Skip to content

Posts from the "Media Watch" Category

19 Comments

Anonymous NYPD Sources Blame Another Victim of Motorist Violence

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a cyclist near Citi Field Tuesday afternoon. The driver was ticketed for speeding, but true to form, anonymous police sources and the media blamed the victim for his own death.

The crash happened on Roosevelt Avenue near 126th Street, under the elevated 7 train on the perimeter of the stadium, at around 12:48 p.m. According to NYPD and published reports, the driver of a Mercury minivan hit the cyclist from behind.

Photos and video of the scene show that the frame of the victim’s bike was snapped into pieces, with the minivan perpendicular to the sidewalk, its windshield shattered. The victim, whose name had not been released by police as of this morning, died at the scene.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the cyclist “cut in front” or “swerved into the path” of the driver. The NYPD spokesperson we spoke to had no such information. The spokesperson said police summonsed the driver for speeding — a crucial detail that was not reported in the press. So once again, unnamed NYPD personnel selectively leaked information that served to blame the victim, and reporters repeated it without question.

At this point the speeding ticket is the sole charge against the driver. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, NYPD told Streetsblog.

Read more…

136 Comments

NYPD Fails to Charge Driver Who Killed a Child in Red Hook This Morning

Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

Witnesses say a driver hit 14-year-old Nicholas Soto with enough force to throw him away from the street and over a nearby fence. NYPD filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a teenager in Red Hook this morning.

Nicholas Soto, 14, was crossing Lorraine Street at Hicks Street at around 7:00 when the driver of a BMW sedan slammed into him.

From WNBC:

Witnesses said the force of the impact flung the boy up in the air and over a fence.

Millie Mendez said the sound of the boy being hit was so loud she thought two cars had collided. When she realized it was a boy, not a car, that had been hit, she said she couldn’t believe it.

“He was bleeding everywhere,” Mendez said.

Mendez and others told WNBC speeding is a problem in the area. “The cars come like they’re on a thruway,” Mendez said. ”They need a light, speed bump, they need something on this corner because this is dangerous right here,” said resident Edward Ulsalston.

Photos from the scene show the BMW with front end damage and a cracked windshield, signs that the victim was thrown onto the hood. Though photos and witness accounts point to driver speed as a factor, police told WNBC that “No criminality is suspected.”

Daily News reporter Rocco Parascandola, meanwhile, cited an unnamed police source who blamed the victim.

A 14-year-old racing to catch a school bus was struck and killed by a car in Brooklyn Monday morning, police said.

Nicholas Soto was rushing across Hicks St. at Lorraine St. just before 7 a.m. when he was struck by a 2004 BMW heading west on Lorraine.

Nicholas, who lived nearby, died a short time later at Methodist Hospital.

The driver remained at the scene and will not likely be charged.

A police source said the teen’s vision may have been partially obstructed by his hoodie.

“It appears to be a tragic accident,” the source said.

Read more…

54 Comments

NYPD Transpo Chief Breaks Down Street Safety Basics for Local Press

At a press conference this morning unveiling a street safety redesign at 96th Street and Broadway on the Upper West Side, the first three questions from reporters were all about what the police are doing to deter jaywalking. So it was no surprise when, after a discussion of NYPD’s crackdown this week on drivers who text and fail to yield to pedestrians, Juliet Papa of 1010 WINS cut right to the chase for her drive-time audience.

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYC DOT

NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan. Photo: NYC DOT

“Will texting pedestrians also be part of the crackdown?” she asked over the roar of trucks on Broadway. “I just find this is very motorist-driven. Pedestrians and bicyclists must abide by the law.”

Setting aside that Papa implied texting while walking is a punishable offense (it is not), this was clearly an opportunity to explain street safety basics to the local press corps, and NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan hit his marks.

“Motorists are operating a 4,000 pound vehicle. And we cannot be distracted while we’re operating that vehicle,” he said. “When a collision occurs between a motorist and a pedestrian, the pedestrian loses 100 percent of the time. So again, it’s very important that our motorists, who are obligated to be licensed, that they operate in a way that’s not distracted.”

Later, I asked Chan for more details about the department’s enforcement efforts. Currently, monthly updates on moving violations are aggregated at the precinct level and released to the public in PDF and Excel documents. NYPD says it will step up enforcement along arterial slow zones, but there’s no way for the public to track the department’s progress on that promise.

Precincts often cite the number of tickets issued on a particular stretch of road at public meetings, and this type of information is part of Chan’s weekly TrafficStat meetings. But Chan claimed that releasing geographically-tagged data on moving violations is beyond the department’s current technical capabilities.

