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Posts from the Traffic Justice Category

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Drivers Killed Two Seniors in Manhattan and NYPD Filed No Charges

DOT reduced traffic lanes but did not install concrete islands to slow turns at West End Avenue and W. 93rd Street, where a driver killed 85-year-old George Mamalas. The white line represents Mamalas's path through the intersection — it is unknown which direction he was walking — and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, per NYPD. Image: Google Maps

DOT reduced traffic lanes but did not install concrete islands to slow turns at West End Avenue and W. 93rd Street, where a driver killed George Mamalas. The white line represents Mamalas’s path through the intersection — it is unknown which direction he was walking — and the red arrow indicates the path of the driver, per NYPD. Image: Google Maps

Drivers fatally struck two seniors in separate crashes in Manhattan in the last few weeks. NYPD filed no charges in either case.

On August 23 at around 3:50 p.m., 85-year-old George Mamalas was crossing W. 93rd Street at West End Avenue when someone hit him with a box truck. NYPD told the West Side Rag that the driver was westbound on 93rd, which is one-way, and turning left onto West End.

Mamalas died from his injuries on September 11. His obituary says he was a Korean War veteran, dancer, and Pilates instructor.

There is no dedicated turn signal at West End Avenue and W. 93rd Street. If the driver had a green light and Mamalas entered the intersection with a steady walk signal, Mamalas would have had the right of way.

NYPD did not identify the driver, which is typical when police don’t charge or ticket a motorist who kills a person.

Drivers have killed at least five people walking on West End Avenue since January 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Following a string of deaths, beginning with the crash that killed 9-year-old Cooper Stock, DOT implemented a road diet along 35 blocks of West End Avenue in the fall of 2014, but installed concrete islands to slow driver turns at just four intersections. W. 93rd Street wasn’t one of them.

George Mamalas was killed in the 24th Precinct and in the City Council district represented by Helen Rosenthal.

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DMV: One-Month License Revocation for Con Ed Driver Who Killed Senior

A Con Ed employee was found guilty of careless driving after he struck and killed 88-year-old Stella Huang while turning left at Avenue C and E. 16th Street. The NYS DMV revoked his license for one month. Image: Google Maps

A Con Ed employee was found guilty of careless driving after he struck and killed 88-year-old Stella Huang while turning left at Avenue C and E. 16th Street. The NYS DMV revoked his license for one month. Image: Google Maps

A Con Ed employee who fatally struck a Manhattan senior and was found guilty of careless driving had his license revoked for one month by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

Andrew Franco hit 88-year-old Stella Huang with a Con Ed truck while making a left turn at Avenue C and E. 16th Street. The crash occurred at around 5:15 p.m. on November 27, 2013, a day when New York City motorists killed four pedestrians and one cyclist.

The Daily News reports that in August, nearly three years after the crash, the DMV revoked Franco’s license “after hearings and an appeal.”

In New York State, a license revocation means a motorist may apply to have his driving privileges reinstated after a prescribed period of time, which is normally a minimum of six months. Though according to the Daily News Franco was found guilty of failing to exercise due care — which likely means Huang was walking with the right of way when he killed her — the DMV deemed Franco eligible to get his license back after one month.

The News reports that Franco filed a lawsuit because the DMV isn’t processing his application for reinstatement quickly enough.

Franco’s lawyer, Michael McNulty, says the delay is “shocking to the conscience,” particularly since Franco has a good record and needs the license to work. He is asking the court to reduce the penalty to a suspension so Franco’s license could be reinstated immediately.

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NYPD: No Charges for Driver Who Left Van in Gear, Killing Senior in Astoria

Image: NY1

Image: NY1

Update: The Daily News identified the deceased victim as Arline Smeal.

A motorist killed one senior and severely injured another when the unattended van he was driving, left idling and in gear, backed across an Astoria intersection and onto the sidewalk. NYPD filed no charges.

The crash occurred at around 2 p.m. at Broadway and 32nd Street. After the driver, a 29-year-old man, exited the Ford van, “the vehicle began to roll backwards on 32nd Street and struck two pedestrians before colliding with a food cart,” according to NYPD.

The van hit an 80-year-old woman and a 71-year-old man — who according to WNBC and the Daily News operated the food cart — before crashing into the wall of a building.

