear, but she saw the moment of impact. “I thought [Davis] was going [straight] on Classon as the driver made the turn,” she said, describing a “left-hook” scenario in which the driver failed to yield. (NYPD told reporters that the driver turned left from Classon onto Lexington.)

One thing Ballantine is certain of is that Davis, contrary to NYPD’s account, was not riding the wrong way. “I am absolutely sure she was not biking against traffic,” she said. “I was very aware of her.”

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Pat Lynch Makes the Case for Automated Traffic Enforcement

If there’s one thing to glean from the story of Joseph Spina — the NYPD officer who got caught on tape telling a motorist, “Mayor de Blasio wants us to give out summonses, okay?” — it’s that NYC needs more automated traffic enforcement.

Whatever you think of NYPD’s decision to suspend Spina without pay, the incident has brought to the surface the disdain that officers feel for enforcing traffic laws. If police are so squeamish, maybe the job should be entrusted to a system that doesn’t get embarrassed by the prospect of protecting New Yorkers from speeding and careless driving.

One officer told the Post he blames the mayor “all the time” when issuing traffic citations. And PBA President Pat Lynch, the man NYPD rank-and-file elected to represent them, complained that Vision Zero “boils down to police officers enforcing traffic laws” (right, can you believe it?) and “subjecting New Yorkers to expensive summonses that many cannot afford to pay.”

For the record, NYPD traffic summons activity in 2014 and 2015 did not measurably increase compared to the previous three years under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. What shifted was the proportion of tickets issued for the most dangerous violations — speeding and failure to yield.

More to the point, Lynch doesn’t seem to care in the least about saving New Yorkers from the anguish and pain caused by dangerous driving.

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Another Person Killed by Turning Motorist in the 109th Precinct

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

Council Member Peter Koo, Representative Grace Meng, Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, Assembly Member Mike Simanowitz, and Assembly Member Ron Kim. Motorists have killed at least three people walking in the 109th Precinct since these officials held a press event last November to blame victims of traffic violence.

An ambulette driver was charged under the Right of Way Law for striking and killing a pedestrian in Flushing.

The crash happened Tuesday at around 8:57 a.m. The victim — a 57-year-old man whose name has not been released by police, pending family notification — was crossing 35th Avenue in the crosswalk when Ramon Ortiz, 55, struck him with an SUV while turning left onto the avenue from Prince Street, according to NYPD and reports from the Daily News and QNS.com.

The victim died at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Ortiz was arrested and charged with violating the victim’s right of way, a police spokesperson told Streetsblog.

The victim was at least the third pedestrian killed by a motorist in the 109th Precinct this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. In at least one other case the victim was struck by a driver making a turn. The precinct is where a driver who failed to yield killed 3-year-old Allison Liao in 2013.

Officers in the 109th Precinct ticketed 867 drivers for failing to yield and 738 drivers for speeding in 2015, according to NYPD summons data. In response to a series of pedestrian fatalities last year, the precinct and local electeds made a show of blaming people for their own deaths.

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

Prince Street and 35th Avenue in Flushing, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver who police say failed to yield. Image: Google Maps

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NYPD on Parking Perks for Press: Do as We Say, Not as We Do

The City Council’s attempt to return parking privileges to the New York press corps faces opposition, ironically enough, from the New York City Police Department.

Intro. 779, sponsored by transportation committee chair Ydanis Rodriguez and 34 of his colleagues, would allow people with press-designated license plates from New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut to “park where parking or standing is otherwise prohibited except where standing or stopping is prohibited to all motor vehicles” without any time limit or payment, so long as the driver is “engaged in the covering of a news event or matter of public concern.”

A car with state-issued press license plates parked illegally on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: David Meyer

A car with state-issued press license plates parked illegally on Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: David Meyer

While the bill would not provide physical parking placards for press vehicles, the effect would essentially be the same. There are supposed to be limits on the parking privileges conferred by placards, but in practice, placards are routinely abused as a blanket exemption from all parking laws.

“Let me make it clear, our members are not looking for some sort of perk. This is about allowing working journalists to more efficiently relay information to the people of New York City,” said Steve Scott of the New York Press Club. “We can’t do that if we’re circling the block looking for a place to park.”

The press was explicitly given a similar privilege until 2009, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg stripped it as part of a general cutback on placard distribution. Currently, vehicles with state-issued “New York Press” license plates may park in certain press-designated parking zones. Members of the media at today’s hearing conceded they already count on lenient traffic enforcement agents to give them a pass when they park illegally.

The agency with the most placards is NYPD, whose officers have made a laughingstock of the current system by parking their personal vehicles anywhere with impunity, with or without official placards. So it was more than a little ironic that NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton opposed the expansion of parking perks at today’s City Council transportation committee meeting.

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