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DOT: 1,382 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, 19 Killed in November

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Helen Marszalek, Floria Burton, Luisa Rosario, and Rukhsana Khan

Twenty-five people died in New York City traffic in November, and 4,466 were injured, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of November, DOT reported 131 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 13,705 injured, compared to 146 deaths and 13,563 injuries for the same period in 2014.

Citywide, at least 19 pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers last month. Among the victims were Leila Enukasvili, Mitchel Darroux, Carol Bell, Floria Burton, Agalia Gounaris, Luisa Rosario, Charles Kinyeti, Helen Marszalek, Sofiya Ostrovskaya, John Saldiran, Rukhsana Khan, Yvette Molina, Liana Platika, Bella Markowitz, an unnamed female pedestrian in Manhattan, and three unnamed male pedestrians in Queens.

Motorists killed at least 10 seniors in November: Mitchel Darroux. 72; Carol Bell, 70; Agalia Gounaris, 84; Luisa Rosario, 88; Helen Marszalek, 70; Sofiya Ostrovskaya, 66; Liana Platika, 84; Bella Markowitz, 85; the unnamed female pedestrian in Manhattan, 86; and an unnamed male pedestrian in Queens, 68.

DOT reported no cyclist deaths in November.

Across the city, 1,031 pedestrians and 351 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 18 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged criminally for causing a death: Michael McBean was charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene for the crash that killed Yvette Molina, in Brooklyn.

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Will Meaningful Hit-and-Run Reform Be on Albany’s 2016 Agenda?

Governor Cuomo has vetoed bills that would have set back efforts to reform state hit-and-run statutes.

For years, prosecutors and traffic safety advocates have asked Albany lawmakers to fix state law that rewards drunk drivers who flee the scene of a serious crash, since the penalty for hit-and-run can be less severe than the penalty for drunk drivers who stay at the scene.

Legislation passed by the Assembly and State Senate this year was intended to help by creating the offense of aggravated leaving the scene. But the proposed new law would have been all but useless, since it would have severely limited instances when the charge could be applied.

A coalition of prosecutors and advocates, including crash victims and their loved ones, had been calling for the bill to be amended or vetoed since last summerInstead of creating a complicated new offense, prosecutors want Albany to simply elevate felony penalties under existing law, by changing the charge for leaving the scene of a serious injury from a class E to a class D felony, and the charge for a fatal hit-and-run from a class D felony to class C. (Class E is New York’s least severe felony category.)

Hit-and-run crashes are an epidemic in New York City, and offenders are almost never held accountable. A Transportation Alternatives report released last week found that of 4,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 that resulted in injury and death, fewer than 1 percent of drivers were prosecuted. Only 50 cases were handled by trained NYPD crash investigators, with 28 drivers arrested. The tiny fraction of NYC offenders who are prosecuted often avoid severe penalties.

Prosecutors feared that adoption of the law as passed by the Assembly and State Senate would have deterred the legislature from enacting reforms long sought by law enforcers.

Cuomo vetoed the twin bills last Friday.

From a statement released Saturday by TA Executive Director Paul White:

Governor Cuomo recognized the need for stronger and simpler legislation without the serious flaws of these bills. Even the sponsors, State Senator Funke and Assembly Member Thiele, supported the veto of their own bills. The legislature must now produce a version that aligns the penalty of leaving the scene of an injury-crash with the penalty for DWI, and which removes the perverse incentive under current law. We look forward to seeing Governor Cuomo sign a stronger bill in 2016.

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How Seriously Does Queens DA Richard Brown Take Hit-and-Run Killings?

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski faces a maximum one-year jail term after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges in favor of a misdemeanor plea deal.

The hit-and-run driver who killed Kamil Gorski faces a maximum one-year jail term after DA Richard Brown dropped felony charges in favor of a misdemeanor plea deal.

As family members rallied for justice for Queens hit-and-run victim Ovidio Jaramillo yesterday, District Attorney Richard Brown agreed to drop felony charges against another driver who left a pedestrian to die in the street.