Whenever the department cites summonses issued on a specific street, officers are spending time tracking hand-written summonses, he said, rather than pulling information from a database. “Right now, we don’t capture that type of information. It’s not inputted into the computer by location in terms of where summonses are issued. That’s something that we can possibly look at to develop,” he said. “They would have to develop a whole system for that.”

Last week, the department improved the way it releases crash data, showing individual entries updated daily in an easy-to-use format. Chan called it a “great start,” so I asked if there are other traffic data improvements in the works.

“Not right now,” he said.

7 Comments

After Jill Abramson’s Powerful Traffic Violence Piece, What Now for the NYT?

Over the weekend, the New York Times ran a powerful piece by executive editor Jill Abramson about recovering from injuries sustained on city streets, based on her own experience and those of three other Times employees. Their stories, along with accompanying maps of New York City’s most dangerous intersections, conveyed the widespread and profound impact of traffic violence more effectively than anything the Times has published before. Now the question is: Will the Times continue to beat the drum for safe streets?

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Photo: Wikimedia

New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson. Photo: Wikimedia

There is a precedent if you look to the UK. After a Times of London reporter was seriously injured by a truck driver while commuting to work by bike, that paper launched a sustained effort to push for safer streets for cyclists. The “Cities Fit for Cycling” campaign covered everything from truck regulations to street design and speed limits.

The Times of London collected more than 36,000 signatures, gaining the endorsement of Olympic champions and earning plaudits from both Prime Minister David Cameron and the opposition Labour Party. But most importantly, the paper focused public attention on traffic violence, an issue that can easily get lost in the daily noise of metro coverage.

An overt campaign like that may be outside the New York Times’ comfort zone, but the paper doesn’t shy away from going above and beyond typical public service journalism. A Times series like last year’s “Invisible Child” can shape the discourse about a specific set of policy issues more powerfully than just about any other form of media.

As Abramson and her colleagues know too well, traffic violence is pervasive and affects people in ways that go much deeper than the topline statistics about deaths and injuries can ever describe. Fixing the problem is complex and multi-faceted too, requiring action from leaders in City Hall and Albany, as well as fundamental changes in how we view city streets and the act of driving on them. When the city has to beg and plead with state government to let it effectively prevent motorists from speeding, you know policy isn’t improving as urgently as the situation demands. But with more sustained, in-depth coverage from the Times about how to safely design and police our streets, solutions to traffic violence could come to fruition faster.

4 Comments

Can Vision Zero Survive NYC’s Tabloid Editorial Boards?

New mayor. New DOT commissioner. Same old myopic Daily News editorial board.

The opinion writers who spent four years undermining the implementation of safer street designs want “clear and transparent data” from Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Good idea, right? But when the data is right under their noses, they’re still not satisfied.

In a piece that’s ostensibly about holding the city to its traffic safety targets, the Daily News opinion team is still complaining about the Midtown pedestrian plazas on Broadway, which cut pedestrian injuries by 35 percent along the project area. Why? Because the city went ahead and made the safer design permanent, even though, according to the News, data on “average traffic flow rates” didn’t support the initial rationale for the project.

Except they’re wrong — average traffic speeds did increase, according to millions of taxi trips measured with GPS units. All the major nuances in the data (southbound traffic did slow down a tad) are captured in the city’s summary report [PDF].

The Daily News also still has beef with bike lanes, with their unequivocally positive safety record, and Citi Bike, which has recently been opening up all manner of data about bike-share trips.

Meanwhile, the data that street safety advocates really want to see opened up in standard, transparent format — NYPD’s crash information — doesn’t get a mention from the Daily News.

Open data is an absolute necessity for the public to assess policy and hold government accountable. But when the numbers are staring you in the face and you still insist on more data before taking action, maybe you just don’t want things to change. The Daily News opinion page is, after all, the same opinion page that fell back on the “more data” mantra when it called for the city to slow down on the 34th Street separated transitway, which the city abandoned soon after.

Eliminating traffic deaths is an ambitious goal that will require massive change — including more transformative street redesigns than the 34th Street transitway. Can the city make it happen if tabloid opinion writers are pushing against it every step of the way?

17 Comments

NYPD and the Press Parrot Driver’s Account of Crash That Killed Lisa Julian

Yesterday’s fatal East Village crash is another example of how NYPD and the press blame deceased pedestrians and cyclists based mostly on the word of the drivers who killed them.

“Woman, 47, crossing against light in NoHo struck by car, killed on Thursday,” read the Daily News headline. But the only evidence presented that Lisa Julian was crossing against the light came from Oliver Parris, who hit her with an SUV as she crossed Third Avenue at St. Marks Place at around 6:30 a.m.

