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Drivers Killed Two Seniors in Manhattan and NYPD Filed No Charges

DOT reduced traffic lanes but did not install concrete islands to slow turns at West End Avenue and W. 93rd Street, where a driver killed 85-year-old George Mamalas. The white line represents Mamalas's path through the intersection — it is unknown which direction he was walking — and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, per NYPD. Image: Google Maps

DOT reduced traffic lanes but did not install concrete islands to slow turns at West End Avenue and W. 93rd Street, where a driver killed George Mamalas. The white line represents Mamalas’s path through the intersection — it is unknown which direction he was walking — and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, per NYPD. Image: Google Maps

Drivers fatally struck two seniors in separate crashes in Manhattan in the last few weeks. NYPD filed no charges in either case.

On August 23 at around 3:50 p.m., 85-year-old George Mamalas was crossing W. 93rd Street at West End Avenue when someone hit him with a box truck. NYPD told the West Side Rag that the driver was westbound on 93rd, which is one-way, and turning left onto West End.

Mamalas died from his injuries on September 11. His obituary says he was a Korean War veteran, dancer, and Pilates instructor.

There is no dedicated turn signal at West End Avenue and W. 93rd Street. If the driver had a green light and Mamalas entered the intersection with a steady walk signal, Mamalas would have had the right of way.

NYPD did not identify the driver, which is typical when police don’t charge or ticket a motorist who kills a person.

Drivers have killed at least five people walking on West End Avenue since January 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Following a string of deaths, beginning with the crash that killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock, DOT implemented a road diet along 35 blocks of West End Avenue in the fall of 2014, but installed concrete islands to slow driver turns at just four intersections. W. 93rd Street wasn’t one of them.

George Mamalas was killed in the 24th Precinct and in the City Council district represented by Helen Rosenthal.

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NYPD Is Still Shielding NYPD Crash Data From the Public

It’s been almost six months since Streetsblog filed a freedom of information request for data on traffic crashes involving NYPD personnel. NYPD has not released the data, or given us a reason for not doing so.

Photo: ddartley/Flickr

The 2016 Mayor’s Management Report says crashes involving NYPD personnel are up, but the department is hiding data that would reveal a more complete picture. Photo: ddartley/Flickr

The 2016 Mayor’s Management Report, released this week, says crashes involving city-owned vehicles increased 10 percent from FY 15 to FY 16 — with 5,726 crashes and 6,344 crashes, respectively. While other agencies provided the actual number of crashes involving their respective fleets, NYPD reported 3.9 collisions per 100,000 miles in FY 16, compared to 3.2 collisions per 100,000 miles in FY 15.

The per-mile figures are useful and reveal that NYPD crashes increased 22 percent — more than other agencies — but they don’t convey the scale of what’s happening. NYPD could easily provide a more complete picture by disclosing total crashes if it chose to.

Instead, NYPD has declined to tell the public and other city agencies how many traffic collisions police officers and other department staff are involved in, or the resulting costs in injuries, deaths, and property damage. Annual reports from the city comptroller’s office show NYPD consistently leads city agencies in legal settlement claims, some of which stem from vehicle crashes — a trend that continued in FY 15.

Our FOIL request, filed in March, asked NYPD for the most recent five years of department data on collisions involving NYPD vehicles, on-duty personnel, and vehicles and drivers contracted by the department. In May, about a month after we sent the FOIL, Lieutenant Richard Mantellino responded.

“Before a determination can be rendered,” Mantellino wrote, “further review is necessary to assess the potential applicability of exemptions set forth in FOIL, and whether the records can be located.”

Mantellino said the department would make a determination as to whether to honor the request within 90 days. We’ve heard nothing about it since then.

Streetsblog has asked NYPD for an update on the status of the records request.

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Driver Kills Army Vet Barney Pinkney, 63, in Harlem — NYPD Blames Victim

Morningside Avenue at 124th Street, where a driver fatally struck Barney Pinkney. Image: Google Maps

Morningside Avenue at 124th Street, where a driver fatally struck Barney Pinkney, has an unmarked crosswalk. Image: Google Maps

A motorist struck and killed 63-year-old Barney Pinkney as he crossed the street in Harlem Tuesday. NYPD blamed the victim in the press.

According to the NYPD public information office, the victim was crossing Morningside Avenue at 124th Street, west to east, when the driver, northbound on Morningside, hit him with a Saturn SUV. Pinkney suffered head trauma and died at St. Luke’s Hospital, police said.

NYPD filed no charges and blamed Pinkney, pictured, in the press. Photo via Daily News

NYPD filed no charges and blamed Pinkney, pictured, in the press. Photo via Daily News

The NYPD account of the crash focused on the victim’s behavior, with few details on the driver’s actions, and leaves many questions unanswered.

A police spokesperson told Streetsblog Pinkney was “in the vicinity of the double yellow line” when he was struck. Unnamed police sources told DNAinfo and the Daily News Pinkney was “outside the crosswalk” and “mid-street.”

Morningside Avenue and 124th Street is a T-intersection with an unmarked crosswalk on Morningside. A DOT road diet implemented in 2014 added center pedestrian islands and extended sidewalks at some Morningside crossings, but improvements at 124th Street were not included.

