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Posts from the "NYPD Crash Investigations" Category

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No Charges: Witnesses Say Driver Who Killed Bronx Senior Ran Stop Sign

A senior was killed in Mott Haven Tuesday by a motorist who witnesses said sped past a stop sign before striking the victim, jumping a curb and slamming into an apartment building. The driver was not charged or summonsed by NYPD.

Candida Acosta. Photo: DNAinfo

According to reports, Candida Acosta, 74, was crossing E. 141st Street at Beekman Avenue at around 11:05 a.m. when the driver of an Infiniti SUV struck her, then drove onto a sidewalk, knocked down a street sign, hit a building, and crashed into a stoop with sufficient force to trigger the vehicle’s airbags.

After the SUV stopped, a child exited the vehicle, bleeding from her mouth. The Daily News and News 12 said the 47-year-old driver and her 8-year-old daughter were hospitalized.

From DNAinfo:

Multiple witnesses, including the man who called 911, Ali Nagi, told DNAinfo New York that the SUV was going about 35 MPH and rolled a stop sign before hitting Acosta.

Witnesses also told WABC the driver ran a stop sign. One woman said more people could have been hurt. “If that building wouldn’t have stopped that car, all those people would have died plus people that are on that sidewalk,” said Mercedes Rivera, a friend of the victim.

Acosta suffered severe head and body trauma and died at Lincoln Hospital, reports said.

No charges were filed against the driver, and no summonses were issued. News 12 reported on Tuesday that, according to unnamed sources, “it’s possible the driver may receive a summons.” As of this morning the NYPD public information office had no updates. Streetsblog asked for the driver’s name, but a spokesperson said the department would not release that information unless the driver had been arrested.

Acosta was at least the second person killed by a motorist in the past month, and the fourth in 2013, in the City Council district represented by Maria del Carmen Arroyo, according to data compiled by Streetsblog. We talked with Arroyo’s spokesperson, who said the council member is out of town. The spokesperson said he would try to obtain the police report on the crash that killed Acosta, and pledged to follow up with Streetsblog next week.

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No Charges Filed for Pedestrian Deaths in Jamaica and East New York

NYPD says the department doesn't know who had the right of way when Sheila Rivera was fatally struck by a driver on Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York. Image: Google Maps

Editor’s note: As we were finishing up this story, Gothamist reported that a 36-year-old cyclist was killed this morning in Claremont, and that another cyclist struck by a truck driver in Downtown Brooklyn earlier this month has died from his injuries. We will have more on these fatalities in a future post.

Two pedestrians were killed by motorists in Brooklyn and Queens Monday. No charges were filed by NYPD in either case, and as usual, other than a routine bit of victim-blaming, details on these deadly acts of vehicular violence are scarce.

At approximately 7:20 p.m., 50-year-old Sheila Rivera was hit by the driver of a Honda SUV as she crossed Pennsylvania Avenue at Glenmore Avenue in East New York, according to Gothamist and the Daily News. Gothamist reported that Rivera lived seven blocks from the scene. She died at Brookdale Hospital.

The driver was reportedly traveling north on Pennsylvania Avenue at the time of the crash. It is not known how fast the driver was going, or who had the right of way. The NYPD public information office had no specifics on how the crash occurred. No summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

Sheila Rivera was killed in the 75th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Erik Martin Dilan.

At approximately 7:50 p.m., a man reported to be in his 40s was struck by the driver of a Honda SUV on Jamaica Avenue near 180th Street. Police told Gothamist and the Daily News that the victim was crossing mid-block. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. As of this morning his name had not been released by police. NYPD said no summonses were issued and no charges were filed.

This unidentified pedestrian victim was killed in the 103rd Precinct, and in the council district represented by Leroy Comrie.

Note that despite department policy that purportedly prohibits the release of information on traffic crashes, NYPD again offered details that point to the culpability of one of the dead victims, and nothing more. While police readily leak to the media that a pedestrian was struck by a motorist outside a crosswalk, driver speed is virtually never disclosed. If the pedestrian was struck while walking in a crosswalk, information on right of way is nearly impossible to extract.

A 2012 study by Transportation Alternatives found that 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws. A 2010 DOT pedestrian safety report revealed that for serious crashes to which contributing factors were assigned, only 21.5 percent placed primary responsibility on “pedestrian error/confusion,” with the vast majority caused by driver inattention, failure to yield, and excessive speed.

