Two years into the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero initiative, NYPD still refuses to release crash investigations to the public.
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.