Both victims were taken to the hospital in critical condition. The woman died from her injuries. Police have not released her name, pending family notification.

“The back left wheel and the front right wheel rolled over this old lady’s neck and then hit an older gentleman, knocked the souvlaki stand, and it was just devastating,” one witness told WCBS.

The van “pushed the food cart about 25 feet and clipped the owner in the back of the head and then rolled over his legs,” the News reported.

WPIX posted video of the van rolling through the intersection.

The circumstances of yesterday’s crash are very similar to the crash the led to the adoption of the state’s vulnerable user law. In 2009, a van left unattended by a commercial driver backed onto a sidewalk in Chinatown, killing toddlers Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng. The crash prompted state legislators to establish the offense of careless driving for cases where a driver injures or kills a pedestrian or cyclist while failing to use due care. NYPD has a poor record of enforcing the law.

As of this afternoon NYPD has filed no charges and issued no tickets for yesterday’s crash. The department’s public information office told Streetsblog the investigation is ongoing.

With reporting by David Meyer

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Garbage Truck Driver Admits to Causing Crash That Killed Cyclist Hoyt Jacobs

The truck driver who killed cyclist Hoyt Jacobs in Long Island City last year admitted to causing the crash and pled guilty to violating the victim’s right of way.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Jacobs was riding north on Vernon Boulevard at around 7:15 p.m. last January 17 when Frank Alibrandi, also northbound, hit him with a Mack truck while turning right onto 41st Avenue, according to the NYPD crash report [PDF].

Jacobs was killed on a segment of Vernon Boulevard where DOT elected to install sharrows rather than a bike lane in order to preserve curbside parking. If DOT had installed a continuous two-way protected bike lane on Vernon Boulevard, Hoyt Jacobs might still be alive.

The crash report says Jacobs was dragged by the truck for 25 feet, and that Alibrandi kept driving for another 237 feet before stopping. Jacobs, a writer who worked as a tutor at New York City College of Technology, died at the scene. He was 36.

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged Alibrandi under Section 19-190, also known as the Right of Way Law. In addition, Alibrandi was summonsed for careless driving and failing to signal.

The truck Alibrandi was driving was owned by Manhattan Demolition, a private sanitation company. Private trash haulers kill more pedestrians per mile than any other type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF].

Last month Alibrandi acknowledged in court that he did not signal before turning, and that he struck Jacobs, who was following traffic rules at the time of the collision, according to Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Jacobs’s family. Alibrandi also admitted to failing to use due care, and entered a conditional guilty plea to the Right of Way Law violation.

Under the terms of the plea, if he pays fines totaling around $1,000 and completes a driver safety course, the misdemeanor Right of Way Law charge will be vacated and Alibrandi will be allowed to plead to a Section 19-190 traffic infraction.

Vaccaro said the DA’s office negotiated the plea agreement in consultation with Jacobs’s family after the judge indicated she might be inclined to dismiss the case.

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Cy Vance Wins Murder Conviction for East Village Sidewalk Killing

Shaun Martin killed Mohammed Akkas Ali and injured three other people when he sped onto an East Village sidewalk in 2013. Image: WNBC

Shaun Martin killed Mohammed Akkas Ali and injured three other people when he sped onto an East Village sidewalk in 2013. Image: WNBC

A driver who killed a man and injured two others on a Manhattan sidewalk was convicted of murder, District Attorney Cy Vance announced today.

Mohammed Akkas Ali. Photo via Daily News

Mohammed Akkas Ali. Photo via Daily News

Shaun Martin, who reportedly had a history of drunk driving, was high on PCP and methamphetamine when he tore through the East Village in a Nissan sedan at speeds exceeding 50 miles per hour on the morning of June 19, 2013, according to a Vance press release.

Martin drove onto the sidewalk at Second Avenue and Fourth Street, hitting a fire hydrant, a pay phone, a muni-meter, and a tree before striking Mohammed Akkas Ali and two other people who were working outside a corner grocery store.

Ali, 62, died from injuries sustained in the crash. His two coworkers were “seriously injured,” according to Vance. A fourth victim, a man on a bike, was injured by crash debris.

Vance charged Martin with second-degree murder and a number of other felonies, including two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide, two counts of assault, four counts of aggravated vehicular assault, one count of reckless endangerment, and two counts of driving while ability impaired. Judge Melissa Jackson convicted Martin of all charges this week, following a bench trial, Vance’s office said.