Raul Reyes hit Kamil Gorski with a van on Metropolitan Avenue on the evening of February 3, 2015, knocking the victim to the roadway, according a press release issued by Brown’s office days after the crash. Gorski, a 36-year-old Navy veteran, was then struck by a second driver. He died at Elmhurst Hospital.

The second driver, who remained at the scene, was not charged. Brown charged Reyes with felony leaving the scene. Reyes “face[d] up to four years in prison if convicted,” the February press release said.

“The defendant is accused of hitting a pedestrian and then attempting to evade justice by fleeing the scene,” Brown said in the press release. “As a result of his alleged actions, the defendant now faces serious criminal charges.”

Despite the tough talk, on Thursday, according to court records, Brown allowed Reyes to plead to misdemeanor leaving the scene, which carries a maximum one-year jail sentence. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in January.

Brown has a record of going easy on motorists who kill and injure people and not taking cases to trial — when he files charges at all — even when the driver leaves the crash scene. Here are three more examples.

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4 Times DA Ken Thompson Pursued Token Charges Against Unlicensed Killers

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Police and prosecutors say Marlon Sewell was driving without a valid license when he struck Victoria Nicodemus and two other people on a Fort Greene sidewalk last Sunday, killing Nicodemus and injuring her boyfriend and the third victim. According to the Post and DNAinfo, Sewell was also arrested for unlicensed driving last March, and in November was summonsed for speeding in school zones three times in one week.

On the rare occasions when New York City district attorneys charge sober drivers for killing people, the defendants are usually accused of especially brazen acts of negligence or have a history of reckless driving. It seems Sewell meets that criteria, but according to court records, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged him only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed — an unclassified misdemeanor and a traffic infraction.

Compared to other DAs, Thompson is seen as a leader among district attorneys when it comes to Vision Zero. Yet for an allegedly unlicensed defendant who mounted a sidewalk and killed a 30-year-old woman as she shopped for Christmas decorations, the Brooklyn DA feels a maximum sentence of $500 and 30 days in jail is appropriate. This is the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling. Maximum penalties, however, are virtually unheard of. Plea deals for aggravated unlicensed operation usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone.

Since taking office in 2014, Thompson has applied or accepted pleas for a top charge of unlicensed operation after several crashes that took victims’ lives, including cases he inherited from former DA Charles Hynes.

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TA Report: NYC District Attorneys Are Failing to Lead on Vision Zero

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Prosecutions by NYC district attorneys in 2014 reflect a failure to prioritize deterrence of driver behavior that causes the most harm. Chart: Transportation Alternatives, based on data from NYS DMV and NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services [PDF]

New York City district attorneys are not using the power of their offices to deter acts of traffic violence by holding reckless drivers accountable for harming innocent people, according to a new report from Transportation Alternatives.

TA researchers worked with representatives from all five DA’s offices for “Justice Denied: New York City’s District Attorneys Plead Out of Vision Zero” [PDF]. They found that while most motorists who injure and kill people are sober, DAs rarely bring charges for crashes that don’t involve driver impairment.

The report says that over the past year, city DAs prosecuted at least 10,000 drivers for DWI, and fewer than 40 drivers for failing to yield to a pedestrian or cyclist, though failing to yield “led to more than six times as many crashes” as DWI. Driver impairment was a factor in 897 fatal and injury crashes, TA found, while failing to yield was a factor in 5,966 collisions. Prosecutors used the Right of Way Law in just 3 percent of applicable cases, according to TA.

TA found that hit-and-run drivers are almost never held accountable in NYC. Of 4,000 hit-and-run crashes in 2015 that resulted in injury and death, fewer than 1 percent of drivers were prosecuted, the report says, with just 50 cases handled by trained NYPD crash investigators leading to 28 arrests.

While 70 percent of pedestrian deaths in 2014 were caused by driver behavior, according to New York State DMV data, the report says DAs brought homicide charges in less than 7 percent of fatal crashes. TA found that prosecutors brought charges in fewer than 2 percent of crashes where drivers were not impaired, fleeing police, or intentionally attacking the victim.