Regardless of data showing that most pedestrians and cyclists struck by motorists were following traffic laws, those who read and watch daily coverage of NYC traffic crashes are left with the impression that most incidents are either blameless acts of nature or are precipitated by irresponsible behavior on the part of the injured or deceased victim.

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NYPD Charges 0.7 Percent of Drivers Who Injure and Kill With Careless Driving

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

Three years after Albany established the offense of careless driving, NYPD continues to apply the law in only a tiny fraction of crashes that result in the death or injury of pedestrians and cyclists.

There were 152 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the city in 2012, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles, and 14,327 injuries. Of those 14,479 crashes, DMV data show NYPD cited 101 motorists for careless driving. That’s a citation rate of less than 1 percent.

It’s also the most careless driving citations issued by NYPD in a single year since Hayley and Diego’s Law took effect in 2010, when police wrote 99 summonses. In 2011, the first full year NYPD had the new law as part of its traffic enforcement toolkit, it was applied just 87 times.

The careless driving statute, part of Vehicle and Traffic Law section 1146, is named after Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, toddlers who were killed in 2009 when a van, left unattended and idling, rolled onto a sidewalk in Chinatown. The driver was not charged by NYPD, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, or his successor Cy Vance.

Careless driving was intended as a minimum penalty to hold drivers who injure and kill accountable, in lieu of a more serious criminal charge. Under the law, drivers who injure pedestrians or cyclists while failing to exercise due care are subject to mandatory drivers’ ed, and could be sentenced to fines of up to $750, jail time of up to 15 days, and a license suspension of up to six months.

Graphic by Carly Clark. Citation data obtained by Transportation Alternatives.

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Still No Charges From Queens DA Brown Against Driver Who Hit Five Kids

Nearly a month after a motorist mounted a curb and hit a group of kids near a school in Maspeth, no charges have been filed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. It appears Brown’s office is leaving it up to NYPD to decide whether prosecutors will pursue a case.

On the morning of September 12, Francis Aung Lu drove a Honda SUV onto the sidewalk at Grand Avenue and 71st Street, near Frank Sansivieri Intermediate School, hitting five children outside a corner deli. Bajram Kacic, 11, suffered a leg injury. Angie Peña, 13, was hospitalized in critical condition. Marina Abadir, 14, suffered head trauma, multiple spine fractures, and required surgery on both elbows. Ashley Khan, 13, who with Abadir was pinned under the vehicle, had fractures to her pelvis and legs, among other injuries.

Michael Gomez, 13, died on September 14. Reports published in the immediate aftermath of the crash indicated Gomez had a “swollen arm.” Media outlets cited anonymous sources who said Gomez died from an asthma attack. The medical examiner’s office did not respond to a Streetsblog query concerning Gomez’s death.

When we asked Brown’s office the day after the crash if  the DA would subpoena the driver’s cell phone records and vehicle EDR data, a spokesperson said no action would be taken unless NYPD determined “criminality.” At that time NYPD said the crash was in the hands of the Collision Investigation Squad.

“The police have made no referrals to the District Attorney’s Office,” said a Brown spokesperson, in an email last Friday. “You will have to contact the NYPD for a status of their investigation.”

Streetsblog has queried the NYPD public information office several times concerning this crash, but we have yet to learn if the CIS investigation is still active. Local Council Member Elizabeth Crowley has called for traffic-calming measures and lower speed limits in the area, but it is still unknown whether law enforcement will hold this driver accountable, or even if phone records or EDR data were collected.

Since September 13, at least seven pedestrians have been killed by drivers in Queens, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims include a senior and a 3-year-old child — Allison Liao, run over by a motorist in Flushing last Sunday. No charges are known to have been filed in the three of the seven cases where the driver was sober and remained at the scene.

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NYPD and Media Declare “Accident” as Another Child Killed by NYC Motorist

For at least the seventh time in 2013 and the second time in 10 days, a New York City motorist has struck and killed a young child.

Allison Liao, 3, was crossing Main Street in Flushing with her grandmother at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday when she was hit by the driver of a Nissan SUV, who was turning left onto Main from Cherry Avenue, according to reports. A witness told WABC that the driver hit Liao with the vehicle, then ran the child over. Liao was declared dead at New York Hospital Queens.

