Skip to content

Posts from the Traffic Justice Category

6 Comments

James Oddo Calls for Wider Roads Hours After SI Traffic Violence Claims Life

A UPS worker who lost a leg when a Staten Island driver slammed into him in April has died. NYPD and Staten Island prosecutors issued no summonses and filed no criminal charges in the case.

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan. Photo via SI Advance

Tom Ryan, 52, was unloading packages from his truck at 2044 Hylan Boulevard on the morning of April 6 when a driver hit him with a Toyota sedan, according to the Staten Island Advance. NYPD told the Advance the driver was in the left, northbound lane and “tried to avoid hitting a pedestrian who crossed in front of his vehicle.”

The driver lost control of his vehicle and it swerved into the right lane, striking and pinning Ryan against the back of the UPS truck, police said.

Ryan, of Bayonne, died this week, the Advance reported.

The impact from the crash severed one of his legs, causing him to bleed profusely and go into cardiac arrest. He slipped into a coma due to the loss of oxygen to his brain, and never regained consciousness, his wife [Elise Ryan] said.

“He had an anoxic brain injury — that was more of his injury than even the leg,” the grieving wife explained.

The driver who killed Ryan was not identified. Despite indications that driver speed contributed to the crash — and was likely the difference between whether Ryan lived or died — no charges were filed by police, former district attorney Dan Donovan, or acting DA Daniel Master Jr., who took office in May, after Donovan was elected to Congress.

The crash that killed Tom Ryan occurred in the 122nd Precinct — where as of July local officers had ticketed 1,180 drivers for speeding in 2015 — and in the City Council district represented by Steve Matteo.

According to DOT, while overall NYC pedestrian deaths have dropped by nearly 50 percent in the last 30 years, the number of people killed by drivers while walking in Staten Island has not declined. But making streets safer is not a priority for Staten Island electeds.

Matteo has one of the worst records in the council on safe streets legislation. He was one of four council members, along with former Staten Island rep Vincent Ignizio, to vote against lowering the city speed limit. Matteo has said he believes speed cameras are a revenue scam.

When he was on the council, Matteo’s predecessor James Oddo, who is now borough president, called for requiring an environmental review for new bike lanes. Hours after news broke of Tom Ryan’s death, Oddo took to Twitter to brag about upcoming road widenings and call for more such projects on Staten Island.

15 Comments

City Hall and TWU Reach Settlement in Suit Over Right-of-Way Law

The de Blasio administration has reached a settlement with TWU Local 100 over the union’s lawsuit against the Right-of-Way Law, ostensibly bringing an end to a rancorous political fight that sapped energy from the city’s street safety efforts for the better part of a year.

On its face, the settlement maintains the integrity of the law, which was intended to ensure a basic measure of accountability when drivers harm people who are following all the rules. In practice, NYPD has rarely applied the law, and with this settlement the key question remains whether rank-and-file officers will be trained to enforce it properly.

The city enacted the Right-of-Way Law last summer, making it a misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right-of-way. The law was supposed to address the vexing lack of police investigations into the thousands of crashes each year in which pedestrians and cyclists suffer non-life-threatening injuries. (As opposed to fatal crashes, which are investigated by a specialized unit, the Collision Investigation Squad.)

But after some MTA bus drivers were charged under the law for injuring or killing pedestrians, TWU 100 made gutting it a top priority. In the press, the union accused the law’s backers of “criminalizing” bus drivers. In Albany and the City Council, TWU threw its muscle behind multiple bills to render the law unenforceable. And in the courts, it tried to get the law nullified on constitutional grounds.

The terms of the settlement do not capitulate to the TWU’s legislative agenda, which entailed either carving out exemptions for bus drivers or neutering the law by spelling out a litany of circumstances (wet pavement, for example) in which it would not apply. “Protecting New Yorkers is our top priority and the Right of Way Law is a powerful tool to keep pedestrians safe,” Mayor de Blasio said in a statement. “This settlement makes explicit what the City, the NYPD and District Attorneys mean by ‘due care,’ and the standard we are using as we implement this law.”