Lisa Julian. Photo via New York Post

Lisa Julian. Photo via New York Post

Here’s Parris, as quoted by the Daily News:

“I was trying to swerve from her and I couldn’t do it in time,” said Parris, who said that Julian was crossing against the light. Parris was on his way home from his job as a newspaper deliveryman at the time of the accident.

“She was walking,” he said. “I don’t think she was paying attention.”

And the Post:

“She was crossing against the light. I had a green light,” he said sadly.

“I tried to avoid her. I swerved.”

Julian was pronounced dead at Beth Israel hospital. ”She was a loving, upbeat, and interesting person,” Alexander Rubinstein, the victim’s boyfriend, told the Post. “She was very happy. It’s tough to talk about her right now.”

Reporters for the Daily News, the Post, and DNAinfo take care to note that Parris was upset, and that he did not flee the scene. These details cast Parris in a sympathetic light, and are offered in lieu of critical analysis. Not only do reporters accept Parris’s word that it was Julian who disregarded the signal, they don’t question whether Parris himself was “paying attention,” though state law requires motorists to exercise due care to avoid running people over.

Assuming that Julian did cross against the signal raises other issues. If reports are correct that Parris was driving straight ahead, why didn’t he see Julian in the street in front of him? How close did he get before he saw her? Why did he have to swerve in the first place? This information is critical to determining how the crash occurred. While it may be too early to expect answers to all these questions, it’s also premature to accept the driver’s account as definitive.

Read more…

12 Comments

Marlene Baharlias, 77, Killed by Motorist, Blamed by NYPD and the Post

A senior was killed Tuesday in Sheepshead Bay by a driver who witnesses say backed onto a sidewalk — contrary to anonymous NYPD sources who told the Post the victim was jaywalking. No charges were filed.

Marlene Baharlias, 77, was walking home from the doctor with her husband when the driver of a Mercedes SUV backed onto the curb in front of 2060 E. 19th Street, according to witnesses who spoke with News 12 and Brooklyn Daily.

Photo: New York Post

Photo: New York Post

“She was walking on the sidewalk with her husband, the poor woman,” said Shlomo Hava, a neighbor who saw the accident unfold.

Hava said he wanted to help, but seeing her injuries, he knew there was little he could do.

“All her face was smashed — I was shocked,” he said.

Baharlias was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital.

In a five-sentence story, Post reporter Dana Sauchelli blamed Baharlias for her own death, citing police sources who said she “was jaywalking when she stepped off an East 19th street curb mid-block.” The Post is the only media outlet we found that claimed Baharlias was attempting to cross the street outside a crosswalk. The story was accompanied by a photo of the SUV parked almost perpendicular to the sidewalk, with the back end over the curb, and the description embedded with the photo said the victim ”was run over by SUV on the sidewalk.” Regardless, for all Post readers know, Baharlias put herself in harm’s way.

In the immediate aftermath of traffic crashes, anonymous NYPD sources are notorious for leaking information that assigns responsibility to deceased pedestrians and cyclists. When Allision Liao was killed last October, police told the media the 4 year old “broke free from her grandmother while they were crossing the street.” To the contrary, video of the crash revealed Allison was holding her grandmother’s hand when Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha drove into both of them in a Queens crosswalk. Pedestrian Seth Kahn and cyclists Mathieu Lefevre and Rasha Shamoon are also among those who in recent years were initially blamed by NYPD for the crashes that killed them and were later exonerated, either after further investigation or in civil court.

Data consistently show drivers are usually at fault in crashes that hurt and kill NYC pedestrians. NYC DOT’s landmark 2010 pedestrian safety study found that motorist behavior was the main factor in 78.5 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and fatalities. A 2012 Transportation Alternatives report found that, according to data from the state DOT, 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes between 1995 and 2009 were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws. And NYC DOT data from 2011 revealed that half of pedestrians killed in city crosswalks were crossing with the signal.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Daily reported that motorists picking up kids from a school close to where Baharlias was hit pose a danger to pedestrians.

Locals said the end of the school day may have contributed to the fatal accident. Parents jockey for the position when picking up their kids, sometimes double- or triple- parking, one neighbor said.

“If you see a spot, its like a race to see who can get that spot,” said William Perry, who lives on the block. “Its just an accident waiting to happen.”

Read more…

21 Comments

It’s Not the Bike Lane, Stupid: Double-Parking Caused By Poor Curb Policies

This may shock the New York Post, but double-parking is a huge problem on streets with no bike lane. Here’s 9th Street in Park Slope before it got a bike lane. Photo: Aaron Naparstek

Probably the dumbest part of a stupendously dumb Post story about double-parking tickets and the Columbus Avenue bike lane is this:

The controversial bike path from West 110th Street down to West 77th Street claimed a lane of traffic — even though it is parallel to more preferable cycling routes on Riverside Drive or in Central Park.