As usual, media accounts favor superfluous details — multiple stories emphasize that the driver was upset — while omitting information that could help prevent future fatalities. No coverage that we have seen indicates who had the right of way, nor is there any mention that state law requires drivers to exercise due care to avoid hitting people. Instead, the public gets more victim-blaming, with a helping of motorist absolution, from the Daily News:

A 3-year-old was killed by an SUV on Sunday after she broke free from her grandmother while they were crossing the street in Queens, police said.

Alison died on her way to the hospital, cops said. The devastated driver of the SUV stayed at the scene and was crying, witnesses said.

As is routine when the driver is sober and does not leave the scene, NYPD and the media appear ready to exculpate the killer of wrongdoing. “As of 11 p.m. Sunday night, the driver had not been charged,” said WABC’s Lucy Yang. “Investigators currently believe this may have all been an accident.”

Allison Liao is at least the seventh child aged 7 and under killed by a city driver this year, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Sunday’s crash happened 10 days after another SUV driver fatally stuck Kiko Shao, 5, in Sunset Park.

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With No Charges From Cy Vance or NYPD, Curb-Jumping Cabbie Driving Again

Six weeks after cab driver Mohammed Himon drove onto a Midtown sidewalk and hit tourist Sian Green, severing her leg, Green is back home in England. Meanwhile, Himon is again driving a taxi, as no charges have been filed against him by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Sian Green is back home in England, and after no charges were filed by NYPD or DA Cy Vance, the cab driver who maimed her is back driving the streets. Photo: Daily News

The August 20 crash attracted international attention — a young tourist horrifically injured on a gorgeous day in the heart of Midtown, her life saved by a plumber and celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz. NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Vance’s office announced investigations, which is never a given when a motorist maims or kills in NYC. Himon pleaded guilty to a suspension summons and surrendered his hack license on August 23, but the Taxi and Limousine Commission says he reclaimed it on September 26.

“Without any action having been taken against him by the DA’s office or the NYPD, there’s no lawful basis for TLC to have held it beyond the 30-day suspension he served,” said TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg, “so his license was reinstated.”

After a cab driver killed a senior in the West Village last year, the TLC told Streetsblog that unless a cabbie faces criminal charges, or a consumer files a complaint, the agency can’t take action against a driver who harms a pedestrian. Potential sanctions include the suspension of a driver’s TLC license, and additional actions can be taken based on the outcome of a case.

The Wall Street Journal reported in September that, due to a record-keeping error, for the past three years the TLC allowed 4,500 dangerous cabbies to keep driving without penalty, including 600 drivers with 10 or more points on their records.

According to published reports, Himon has a history or reckless driving, with three moving violations in 2011, including citations for running a red light and doing 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, resulting in nine points on his license. He was also involved in another crash that resulted in injury, reports said.

Himon reportedly drove a quarter of a block on a Midtown sidewalk with a cyclist on the hood before slamming into Green. He confessed to the media that he intentionally stepped on the gas before mounting the curb. Green has said Himon should be charged criminally. Yet city law enforcers and the agency charged with regulating cab drivers are either unable or unwilling to keep a habitually dangerous cabbie from endangering other innocent people.

Vance’s office was highly critical of our initial coverage of this crash, when we cited media tips from law enforcement sources who said Himon would not face criminal charges. Vance’s office would not comment when we asked about this case in September. We contacted the office this morning to ask if the investigation is still active. We have yet to hear back.

Update: Cy Vance’s office sent us this statement: “This case is an open and active investigation.”

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Van Bramer Calls for Traffic Calming After Hit-and-Run Death in Woodside

Luis Bravo’s death at the hands of a hit-and-run driver wasn’t the first warning sign about the dangers of walking along Broadway between 69th Street and Northern Boulevard in Woodside. In March of last year, Ed Surmenian, who lives at the intersection with 61st Street, said drivers regularly speed down Broadway and contacted Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer to complain.

Woodside resident Marion Molno holds a sign about the hit-and-run death of Luis Bravo. Behind her are Assembly Member Marge Markey, State Senator Michael Gianaris, and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. Photo: Stephen Miller

Van Bramer sent three letters — one to DOT and two to NYPD — requesting signal retiming and speeding enforcement [PDF 1, 2].

In her response, DOT’s Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy said that changing the signal timing is not “an effective engineering practice to control speed” and that “no signal timing changes are recommended at this time.”

“A year and a half later, Luis Bravo is killed right on this corner,” Van Bramer said, just days after hosting a press conference in Long Island City to call for changes after a different pedestrian death at Queens Plaza.