The key passage in the settlement states that the law does not “give rise to strict liability,” meaning that to secure a conviction, police and prosecutors need to demonstrate that a driver both failed to yield and failed to exercise due care.

Read more…

3 Comments

Driver Pleads to Felony in Hit-and-Run Death of Manhattan Pedestrian

Doohee Cho. Photo via Daily News

Doohee Cho. Photo via Daily News

A driver who killed a Union Square pedestrian pled guilty to a felony hit-and-run charge this week.

Doohee Cho, 33, was crossing Fifth Avenue between E. 15th and E. 16th streets in the early morning hours of September 28, 2014, when Macgyver Beltran hit him with a Chevrolet sedan, according to published reports.

Police arrested Beltran two days later, after releasing video of him speeding away from the scene in the visibly damaged car. Beltran had taken the car, a rental, to have it repaired, the Post reported.

Beltran, then 25, had an arrest record that included a reckless driving offense, the Post said.

According to court records, Beltran was charged with leaving the scene of an injury crash and evidence tampering, class D and E felonies, respectively. He pled guilty to both charges on Tuesday.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance did not charge Beltran for the act of killing Doohee Cho.

The top charge against Beltran — leaving the scene — carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on August 26.

6 Comments

New Mural in Park Slope Puts Traffic Justice Front and Center

Vision Zero mural. Image courtesy Groundswell

Click to enlarge. Image courtesy of Groundswell

By the end of the month, people loading food into their cars at the Key Food on Fifth Avenue and Sterling Place in Park Slope will have a great view of a new mural about safe driving.

Photo: Stephen Miller

Julia Jong, 20, works on the mural. Photo: Stephen Miller

The project, funded in part by NYC DOT, puts Lady Justice front and center, fixing a stone-cold stare at a texting driver. The scales of justice weigh an automobile and New Yorkers walking and bicycling across the street. Opposite the texting driver stand families of traffic violence victims at a rally. In the background is an intersection featuring a protected bike lane and a dedicated bus lane.

“We wanted to show the different aspects of the Vision Zero campaign,” said Marc Evan, the artist leading the project for arts non-profit Groundswell. “They wanted us to take a creative approach to a very heavy subject matter.”

Groundswell has worked with DOT since 2009. In another project this summer, the organization is painting a mural about drunk driving on the side of a Food Bazaar supermarket in the South Bronx. Groundswell also painted the street safety mural on Atlantic Avenue beneath the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

“This is the first year that we are doing specifically a Vision Zero mural,” said DOT Assistant Commissioner of Education and Outreach Kim Wiley-Schwartz. “We’re trying to use any tool in our arsenal for culture change.”

Read more…

20 Comments

NYPD: Driver Error Caused Crash That Killed Mike Rogalle

NYPD determined that a driver pinballing down a Manhattan street caused a curb-jump crash that killed a pedestrian, but police and District Attorney Cy Vance filed no charges.

Mike Rogalle

Mike Rogalle

UPS delivery man Mike Rogalle, 58, was working his Financial District route on April 17, 2012, when an SUV driver ran him over on the sidewalk outside 15 Beekman Street. Rogalle was removed from life support days later.

Media reports said there were two adults and two small children in the SUV. The press identified the male adult passenger as an FDNY inspector, and said a woman was driving. The names of the people in the SUV were not reported in the press or disclosed by NYPD.

Last May NYPD rejected a FOIL request for documents pertaining to the crash. Vance’s office, responding to a separate FOIL filing, said it had no record of an investigation.

We appealed the NYPD FOIL denial, and in July the department sent us a one-page report on the crash, embedded below, with the name of the SUV driver and other information redacted.

According to the NYPD report, the driver, traveling westbound on Beekman, “struck the right curb then veered left” to avoid a “parked unoccupied vehicle” before “accelerating and mounting the south sidewalk,” striking Rogalle from behind and pinning him between the SUV and the entrance to 15 Beekman Street.

NYPD concluded that “operator error” caused the crash. According to the police report, the investigation was concluded on June 18, 2015 — more than three years after the crash and a few weeks after the department received the Streetsblog FOIL request.

