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Posts from the "Seniors" Category

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Witness: Crash That Killed Marlene Baharlias Likely Caught on Video

A man who says he saw the Tuesday crash that killed Marlene Baharlias echoes the story told by others: The driver backed into the senior on a Sheepshead Bay sidewalk. The witness believes a security camera in his building recorded the crash, but NYPD does not share details of crash investigations unless compelled by freedom of information requests.

Photo: ##http://media.ny1.com/media/2014/3/18/images/bkpedstruck77d56c6c-4ade-42b5-8284-8f761861d6c9.jpg##NY1##

Photo: NY1

Witnesses told Brooklyn Daily and News 12 that Baharlias, 77, and her husband were walking together near 2060 E. 19th Street when a woman driving a Mercedes SUV, reportedly attempting to park, accelerated in reverse, jumped the curb and struck her.

Colin Edwards sent us a corroborating account via email:

I was at my living room in the building when I heard the commotion. I looked from my window and saw the SUV backing very fast in reverse on the sidewalk. At this point the woman (Mrs. Baharlias) was already ran over by the car and laying in between the wheelbase of the car. Then the driver, in her panic, put the car in drive and ran the victim [over]  a second time, while the husband and two other guys were yelling at her to stop.

Baharlias was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital. No charges were immediately filed against the driver.

“It was absolutely criminal the speed and reckless manner [with] which the SUV driver reversed,” Edwards said. “She completely lost control over the car.”

As we wrote yesterday, anonymous NYPD sources told the Post Baharlias was jaywalking. The Post reported the claim without question. Many pedestrians and cyclists killed by motorists in recent years were initially blamed by NYPD and the press and were vindicated later, after the media lost interest in their stories.

Edwards said a security camera in his building probably recorded the crash, but NYPD makes it exceedingly difficult to determine if investigators tried to collect video evidence. As Streetsblog has reported for years, NYPD crash investigations are kept hidden, even from victims’ loved ones. WNYC reported today that the families of Alison Liao and Sammy Cohen Eckstein, children killed by motorists within the last five months, were forced to file freedom of information requests to get crash reports from NYPD.

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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.”

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80-Year-Old Pedestrian and MTA Bus Driver Killed in Separate Crashes

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. He was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. Image: Google Maps

Senior Margarita Seda was killed in the middle of the day by a driver making a left turn at a signalized intersection with marked crosswalks. The driver was cited for careless driving and failure to yield. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports. Image: Google Maps

In the last 24 hours, an 80-year-old pedestrian and an MTA bus driver were killed in crashes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

At around 1:35 p.m. Tuesday, Margarita Seda was struck by the driver of a GMC vehicle as she crossed Grand Street at Graham Avenue in Williamsburg, according to WCBS and the Daily News. WCBS reported that Seda was crossing Grand north to south when the driver, traveling north on Graham, struck her while making a left turn onto Grand. Seda suffered head injuries and died at Bellevue Hospital.

The unnamed motorist was summonsed for careless driving and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

Grand Street and Graham Avenue are two-lane streets that meet at a signalized intersection, and there is strong evidence that the victim was in the crosswalk and had a walk signal, based on published reports and the fact that NYPD cited the driver. If it occurred as described, yesterday’s crash appears nearly identical to the one that killed Maude Savage, the 72-year-old who was hit by an unlicensed driver last November while crossing with the signal at Sutter and Euclid Avenues in East New York. The man who killed Savage was charged criminally, but only because he was driving without a license.

This type of crash is not rare. At least 30 NYC pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by turning motorists since January 2013, and for the most part the drivers were breaking the law by failing to yield. As we wrote after Savage’s death, that this deadly behavior does not apparently meet the standard of criminal negligence is a sign that New York’s criminal justice system is failing to hold drivers accountable for killing law-abiding pedestrians.

The crash that killed Margarita Seda occurred in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso, and in the 90th Precinct, where in 2013 local officers cited 35 drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians, and wrote 311 speeding tickets.

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DOT Plans Changes for UWS Intersections After Pedestrian Deaths [Updated]

Video: Barron Lerner, uncle of Cooper Stock, speaks at last night’s CB 7 forum.

Update: DOT’s presentation on the intersection of Broadway and W. 96th Street is here.

DOT last night presented proposals to improve conditions for pedestrians in an area of the Upper West Side where three people were killed by motorists in January.

The Community Board 7 forum was packed with residents and electeds, who are looking to the city to take action in the wake of the deaths of Cooper Stock, Alexander Shear, and Samantha Lee.

At 96th and Broadway, where Shear was struck by the driver of a tour bus, the biggest change would be a ban on left turns from Broadway by southbound drivers, and the addition of a crosswalk linking Broadway’s center medians north and south of 96th, according to CB 7 member Ken Coughlin.