Yesterday, Van Bramer was at the intersection of 58th Street and Broadway, urging DOT and NYPD to make the street safer and to track down Bravo’s killer. He was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assembly Member Marge Markey, Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Paul Steely White, Rev. Joshua Hollmann of Christ Lutheran Church, and Woodside residents.

NYPD never replied to either of Van Bramer’s letters, but elected officials yesterday aimed most of their frustration at DOT. “We are sick and tired of asking for the DOT to do the right thing and protect the people of this city,” Gianaris said. “DOT needs to realize it is here to serve the people of this city, not the cars of this city.”

“I’m a little tired of their responses to our requests for safety issues,” Van Bramer said. “It should not take a young man dying to get traffic calming measures implemented.”

Broadway is a four-lane road, with two lanes in each direction. On similar streets, DOT has proposed or implemented road diets that include pedestrian islands and lane reductions. I asked Van Bramer if he wants a similar street design on Broadway. “I’m interested in seeing any configuration that would make it safer for pedestrians,” he said.

DOT has proposed adding painted sidewalk extensions on 37th Avenue near Broadway [PDF], but no plan that addresses the entire corridor. In the wake of Bravo’s death and Van Bramer’s press conference, the agency said it will look at the length of Broadway again. Spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail that the agency will “[make] use of the most recent data to assess signal timing and intersection controls, and will also look into the feasibility of other traffic calming measures here as well.”

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NYC’s Hit-and-Run Epidemic Claims Teenager Luis Bravo in Woodside

Last weekend, another New York City pedestrian was killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Luis Bravo with his sister. Photo via DNAinfo

Luis Bravo, whose age was reported as 18 and 19, was walking with a friend east on Broadway in Woodside at around 11 p.m. Saturday when he was hit by the driver of a dark-colored sedan, who was traveling south on 58th Street, according to DNAinfo and the Times Ledger.

Bravo was at least the fifth NYC pedestrian in a 15-day period to be killed by a motorist who fled the scene. In three of the five crashes, the driver was not immediately caught or identified.

At yesterday’s City Council oversight hearing, NYPD brass said that in 2012 there were 58 hit-and-run crashes investigated by what’s now known as the Collision Investigation Squad. Police made 15 arrests for leaving the scene — meaning arrests were made in only 26 percent of cases investigated.

From DNAinfo:

Gustavo Balletta, a close friend of Bravo’s, said the two of them were on their way home from a grocery store, Stop & Shop, when Bravo was hit.

Balletta said he had crossed the street just before Bravo, but turned around to find his friend on the ground.

“I started freaking out, trying to call 911, trying to figure out what happened. I couldn’t react,” Balletta said. He said Bravo was still breathing after he was hit.

Bravo was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, but declared dead on arrival.

Bravo was a student at New York City College of Technology. He is survived by his father, who lives in Ecuador, his mother and younger sister, DNAinfo reports.

“My brother was a dad to me, he was a hero,” said Bravo’s sister, to NY1. “He used to help me with basketball, with my homework, with everything else now he’s gone and I don’t know what to do.”

NYPD has asked the public for tips. Police gave no definitive answer when Streetsblog called the NYPD public information office to ask if an arrest had been made. “Not that I’m aware of,” a spokesperson said.

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To Reform NYPD Crash Investigations, There’s a Lot More Work to Do

NYPD attorney Susan Petito, Deputy Chief John Cassidy, executive officer of NYPD's transportation bureau, and Inspector Paul Ciorra, commanding officer of NYPD's Highway Unit, testify at a joint hearing of the City Council's transportation and public safety committees this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

This morning, the City Council’s transportation and public safety committees held a joint oversight hearing of NYPD’s crash investigation policies. It was the first time committee chairs James Vacca and Peter Vallone had put police brass on the spot since February 2012, when a joint oversight hearing unearthed new information about NYPD’s lackluster crash investigations. Since then, NYPD has initiated some reforms, but today’s testimony showed that the department’s internal changes only go so far. Much more progress must be made before New York has truly comprehensive crash investigations.

Today’s hearing yielded status updates on the internal changes NYPD made last spring, and the gaps that remain in the department’s crash investigation protocol.

Last year, CIS had a staff of 19. Currently, CIS has a staff of 27: One lieutenant, four sergeants, and 22 investigators. Deputy Chief John Cassidy, executive officer of NYPD’s transportation bureau, said five additional investigators will be added to CIS staff “in the near future.” There is also a new unit, the Collision Technician Group, which collects evidence and performs analysis of crash scenes. This work had previously been performed by NYPD’s Highway Patrol personnel, in addition to their other duties. The Collision Technician Group currently has a staff of one sergeant and 12 technicians.