Vance recently secured a felony indictment against a driver who injured a woman on the sidewalk near where Rogalle was killed.

Read more…

3 Comments

DA Richard Brown: $500 Fine for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Injured Senior

Pursuant to a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, an allegedly unlicensed and impaired motorist who reportedly has a history of reckless driving arrests was sentenced to a small fine and probation for running over a senior and trying to flee the scene.

richardbrown

Queens DA Richard Brown

William Stafford “plowed his 2005 BMW into an 89-year-old man” at 25th Avenue and 44th Street in Astoria last October, the Daily News reported.

He stopped and tried to drive away, but horrified witnesses said they stopped him from speeding off.

The senior, known in the neighborhood as Benny, was bleeding from the ears.

Stafford was arrested two times before, once for driving on a suspended license in 2008 and once for drunk driving in 2009.

Brown charged Stafford with felony assault, felony leaving the scene, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, and other offenses. But in May, Brown dismissed the top charge — felony assault — and allowed Stafford to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor leaving the scene.

Stafford could have gotten a year in jail. On Monday Judge Dorothy Chin Brandt sentenced him to a $500 fine and three years probation, plus $88 in court costs, according to court records.

Richard Brown, who has a horrendous record of failing to prosecute drivers who hurt and kill people, is currently running unopposed for another term. He has held the office of Queens DA since 1991.

9 Comments

Vance Nets Felony Indictment for Driver in Beekman Sidewalk Hit-and-Run

A woman accused of deliberately driving onto a sidewalk in the Financial District, injuring a pedestrian, and leaving the scene was indicted on felony charges today, according to the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

Vance says Tiffany Murdaugh was behind the wheel of her Dodge Challenger on the morning of April 13, 2015, when she drove for close to half a block on a crowded Beekman Street sidewalk, nearly striking a mother and two young children before knocking another woman to the ground.

Murdaugh continued down the sidewalk “at the same high rate of speed” before turning onto Beekman Street and leaving the scene, according to the DA’s office. Murdaugh was allegedly involved in a second collision in Brooklyn shortly after the Manhattan crash.

The Manhattan victim, 37-year-old Heather Hensl, was hospitalized with a broken leg and a head laceration.

The Downtown Express reported that video showed the driver “backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam” before hitting Hensl. Police and prosecutors reviewed video evidence and interviewed witnesses to build the case against Murdaugh, according to Vance’s office.

Murdaugh, 34, was charged with two counts of assault, one count of reckless endangerment, and two counts of leaving the scene. The top count of the indictment was first degree assault, a class B felony, which carries penalties ranging from five to 25 years in prison. In total, Vance charged Murdaugh with four felony offenses and one traffic violation.

“Pedestrians have the right to feel completely safe and secure on our sidewalks and when crossing the street, which is why the conduct this driver is accused of is so egregious,” Vance said in a press release. “After allegedly striking and seriously injuring a female pedestrian, the defendant is accused of fleeing the scene. There is no place for this type of recklessness in New York City.”

Citing the evidence and seriousness of the charges against Murdaugh, prosecutors asked Judge Gregory Carro to set bail at $100,000. Carro declined. Murdaugh is free on $2,500 bail.

New York City district attorneys don’t normally charge hit-and-run drivers for the act of causing injury or death, but Vance shows signs of bucking that trend. In other cases now in progress, Vance charged the drivers accused in the deaths of Robert Perry and Charity Hicks with manslaughter.

Murdaugh’s next court appearance was scheduled for August.

3 Comments

Will Ken Thompson Charge Driver Who Killed Alejandro Moran-Marin?

No charges have been filed against the driver who killed a cyclist and injured several other people in a multi-vehicle crash in Brooklyn last week, according to the office of District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Claudio Rodriguez was driving against traffic on Fourth Avenue when he hit Alejandro Moran-Marin head-on near Atlantic Avenue, according to reports. Moran-Marin died instantly.

Rodriguez hit two other vehicles, sending four people to the hospital. The crash scene stretched for blocks. Photos showed pieces of Moran-Marin’s bike protruding from the front wheel of the SUV Rodriguez was driving.