There is a subway entrance in the middle of Broadway on the south side of the intersection, a project that precipitated the removal of a significant amount of sidewalk space. Coughlin told Streetsblog pedestrians at the northwest corner of the intersection can be forced to wait almost two minutes to reach the subway entrance, since they have to cross both 96th Street and Broadway.

In addition to reducing conflicts between pedestrians and turning drivers, Coughlin says “The new plan gives pedestrians a second option, to cross in the middle, and cuts the wait way down.” Left turns from northbound Broadway onto 96th would still be allowed, Coughlin says.

“These [southbound] turns are currently very dangerous for pedestrians because the turn phase starts before those crossing 96th on the east side of Broadway get their walk signal,” says Coughlin. “Seeing traffic on 96th stopped for a red, many pedestrians start walking, unaware that turning traffic is coming toward them to their left.”

At W. 97th Street and West End Avenue, Gothamist reports that DOT has increased the leading pedestrian interval from six to 12 seconds, will be adding “yield to pedestrians” signage, and will consider adjusting signal times on 97th from Amsterdam Avenue to Riverside Drive. Most important, DOT will daylight the intersection by removing three parking spots, according to Gothamist.

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Daily News Ignores Driver’s Actions in Persecuting 70-Year-Old “Jaywalker”

The headline in today’s Daily News, “Jaywalker in critical condition after being struck by car in Midtown,” sets the tone for a particularly heinous example of tabloid victim-blaming.

According to the Post, the victim was Landal Hoilette, who was hit on W. 57th Street near 11th Avenue yesterday afternoon while on a lunch break from his job. But the Daily News does not identify Hoilette as a New Yorker, a pedestrian, or a senior. Instead, the story repeatedly refers to him as “the jaywalker.”

Crucial details, such as driver speed, are omitted by the Daily News, whose team of reporters focus on the actions of the injured pedestrian.

Crucial details, such as driver speed, are omitted by the Daily News, whose team of reporters focused instead on the actions of the injured pedestrian.

A 70-year-old man crossing a Manhattan street mid-block was hit by a car and critically wounded Wednesday afternoon, police said.

The victim was crossing 11th Ave. near W. 57th St. at 1:50 p.m. when he was hit by a four-door Nissan sedan that was heading south, cops said.

The jaywalker was rushed to New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he is listed in critical condition with head trauma, according to police.

“Jaywalker,” of course, is a term invented by the car lobby in the first half of the 20th century to apply to anyone who stood in the way of unfettered automobility — including children and the elderly. It’s a dehumanizing epithet that reflects an outdated mindset. It shifts blame away from motorists, who are mostly responsible for pedestrian-involved crashes, and it ignores the fact that, when you’re not in a car, following traffic rules can get you killed.

The tabloids did a decent job on the Kang Wong story, but they are generally terrible when it comes to day to day coverage of traffic crashes. Any mistake by the victim becomes the thrust of the story, while providing cover for the driver’s actions.

As is usually the case when the injured or dead can’t speak for themselves, the motorist’s version of events is the only account presented. How fast was the driver going? Was she distracted? How did she not see a 70-year-old man in the middle of the street? These crucial details are absent from the Daily News piece. The Post did a somewhat less horrible job, but offered zero information on the driver’s actions in a story headlined “CBS employee fighting for life after hit by car while jaywalking.”

The New York dailies should take a lesson from British papers like the Times of London, which treat traffic violence as a preventable public safety issue rather than reflexively blaming victims.

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Angela Hurtado, 68, Killed in Queens by Unlicensed Driver Making Illegal Turn

As NYPD ramps up enforcement against pedestrians who cross mid-block and against the signal, a funeral was held last week for a senior struck in a crosswalk by an accused unlicensed driver making an illegal turn.

Angela Hurtado, 68, was crossing Grand Avenue in Maspeth at around 11:00 a.m. on January 18 when 28-year-old Abel Tinoco made an illegal left turn onto Grand from 69th Place, hitting her with an SUV, according to published reports. She died hours later from head trauma.

Angela Hurtado. Photo via Queens Chronicle

Angela Hurtado. Photo via Queens Courier

Hurtado came to the U.S. from Ecuador when she was 21, according to the Queens Courier. She was a cancer survivor and was working as a housekeeper at 3 World Trade Center on 9/11. Along with area residents, Hurtado’s daughter Zoraya B. Torres said the family wants changes at the intersection where her mother was struck, to prevent another crash.

“My mom was a very humble woman, a good-hearted person and a loving mother,” said Torres. “It’s hard to believe that something so horrible could have happened to her.”