Said Vance in a statement:

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Driver Charged Under ROW Law After Killing Teresa Martinelli, 79, in Midtown

Teresa Martinelli was fatally injured by a motorist at Second Avenue and E. 58th Street on July 1.

Teresa Martinelli was fatally injured by a motorist at Second Avenue and E. 58th Street on July 1. Image: Google Maps

A senior hit by a driver in Midtown earlier this month has died. NYPD charged the driver with violating the victim’s right of way.

Teresa Martinelli, 79, was “knocked out of her floral print shoes” when Mieczyslaw Truskowski hit her with a Toyota pick-up truck as she crossed at Second Avenue and E. 58th Street at around 11 a.m. on July 1, the Daily News reported.

“She was breathing but bleeding out of her ears and mouth,” a witness told the News. “Her feet were underneath the truck. One leg was mangled, the other broken. I rushed up to her but didn’t dare move her. I wanted to try to help if I could, but there wasn’t much help to give.”

The location of Truskowski’s truck in a Daily News photo suggests he was turning left from southbound Second onto E. 58th, which is one-way eastbound, when the collision occurred.

Martinelli was transported to New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in critical condition. The NYPD public information office told Streetsblog she died from her injuries.

Police arrested 63-year-old Truskowski and charged him with failing to yield, according to NYPD.

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Manhattan DA Vance Wins Manslaughter Conviction for High-Speed LES Crash

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance won a jury trial conviction for manslaughter in the case of a speeding motorist who killed a man walking on the Lower East Side in November of 2014.

Danny Lin was traveling at 55 mph when he hit Robert Perry on the Bowery. Photo via Bowery Boogie

Robert Perry was walking on the Bowery when Danny Lin struck him at 55 mph. Photo via Bowery Boogie

Danny Lin, 25, was driving a BMW at 55 miles per hour on the Bowery when he hit 57-year-old Robert Perry as Perry crossed the Bowery near Rivington Street, “sending the victim’s body into the air before landing more than 140 feet away,” according to Vance’s office.

Lin kept driving until he crashed into a fire hydrant a block away, narrowly avoiding several pedestrians, Vance’s office said.

Perry, who sometimes stayed at the nearby Bowery Mission, died at the hospital less than an hour after the collision.

Vance and NYPD initially charged Lin with homicide and leaving the scene. In 2015, Vance upgraded the top charge from homicide, a class E felony, to manslaughter, a class C felony. By the time the trial started, the homicide and leaving the scene charges had been dropped, according to court records, and manslaughter was the sole charge against Lin.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance successfully prosecuted Lin for manslaughter.

Manhattan DA Cy Vance successfully prosecuted Lin for manslaughter.

That Vance pursued a manslaughter charge and secured a conviction at trial in this case is noteworthy. It is uncommon for New York City district attorneys to charge drivers who kill people with manslaughter, unless the driver is impaired, fleeing police, killed the victim intentionally, or is also charged with leaving the scene. Persuading a jury to convict a sober driver for causing a death is no easy feat, even after a hit-and-run crash. According to data collected by Streetsblog, only a few times in recent years has a sober New York City driver received a manslaughter charge after being arrested at or near the scene of a fatal crash.

Said Vance in a statement:

This case serves as an unfortunate reminder of the risks associated with reckless driving and speeding. Danny Lin was fully aware of those risks as he hurtled down the Bowery at more than double the speed limit and took an innocent man’s life. He endangered the lives of pedestrians and drivers alike as he continued barreling down the street — with no regard for our laws or the safety of his fellow New Yorkers — before eventually crashing into a hydrant on a congested sidewalk, narrowly missing several bystanders. Because of the defendant’s recklessness and disregard for human life, my Office has fought to hold him accountable and will seek significant penalties for his criminal conduct.

A manslaughter conviction carries penalties ranging from probation to 15 years in prison. Lin is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

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Brooklyn DA Charges Driver With Manslaughter for Killing Victoria Nicodemus

The allegedly unlicensed driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on the sidewalk faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. Her family says Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson is OK with that.

After getting pressure from the victim’s family, DA Ken Thompson, right, filed felony charges against the driver who veered onto a Fort Greene sidewalk and killed Victoria Nicodemus, left, in December.