Trucks are forced to double-park in the middle of the avenue to make deliveries, and the companies are paying the price.

I will narrow my observations to two. First, no traffic lanes were removed to make room for the Columbus Avenue bike lane — the existing lanes were narrowed. Second, even if this project had removed a traffic lane, that wouldn’t affect access to the curb.

Delivery drivers are not double-parking because of the bike lane, or the number of traffic lanes. Narrower lanes may make double-parking more obtrusive than before, but these same truckers would have double-parked on the old Columbus Avenue design, like they do on so many NYC streets with no bike lane, because the curb is not managed to provide open spaces for delivery trucks.

The drivers — or driver, I should say, since the Post only quoted one source for the story — should be complaining to the Post about meter prices that fail to keep curbside space open, or the lack of loading zones. The bike lane isn’t the source of his problem.

And now, more pictures of double-parked trucks on streets with no bike lane…

Read more…

19 Comments

Post Wonders What Woman Did to Get Herself Run Over by Cab Driver

It's unclear if this cab driver was violating traffic laws when he ran over a pedestrian, but Post reporters do not appear to be paying attention.

It’s unclear if this cab driver was violating traffic laws when he ran over a pedestrian, but Post reporters do not appear to be paying attention.

It used to be that the tabloids would focus on any mistake by an injured or deceased pedestrian while ignoring what a motorist did, or didn’t do, to cause a crash. Now, in the absence of actual evidence that a pedestrian was in any way at fault, the Post has taken to spreading innuendo.

Yesterday afternoon a woman was run over by a cab driver in Midtown. Here’s what happened according to Post reporters Minsi Chung and Natasha Velez:

A puddle of blood next to a crosswalk on 6th Avenue marked the spot where the woman was struck as she crossed the wide avenue. A taxi turning left from W. 38th Street clipped the woman moments after she stepped off the sidewalk.

It was unclear if the pedestrian was jaywalking, but a witness said the woman did not appear to be paying attention as she crossed the busy street.

See what Chung and Velez did? They insinuated the victim was jaywalking through pure speculation. And for good measure added a vague but damning detail from an unnamed witness.

It may be unclear if the woman was “paying attention” before she was struck in a crosswalk on a city street teeming with pedestrian traffic. Since there is no rule against distracted walking, and the law puts the onus on drivers to avoid running people over, this is irrelevant.

But here’s what else is unclear: We don’t know if the cabbie who hit her violated her right of way, was driving at an appropriate speed, or using the cell phone he’s shown holding in the Post photo. And the reason it’s unclear is because the tabloids routinely fail to address motorist behavior in their zeal to blame the woman who ends up under the cab or bus.

Implying without cause that a fallen pedestrian might have been asking for it is not reporting. Post reporters and their editors should provide readers with fact-based traffic violence coverage and leave the gossip to Page Six.

11 Comments

Was the Victim of the Jackson Heights MTA Bus Crash Jaywalking? [Updated]

Crash site, from bus driver's point of view. Image: Google Maps

Crash site, from the bus driver’s point of view. Image: Google Maps

Update: NYPD identified the victim as Martha Tibillin-Guamug, 25, according to the Times Ledger.

A pedestrian was killed by a Q53 bus driver in Jackson Heights Monday afternoon.

Some published reports say the woman was hit near 74th Street and Broadway, but photos of the scene and the Q53 route map indicate that the crash occurred as the bus driver was turning right from Roosevelt Avenue onto Broadway. FDNY got the call at 5:56 p.m. 

From DNAinfo:

The front window of the bus next to the driver was cracked from the impact and the body of the woman lay under the vehicle near the right front tire a half-hour after the crash.

Commuters heading home after work saw the crash and immediately alerted police, but the woman could not be revived, witnesses said.

“People started screaming,” Carlos Mesia, 28, who saw the woman hesitate before stepping into the street.

He turned away for a moment and heard the bus’s brakes screech. When he turned back, the vehicle rocked like it had just hit a bump.

WCBS reported that the victim, whose name has not been released, was crossing Broadway from west to east. If this is correct — again, judging by photos taken at the scene — she would have been in or near the crosswalk, with the bus to her left. The intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Broadway is under the elevated 7 track, and there is a stanchion on the southwest corner. On the stanchion is a sign alerting drivers turning right from Roosevelt onto Broadway to yield to pedestrians. Unless there is an exclusive turn phase there, if the driver had a green light, the victim probably also had the signal.

Roosevelt Avenue at Broadway. Image: Google Maps

Roosevelt Avenue at Broadway. Image: Google Maps

Read more…