Court records say Tinoco was charged only with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, an unclassified misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Tinoco’s license had been suspended since last October, according to the criminal complaint filed by Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The complaint did not specify the cause of the suspension.

State Senator Michael Gianaris has introduced a bill to make it a class E felony  to cause serious injury or death while driving without a valid license, so long as the license was suspended or revoked for traffic offenses. A second bill would require drivers with suspended or revoked licenses to surrender their vehicle registrations and license plates. Gianaris held a press conference Sunday at Grand Avenue and 69th Place, calling on Albany lawmakers to pass the bills.

Since Tinoco was driving without a license and made an illegal left turn when he struck Hurtado, he should have been prosecuted for a more serious offense under the so-called “rule of two,” an arbitrary standard that holds that a New York State motorist who is breaking at least two traffic laws at the time of a crash may be charged with criminal negligence.

City district attorneys often cite the rule of two as an obstacle to filing charges when a motorist is reported to have broken one traffic law, such as running a stop sign, before killing a pedestrian or cyclist, yet prosecutors routinely fail to adhere to the rule when a driver is accused of breaking two or more traffic laws at the time of a fatal crash.

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Maude Savage and Akkas Ali, Struck by Motorists in 2013, Die From Injuries

The driver of this van barely slowed down as he turned into an occupied crosswalk, striking a senior. Image via Daily News. Video after the jump.

Charged for driving without a license, the maximum penalty against the motorist who fatally struck senior Maude Savage remains 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Image via Daily News

Maude Savage, the 72-year-old who was hit by a motorist in a Brooklyn crosswalk last November, died from her injuries. Though video showed Savage was crossing with the light, charges were not upgraded against the commercial driver who took a corner at speed, striking her a few feet from a grocery store she had just walked out of. After Savage’s death, the maximum penalty against the driver, who was charged the day of the crash with driving without a license, remains 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The crash occurred in the early afternoon of November 25 at Sutter and Euclid Avenues. In a security video, you could see Savage waiting for the pedestrian signal and looking both ways before stepping into the street. When she was midway across, the driver of a van covered in DirecTV logos entered the crosswalk, barely slowing as he made a left-hand turn. Savage tried to get out of his path, but the driver struck her with the front end of the van.

Robert Brown was charged by then-District Attorney Charles Hynes with third degree aggravated unlicensed operation, a misdemeanor that stipulates that he drove without a license when he knew or should have known he didn’t have one. He was also ticketed for failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk.

Reports in the aftermath of the crash said Savage was hospitalized with head injuries. Though several media outlets covered the crash itself — stories were pegged to the DirecTV angle, though Brown was not a DirecTV employee — we found no follow-up coverage. However, the NYPD November crash report recorded one crash at Euclid and Sutter that month, which resulted in one pedestrian fatality.

Several times in recent years, prosecutors have pursued third degree unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, as the top charge against unlicensed drivers who kill New York City pedestrians. In 2011, Yolanda Casal and Laurence Renard were fatally struck by unlicensed drivers in separate crashes in Manhattan. Casal and her daughter were hit by a recidivist reckless driver as he backed up to get a parking spot; Renard was hit by a dump truck driver on an Upper East Side corner. In each case, Manhattan DA Cy Vance accepted a guilty plea to third degree unlicensed operation, and each motorist was fined $500.

Brown is next scheduled to appear in court on March 5, according to online court records.

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For One Reckless Driving Survivor, “Life Looks a Lot Different Than Before”

Traffic fatality numbers usually get the headlines, but as a measure of how safe or dangerous it is to walk and bike, injuries are the more stable metric. Since 2003, according to state DMV data, an average of just under 14,000 people were injured by motorists while walking and biking in the city each year.

Lalita Rao. Photo: Brad Aaron

Lalita Rao, left, with her daughter Amita. Photo: Brad Aaron

Of the 38 pedestrian and cyclist injury crashes in NYC on an average day, few are investigated by NYPD. Not all pedestrian and cyclist injuries are classified as “serious,” but traffic violence disrupts the lives of thousands of victims — and their loved ones — permanently. For every victim’s story the public sees or hears in the press, dozens go untold.

On May 28 of last year, Lalita Rao was walking home from Elmhurst Hospital, where she worked, when she was hit by a school bus driver making a turn. Lalita got up from the pavement and, believing she was not seriously hurt, was prepared to continue on her way. The bus driver, too, was about to leave the scene before a neighbor intervened. Responders arrived, and Lalita was taken back to Elmhurst, where she would undergo emergency brain surgery to save her life.