In addition to internal training, staff attends crash investigation and reconstruction courses from Northwestern University’s Center for Public Safety. The agency has also replaced tape measures with electronic surveying tools, and uses onboard instruments to measure a vehicle’s braking and acceleration forces.

As of September 1, there have been 189 traffic fatalities in 2013, down slightly from 192 at the same point last year. Over the same period, there were 36,378 collisions involving injuries, down slightly from 37,073 the year before, continuing a long-term trend. The number of CIS investigations as of September of this year stands at 293, up from 238 during the same period last year — a 23 percent increase. Because NYPD’s policy changes only took effect in April, Cassidy said he expects the increase in CIS investigations to grow even more over the next year. In his introductory remarks, Vacca said that NYPD expects to investigate three times as many crashes as before.

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On Eve of NYPD Hearing, Van Bramer Calls for Thorough Crash Investigations

Elected officials and community leaders from Long Island City gathered to press for safety improvements and better crash investigations in the wake of a pedestrian death on Queens Plaza. Photo: Stephen Miller

Two weeks after a woman was killed while crossing Queens Plaza, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, joined by other elected officials and community leaders, stood at the busy intersection to call for better NYPD crash investigations, safety measures from DOT, and a citywide zero-tolerance policy for pedestrian deaths. Van Bramer’s press conference comes just days before the City Council’s public safety and transportation committees hold an oversight hearing on reforming NYPD crash investigations.

On September 13 at approximately 9:45 p.m., a woman NYPD identified as Karen Pheras, 20, was walking across Queens Plaza when the driver of blue 2009 Honda CRV struck her at the intersection of 27th Street and Queens Plaza North. Pheras was pronounced dead on arrival at Mount Sinai Hospital, according to LIC Post.

The 69-year-old driver has not been identified by police. NYPD did not respond to a request for information about the investigation, but it’s unlikely there will be charges in the case. “The police have at this point determined that the woman crossing the street was crossing against the light,” Van Bramer said.

“They believe there was no wrongdoing on the driver’s part,” said Van Bramer deputy chief of staff Jason Banrey. “After he hit her, he swerved. We don’t know if he was speeding or not.”

In addition to the crash that killed Karen Pheras, a woman was critically injured by a driver on Queens Plaza in July. Just yesterday, Alexander Ciszewski, 18, was killed by a hit-and-run driver while skateboarding alongside a truck in Long Island City. In March, 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak was killed on the sidewalk on Thomson Avenue by a driver who said he was distracted by a spilt drink. After pressure from local leaders, including Van Bramer, DOT installed pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection where Drudak died.

This morning, Van Bramer was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris, Democratic borough president nominee Melinda Katz, Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Noah Budnick, and community leaders from the Long Island City Partnership and the Dutch Kills Civic Association. They had three requests for DOT:

  • Additional time for pedestrians crossing Queens Plaza, which already has countdown clocks.
  • More signage so pedestrians are more aware of the bike path and know not to walk in it.
  • Expansion of a $6 million DOT traffic safety study Van Bramer says is planned for the Court Square area to include Queens Plaza and Dutch Kills. (The Department of City Planning is already undertaking a comprehensive transportation study covering western Queens, including Queens Plaza.)

Update: DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail that there is no study matching Van Bramer’s description. The agency’s planned work in Long Island City includes a DDC-managed study of Hunters Point, but “it would not be feasible to significantly increase the study area at this stage,” Mosquera said. DOT is, however, looking at adjustments to the intersection of 27th Street and Queens Plaza North, including signage.

Update 10/2/2013: After an initial misunderstanding about the study in question last week, DOT again rejected Van Bramer’s request to include Queens Plaza. The DDC-managed Hunters Point study, which has an estimated budget between $3 million and $4 million, is close to completing the contract registration process, so “it would not be feasible to significantly increase the study area to include Queens Plaza at this stage,” Mosquera repeated. “I hope this clears things up.”

Referencing a July press conference asking DOT for traffic calming in Dutch Kills, Gianaris hammered DOT for not taking action sooner, but Van Bramer quickly pivoted back to NYPD investigations.

“Despite DOT’s efforts to make the city safer,” he said, “We have a growing epidemic where pedestrians aren’t safe on the sidewalks and in the streets.”

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