The NYPD public information office could not say how fast the driver was going — a crucial factor in the severity of the victim’s injuries — or why the driver failed to stop for someone crossing the street.

Police did not charge or ticket the motorist who killed Pinkney, identified as a 75-year-old man from Queens. NYPD usually shields the names of drivers who aren’t penalized for killing people.

Speaking to the Daily News, Russel Lowery, the victim’s brother, said Pinkney was an Army veteran. “He was just crossing the street,” Lowery said.

The crash that killed Barney Pinkney occurred in the 26th Precinct and in the City Council district represented by Inez Dickens.

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De Blasio Promises “More Visible Impact” on Reducing Traffic Deaths

Appearing with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer for his weekly “Ask the Mayor” segment this morning, Mayor de Blasio said the city’s Vision Zero effort is “still in its infancy” and that “there’s a lot more to do.” The remarks come at a time when the city’s two-year run of reducing traffic deaths seems increasingly unlikely to continue in 2016.

Bill_de_Blasio_11-2-2013

Mayor Bill de Blasio

While the mayor said “traffic designs” are an important component of Vision Zero, he did not say that he intends to accelerate investment in safer street configurations.

A caller had asked de Blasio why the city’s Vision Zero policies do not target pedestrian behavior. “People have to take personal responsibilities,” the caller argued, suggesting that the city pursue pedestrian education or jaywalking enforcement.

While de Blasio said he himself had encountered “folks with the headphones on who walk into the crosswalk,” he attributed the source of danger to motorist behavior:

The core of the problem is not the pedestrian or the bicyclist, it’s the person who’s driving a vehicle and is speeding, or going through an intersection without yielding to pedestrians. That’s what Vision Zero is first addressing, but we have given tickets to bicyclists who endanger others, we have given tickets to pedestrians who put themselves in harm’s way and could create an accident that could affect many others. We’ll do that in some measure, but from a resource perspective and just in general, that’s not where our first energies are going to go.

The mayor went on to pledge that Vision Zero “is something we’re going to continue to deepen.”

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NYPD U.S. Open Security Plan Closes Key Route Linking Corona and Flushing

Meridian Road serves as a bike commuting link through Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: @MakeQueensSafer

Meridian Road serves as a bicycling link through Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Photo: @MakeQueensSafer

As part of its security plan for this year’s U.S. Open, NYPD is blocking public access to a road that runs through Flushing Meadows Corona Park, cutting off one of the few local street connections between Corona and Flushing.

Meridian Road loops around the section of the park that’s bordered on three sides by the Grand Central Parkway and the Long Island Expressway. Signs posted for the U.S. Open say the east-west section of the road on the north side of the park won’t open again until September 17 — several days after play is scheduled to end this Sunday. For cyclists, that section is a much less stressful link between Corona and Flushing than the other nearby option, Roosevelt Avenue.

The road blockage was coordinated between NYPD and the U.S. Tennis Association, according to the Times Ledger. The Queens Museum was forced to close last Saturday for the duration of the tournament because, the paper reported, “The parking lots on either side of the museum are being used as a staging area for the NYPD and the plaza in front on Meridian Road is being used as a checkpoint where police officers inspect cars bringing fans to matches.”

“Our concern is it’s a big commuter road,” said Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer. Photos posted on Twitter by Make Queens Safer show cyclists and people on foot being redirected or blocked by police barricades. Meanwhile, park green spaces have been taken over for tournament parking.

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NYPD Forced Cyclists Off Greenway and Onto West Side Highway at Rush Hour

Forced off the greenway, these brave cyclists took to the West Side Highway. Photo: David Meyer

NYPD diverted cyclists off the Hudson River Greenway yesterday, so people biked in car traffic on the adjacent West Side Highway, which remained open. Photo: David Meyer

For four and a half hours last night, NYPD shut off bike access to the Hudson River Greenway between 44th Street and 55th Street, a major bike transportation artery used by several thousand people each day.

The greenway closure was billed as a “safety/security measure” for the televised Clinton/Trump Q & A with Matt Lauer held on the USS Intrepid. But there was no NYPD detour imposed on motorists using the adjacent West Side Highway, where people remained free to pilot large vehicles with substantial carrying capacity at high speeds.

Large numbers of cyclists returning home for the evening commute chose to bike on the West Side Highway for those 11 blocks. In the name of safety and security, NYPD created a more dangerous traffic condition, depriving cyclists of the protection of the greenway.

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Riders lining up to exit the greenway at 44th Street last night. Photo: Mark Gorton

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Greenway Shut Tonight for Presidential Forum — Motorists, Carry On

Ten blocks of the Hudson River Greenway will be closed during evening rush today as a “security” precaution for a presidential candidate event on the USS Intrepid. While people on bikes will have to figure out another way around, there’s no indication that people driving multi-ton metal boxes a few feet away on the West Side Highway will have to change their routines at all.

According to the Hudson River Park Trust, the greenway will be closed from 44th Street to 55th Street from 5 to 10:30 p.m. due to “NYPD safety/security measures.” The trust said greenway commuters should “plan an alternate route,” and posted no re-routing info on its web site or Twitter feed.