Lalita, who spoke at the Elmhurst pedestrian injury summit in December, suffered two brain hematomas. “The fact that I am alive is a miracle,” she said. “I never thought my life would change totally like this.”

Before the crash, Lalita ran every day — she’s run the New York marathon. She was a gardening enthusiast and loved to cook. She traveled a lot. After the crash, Lalita had to relearn how to walk, and how to use her arms and hands. She uses a walker now, and even so needs help keeping her balance. She suffered a seizure and may be on seizure medication the rest of her life.

Lalita can’t cook anymore because of her unstable balance. She can no longer tend to her garden. “Instead of going to work,” she said, “I go to rehab twice a day.”

According to Lalita, the driver who hit her was talking on a cell phone. Because of this, and since there were children on the bus at the time of the crash, she said the bus driver lost his job. But he was not arrested for hitting Lalita, and she does not know if he got a traffic ticket. Lalita and her family members said they didn’t hear much from NYPD after the crash.

“Because of a distracted driver,” said Lalita, “I need help for everything. I went from being independent to total dependency.”

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9-Year-Old Boy, Mother, and Senior Killed in Weekend of Motorist Violence

Three pedestrians were fatally struck by motorists over the weekend, bringing to seven the number of people killed while walking in New York City in the first two weeks of 2014.

Twenty pedestrians were killed by city motorists in January 2013, according to NYPD data, and 12 pedestrians and one cyclist died in January 2012.

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Cooper Stock. Photo via DNAinfo

Nine-year-old Cooper Stock was in a crosswalk with his father at West End Avenue and 97th Street  at around 9 p.m. Friday when both were hit by cab driver Koffi Komlani, according to reports. A motorist in a car behind Komlani spoke with the Daily News:

“He had to be distracted because there’s no way he could not see them, if I did,” [Ramon] Gonzalez, 46, said of the 53-year-old cabbie.

“The father grabbed his son. They were both on the hood of the car for a second. The father fell off the passenger side. The son went underneath the driver’s-side tire, first the front one, then the rear.”

Komlani, of West Harriman, didn’t brake until after he’d run over the boy with both wheels, according to Gonzalez, the assistant director of an educational nonprofit who lives in Chelsea.

Richard Stock suffered a leg injury. Cooper died at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

Cooper Stock was at least the twelfth child age 14 and under killed by a New York City motorist in the last 12 months, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Year after year, traffic crashes remain the leading cause of injury-related death for children in NYC.

From DNAinfo:

The family released a statement about Cooper late Saturday, saying he loved the Yankees, rock and roll, and the Knicks. “Cooper was the life of the party even when there wasn’t a party,” the statement said. “He was light, he was reflective, he was beauty in motion, he was charismatic. He has been described as an old soul, and wise beyond his years.”

Komlani was ticketed for failure to yield on Friday. ”As of now, there are no disciplinary actions available to the TLC,” said Allan Fromberg, spokesperson for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, in an email. ”We’re awaiting the outcome of the NYPD investigation to make a determination of what options are available.”

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Senior Killed by Bus Driver in Bronx; Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Man in Queens

Two NYC pedestrians were killed by motorists over the weekend. One of the victims was a senior; the other was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the City Council district represented by Eric Ulrich, where at least five pedestrians have died in traffic in 2013.

Gloria Mabry. Photo via Daily News

Gloria Mabry. Photo via Daily News

Last Friday evening at approximately 6:45 p.m., 74-year-old Gloria Mabry was walking to her Bronx home when she was hit by an MTA bus driver. According to reports, Mabry was pushing a grocery cart along Co-Op City Boulevard when the bus driver struck her while turning left from Co-Op City Boulevard onto Dreiser Loop.

From the Daily News:

Mabry ended up getting caught under the rear wheels of the bus, horrified witnesses said. Paramedics rushed Mabry to Jacobi Medical Center, but doctors were unable to save her.

“My mother was 74 years old and bringing home a cart of groceries,” Mabry’s son, Reginald Mabry, told News 12. “There’s no way whatsoever that a vehicle going a safe speed could not have seen that little lady.”

“It wasn’t immediately clear if Mabry had the light when she was crossing,” reported the AP. In other words, it’s not known who had the right of way. The NYPD public information office had no details on how the crash unfolded, or whether summonses were issued. A spokesperson said the investigation was “ongoing,” which often means police are awaiting toxicology reports on the victim.

Mabry was killed in the City Council district represented by Andy King, and in the 45th Precinct, where as of October local officers had issued 227 speeding tickets in 2013, and 16 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

At around 3:15 a.m. Saturday, Yunior Antonio Perez Rodriguez, 35, was struck as he tried to cross Woodhaven Boulevard at Jamaica Avenue. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. The driver fled the scene.

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