A witness told the Daily News he thought Rodriguez was trying leave the scene because he backed up after hitting the first vehicle, a Toyota sedan, before striking Moran-Marin. Published accounts said Rodriguez told police he had a seizure because he didn’t take his medication.

In 2009, sanitation truck driver Auvryn Scarlett was convicted of murder for killing two Manhattan pedestrians after failing to take medication for epilepsy.

We emailed Thompson’s office to ask about the status of the investigation, and whether NYPD or the DA had failed charges against Rodriguez. “This investigation is continuing,” a Thompson spokesperson replied.

Streetsblog will follow this story as it develops.

10 Comments

Unlicensed Dump Truck Driver Kills Senior Near Bowery and Canal

A dangerous intersection awaiting a safety fix. A precinct that lags on street safety. And a driver who could have faced stronger charges if Albany had taken action. Image: WNBC

The driver of this truck was operating with a suspended license when he struck and killed Ka Chor Yau last week. Image: WNBC

On Friday afternoon, a dump truck driver with a suspended license struck and killed 83-year-old Ka Chor Yau, who was crossing a deadly intersection at the base of the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown. The same intersection is due to receive pedestrian safety improvements this summer.

The driver, 24-year-old Maykel Felix-Tejada of Paterson, New Jersey, was arrested for aggravated unlicensed operation, the standard charge for driving without a valid license. He was not charged for any crimes related to Yau’s death. Police said Yau was outside the crosswalk and did not have the right of way.

A bill to toughen penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure or kill passed the State Senate earlier this year but did not clear the Assembly. Under the bill, these drivers would face felony charges for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide.

The intersection where Yau was killed is slated to receive upgrades that would make it safer for pedestrians to cross near the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge. The plan to add a crosswalk, traffic signal, and curb extensions has received the support of Manhattan Community Board 3, and DOT says implementation is slated to begin in early August, with completion in October.

Council Member Margaret Chin, who represents the area, has regularly spoken out about pedestrian deaths on Canal Street. Her bill requiring DOT to study bicycle and pedestrian safety along truck routes, including Canal Street, was signed by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month.

Read more…

2 Comments

Albany Alert: Urge Governor Cuomo to Amend or Kill Hit-and-Run Bill

District attorneys are calling on Albany’s three men in a room to amend or kill a bill that would affect future cases against drivers who leave the scene of a serious crash.

Prosecutors and advocates have for years asked lawmakers to address a loophole in state law that gives hit-and-run drivers an incentive to leave the scene. Since the penalty for DWI is more severe, drivers who flee the scene and sober up can essentially game the system — assuming police track them down at all. In New York City, most hit-and-run crashes go unsolved.

This session, the Assembly and State Senate passed a bill (A5266/S4747) to create the offense of aggravated leaving the scene, a class C felony, but it places a bevy of conditions on when the charge may be applied.

As passed, the charge may be applied only when a driver leaves the scene of a crash resulting in the death or serious injury of more than one person. It must be determined that the crash was caused by reckless driving, and the driver must be driving without a valid license due to a prior DWI or leaving the scene conviction, or have a prior conviction for leaving the scene or DWI in the last 10 years. 

The bill’s sponsors are Assembly Member Fred Thiele of Bridgehampton and Senator Rich Funke of Fairport.

Madeline Singas, acting district attorney in Nassau County, is opposed to the bill. Maureen McCormick, Nassau vehicular crimes chief, says her office and other prosecutors are in touch with Thiele and Funke about amending it and are asking Governor Cuomo to either not sign the current bill or veto it outright.

“The chapter amendment we are seeking — and the bill sponsors support — would simply elevate the current felony levels for leaving the scene,” McCormick told Streetsblog via email. “The E felony [New York’s least severe felony category] for leaving where there is serious injury would be elevated to a D and the D felony for fatalities would be elevated to a C.”

The bill could be sent to Governor Cuomo for his signature at any time. Transportation Alternatives is urging people to contact Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, and the governor’s office to ask them to amend or veto the bill.