We called NYPD about the greenway closure, and to ask if the West Side Highway would be shut as well. NYPD referred us to the Secret Service. “NYPD’s the one who closes the street,” said the person who answered the phone at the Secret Service field office in Brooklyn.

A spokesperson said the Hudson River Park Trust learned of the greenway closure yesterday. No one we contacted would say if motor traffic would be blocked or rerouted. No announcement of a road closure has been posted online, and the DOT’s map of street disruptions shows no parallel detour on the West Side Highway today.

Tonight’s event is a forum on the military and national security. While it looks like operators of motor vehicles will carry on unimpeded, people biking and walking will be targeted by NYPD security theater.

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NYPD: No Charges for Driver Who Left Van in Gear, Killing Senior in Astoria

Image: NY1

Image: NY1

Update: The Daily News identified the deceased victim as Arline Smeal.

A motorist killed one senior and severely injured another when the unattended van he was driving, left idling and in gear, backed across an Astoria intersection and onto the sidewalk. NYPD filed no charges.

The crash occurred at around 2 p.m. at Broadway and 32nd Street. After the driver, a 29-year-old man, exited the Ford van, “the vehicle began to roll backwards on 32nd Street and struck two pedestrians before colliding with a food cart,” according to NYPD.

The van hit an 80-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man — who according to WNBC and the Daily News operated the food cart — before crashing into the wall of a building.

Both victims were taken to the hospital in critical condition. The woman died from her injuries. Police have not released her name, pending family notification.

“The back left wheel and the front right wheel rolled over this old lady’s neck and then hit an older gentleman, knocked the souvlaki stand, and it was just devastating,” one witness told WCBS.

The van “pushed the food cart about 25 feet and clipped the owner in the back of the head and then rolled over his legs,” the News reported.

WPIX posted video of the van rolling through the intersection.

The circumstances of yesterday’s crash are very similar to the crash the led to the adoption of the state’s vulnerable user law. In 2009, a van left unattended by a commercial driver backed onto a sidewalk in Chinatown, killing toddlers Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng. The crash prompted state legislators to establish the offense of careless driving for cases where a driver injures or kills a pedestrian or cyclist while failing to use due care. NYPD has a poor record of enforcing the law.

As of this afternoon NYPD has filed no charges and issued no tickets for yesterday’s crash. The department’s public information office told Streetsblog the investigation is ongoing.

With reporting by David Meyer

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De Blasio’s Office Ducks Responsibility for Erasing Eastern Pkwy Ped Islands

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

Pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway barely lasted nine months before DOT ripped them up, and no one in the de Blasio administration will say why. Photo: David Meyer

DOT removed pedestrian islands on Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights yesterday, undoing years of street safety advocacy work on the part of local residents and community board members with no public process, and no one in the de Blasio administration is taking responsibility.

Earlier this week, the Post reported that organizers of the West Indian Day Parade requested that concrete medians at Kingston and Brooklyn avenues be destroyed so floats and trucks “can navigate the roadway” for the event, which is held once a year. It’s not clear how the islands, which were installed in 2015, would impact the parade, since identical street treatments have been in place for years elsewhere along the route.

We asked City Hall if the order to remove the islands originated with the mayor’s office. “This was an NYPD directive, not City Hall’s,” de Blasio spokesperson Austin Finan told us via email.

NYPD referred us to DOT. When we called DOT for comment, the person who answered the phone said all agency press reps were away from their desks. DOT got back to us, but only to ask which NYPD staffer referred us to DOT.

Brooklyn Community Board 8, which endorsed the project that included the islands, was not notified that they would be removed, according to Rob Witherwax, a longtime street safety advocate who serves on the board’s transportation committee. Witherwax said he learned about the changes on Streetsblog.

DOT rarely undertakes street safety projects without the approval of the local community board, but the agency does not always consult boards before removing bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

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An NYPD Light Tower Has Blocked the Flushing Ave Bike Lane for Three Days

This light tower has forced cyclists to contend with motor vehicle traffic on Flushing Avenue all week. Photo: Matthew Kime

This NYPD light tower continues to force cyclists into motor vehicle traffic on Flushing Avenue. Photo: Matthew Kime

An idle NYPD light tower has been sitting in the Flushing Avenue bike lane all week, forcing cyclists into motor vehicle traffic.

Flushing Avenue’s westbound bike lane runs along the north curb. It will eventually be upgraded to a two-way protected lane, but right now is separated from motor vehicle traffic by a painted buffer. Commuters found the light trailer blocking the bike lane just east of Navy Street on Monday.

Responding to a 311 complaint, NYPD said officers were notified to move the light on Monday afternoon. But it was still there as of this morning.

Motorists have injured four cyclists on Flushing Avenue in the vicinity of Navy Street — from one block to the west to two blocks to the east — this year through July, according to city crash data.

The block of Flushing between Navy Street and North Eliot Place is located in the 88th Precinct. Messages left with the 88th Precinct and the NYPD public information office were not returned as of this writing.