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Today: Urge Cuomo to Amend or Kill Disastrous Albany Hit-and-Run Bill

District attorneys and traffic safety advocates across the state are asking Governor Cuomo to kill a bill that would stall efforts to reform state laws that create an incentive for drunk drivers to leave the scene of harmful crashes.

This year the Assembly and State Senate passed a bill (A5266/S4747) to create the offense of aggravated leaving the scene, a class C felony. Prosecutors and advocates have repeatedly requested that lawmakers fix a flaw in state law that makes it more attractive for drunk drivers to flee the scene of a crash, since the penalty for drivers who hit-and-run is less severe than the penalty for drunk drivers who stay at the scene. But the new legislation severely limits when the more severe charge may be applied.

As passed by the legislature, the new charge may be brought 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.

Prosecutors are asking instead that Albany elevate felony penalties prescribed by existing law, by changing the charge for leaving the scene of a serious injury from a class E to a class D felony, and the charge for a fatal hit-and-run from a class D felony to class C. (Class E is New York’s least severe felony category.)

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Richard Brown: Homicide Conviction for Driver Who Killed Betty DiBiaso

Queens DA Richard Brown secured a homicide plea from the hit-and-run driver who killed Betty DiBiaso. DiBiaso photo via GoFundMe

Queens DA Richard Brown secured a homicide plea from the hit-and-run driver who killed Betty DiBiaso. DiBiaso photo via GoFundMe

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown won a homicide conviction against a hit-and-run driver who killed a woman near Astoria Park last summer.

Betty Jean DiBiaso was leaving the park at around 12:26 a.m. on June 27 when Nicholas Colleran, 24, ran a stop sign and hit her with a Chevrolet sedan as she crossed Ditmars Boulevard at 19th Street in a marked crosswalk, according to a statement from Brown’s office. DiBiaso was 21 years old.

Colleran’s damaged car was found the same day, and he turned himself in at the 114th Precinct on June 28. “Colleran stated to police that he had consumed two beers prior to driving and had hit Ms. DiBiasio,” and “was unable to produce a valid driver’s license,” according to Brown’s office.

Yesterday Brown announced that Colleran pled guilty to criminally negligent homicide and failure to yield.

“This case is yet another example of how deadly motor vehicles can be and the consequences of ignoring traffic regulations,” Brown said in the statement. “Driving is a privilege, not a right, and extreme caution should be exercised at all times in order to prevent lives from being senselessly destroyed.”

Acting Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Chin-Brandt sentenced Colleran “to the maximum under the law — an indeterminate term of one and one-third years to four years in prison,” the statement said.

DiBiaso’s death intensified the push to get the city to calm traffic in the area of the park, with backing from City Council Member Costa Constantinides, the Astoria Park Alliance, and other citizen groups. In October Constantinides and Assembly Member Aravella Simotas hosted a public workshop to gather input on potential safety fixes.

Astoria Park is separated from the East River by Shore Boulevard, which acts as a barrier between park users and the waterfront. In August Simotas and the Alliance called on DOT to make Shore Boulevard car-free between Astoria Park South and Ditmars Boulevard. DOT rejected the car-free proposal earlier this month.

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DOT: Drivers Injured 1,536 Pedestrians and Cyclists in October, and Killed 19

Nyanna Aquil, Sheniqua Silva, Louis Perez, Kristian Leka, and Shannon Lies

Nyanna Aquil, Sheniqua Silva, Louis Perez, Kristian Leka, and Shannon Lies

Twenty-five people died in New York City traffic in October, and 5,009 were injured, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of October, DOT reported 113 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 12,042 injured, compared to 132 deaths and 12,267 injuries for the same period in 2014.

Citywide, at least 18 pedestrians and one cyclist were fatally struck by drivers last month. Among the victims were Mariano Contreras, Steven Turetsky, Vispi Mukajam, Shannon Lies, Meena Mahabir, Sheniqua Silva, Latiesha Ramsey, Kyler Hailey, Anna Rodriguez, Guy Ryff, Joseph Ciresi, Janet Peters, Nyanna Aquil, Louis Perez, Kristian Leka, and unidentified male and unidentified female pedestrians in Brooklyn.