A grand jury has indicted Marlon Sewell for second-degree manslaughter six months after he jumped a curb in Fort Greene and killed 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus while driving with a suspended license, Gothamist reports. Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson had refrained from pressing felony charges until Nicodemus’s family pressured his office to take action.

On December 6, Sewell, driving a Chevy SUV on eastbound Fulton Street, veered onto a crowded sidewalk instead of slowing down for a bus pulling into a stop near S. Portland Avenue, according to witnesses. He struck Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person.

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” a witness told the Daily News. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

At first Thompson charged Sewell only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor, and operating a motor vehicle uninsured, a traffic infraction. The maximum penalty for the misdemeanor is 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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Advocates Don’t Expect Judge’s Ruling Against Right of Way Law to Hold Up

In rejecting the case against a school bus driver who struck and killed an elderly woman in a Queens crosswalk, a criminal court judge deemed the city’s Right of Way Law unconstitutional. The constitutionality of the law had previously been upheld in a different court, however, and street safety advocates don’t expect the new ruling to hold up. Applying the same logic would render criminal statutes against drunk driving unconstitutional as well, they say.

Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris

The Right-of-Way Law, enacted in 2014, made it an unclassified misdemeanor for drivers to strike pedestrians or cyclists with the right of way. The law was intended to overcome NYPD’s reluctance to investigate injury crashes that officers did not witness firsthand.

The decision released Friday by Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia L. Morris regarded the case of Isaac Sanson, who struck and killed 85-year-old Jeanine Deutsch in the crosswalk as he turned onto 70th Road from 108th Street in Forest Hills on December 19, according to the Daily News. Deutsch succumbed to her injuries two months later, and the city charged Sanson with misdemeanor failure to yield.

In her decision, Morris sided with Sanson’s claim that the law violates his right to due process because it imposes criminal penalties without needing to prove the perpetrator’s intent or knowledge of wrongdoing.

“The very fabric of our criminal justice system is that an accused person stands before a court innocent until proven guilty, and is entitled to significant constitutional protections separate and distinct from a civil case,” Morris wrote.

The decision conflicts with — but does not overrule — New York County Criminal Court Judge Ann E. Scherzer’s ruling from December in the case of MD Hossain, a yellow cab driver who killed 58-year-old Silvia Gallo in August 2014 while turning into a crosswalk.

Scherzer argued that the Right of Way law does not presume driver guilt, since prosecutors must “prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) defendant operated a motor vehicle, (2) that defendant’s motor vehicle caused contact with a pedestrian or cyclist, (3) that the pedestrian or cyclist had the right of way at the time of the impact … and (4) suffered physical injury as a result of the collision.”

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Driver Who Killed Man While Fleeing NYPD Pleads to Manslaughter

The press reported that Raymond Ramos was chased by police before he crashed into another vehicle and killed Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Image: News 12

The press reported that Raymond Ramos was chased by police before he crashed into another vehicle and killed Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk. Image: News 12

A driver who killed a man on a Brooklyn sidewalk while attempting to evade police pled guilty to manslaughter.

Police pulled Raymond Ramos over at Sterling Place and Schenectady Avenue in Crown Heights shortly after midnight on March 9, 2015. As officers approached his car, Ramos, then 18, drove off.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that police chased Ramos before he hit a second vehicle at Nostrand Avenue and St. Johns Place, about a mile away from the traffic stop. The impact sent both vehicles onto the sidewalk, fatally striking 21-year-old Dave Jones.

Photos published by the Daily News show both vehicles heavily damaged and overturned in front of a neighborhood shop, next to a shattered bus shelter. Three other vehicle occupants were reported injured.

NYPD and District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Ramos with manslaughter, two counts of assault, homicide, reckless endangerment, fleeing police, reckless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, and other traffic infractions. On May 31, Ramos pled guilty to manslaughter, the top charge against him, according to court records.

It was never clear how much NYPD’s pursuit contributed to the crash.

NYPD policy says police must terminate vehicular pursuits “whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community.” When Streetsblog asked Mayor de Blasio’s office if NYPD was investigating whether the police who stopped Ramos followed department protocol, we received a one-sentence, generic response: “The Crash Investigation Squad is conducting a full investigation.”

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