Motorists killed at least one child and three seniors in October: Nyanna Aquil, 10; Joseph Ciresi, 82; and the unnamed female pedestrian in Brooklyn, who was 92.

Across the city, 1,106 pedestrians and 430 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 15 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets in October, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death.

Mariano Contreras was killed by a hit-and-run driver who was not immediately caught or identified. Meena Mahabir was killed, her 2-year-old niece was critically injured, and the child’s mother was hospitalized when a motorist ran a red light, collided with another vehicle, and hit the victims on a Richmond Hill sidewalk. The driver was not charged or ticketed. NYPD said “no criminality was suspected” after Sheniqua Silva was killed and two others were hurt when drivers collided and a Coca-Cola truck hit them on the sidewalk as they waited for a bus in Port Morris. A motorist hit Nyanna Aquil, Louis Perez, and Kristian Leka on a Bronx sidewalk while the victims were out trick-or-treating on Halloween. The driver was not charged. Latiesha Ramsey was pushing a laundry cart across a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant when the light changed and a truck driver hit the gas and ran her over. NYPD blamed Ramsey for the crash. Cyclist Anna Rodriguez was hit by a truck driver who was charged with manslaughter after he tested positive for cocaine. Vispi Mukajam and the unidentified 92-year-old woman were killed in Queens and Brooklyn, respectively, by drivers making turns. No charges were filed for either crash.

Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

In three cases, immediately after a pedestrian was killed, police exonerated the driver by telling the press the victim was not in a crosswalk or was crossing against the signal.

Six motor vehicle occupants died in the city in October, according to DOT, and 3,473 were injured.

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Cy Vance: Homicide Conviction for Driver Who Killed Pedestrian in Crosswalk

DA Cy Vance won a homicide conviction at trial against the driver who killed Jean Chambers while turning into a crosswalk. Jean Chambers photo via DNAinfo

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance won a homicide conviction at trial against the driver who killed Jean Chambers while turning into a crosswalk. Jean Chambers photo via DNAinfo

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has secured a homicide conviction against the driver who killed a pedestrian in an Upper West Side crosswalk.

Jean Chambers was crossing West End Avenue at W. 95th Street at around 11 a.m. on July 10, 2014, when Roberto Mercado hit her with an SUV as he made a left turn. Court documents and DNAinfo coverage indicate Mercado struck Chambers as he cut through West End Avenue’s southbound lanes while turning northward.

“I killed her,” Mercado told police, according to court documents. “I killed her. I was going eastbound and made a left. I thought I had a flat, people were yelling and pointing. I stopped.”

Court documents say that when police asked Mercado why he was driving north in the southbound lane, he replied, “I thought I was in the right lane.”

According to court records, in December Vance charged Mercado with criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony. A jury found him guilty last week. Assistant District Attorney Michael Pasinkoff prosecuted the case.

This case and the outcome are noteworthy. District attorneys in New York City generally charge motorists who kill people with homicide only if other aggravating factors are present, such as impaired driving, hit-and-run, or a police pursuit. In this instance Vance brought a case and won a conviction at trial of a sober motorist who killed a pedestrian and remained at the scene.

“I always expected that justice would prevail,” John Chambers, the victim’s husband, told DNAinfo. “I don’t think I’ll ever put this behind me.”

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Richard Brown: Probation for Accused Unlicensed Hit-and-Run Killer

A driver charged with felony hit-and-run and unlicensed driving got probation and a few days of community service for a crash that killed a pedestrian, as a result of a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

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Queens DA Richard Brown

On the evening of February 22, the unidentified victim was crossing at 76th Street and Woodside Avenue, in a crosswalk and with the right of way, when Valentine Gonzalez hit her with a box truck while turning left. NYPD told Gothamist and WPIX Gonzalez fled the scene and was apprehended a short distance away.

According to court records, the top charge against Gonzalez was leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury, a class D felony with penalties ranging from probation to seven years in jail. He was also charged with operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, operating an unregistered vehicle, and a violation of code Section 19-190 — the Right of Way Law — which is an unclassified misdemeanor.

In September Brown allowed Gonzalez to plead guilty to the Right of Way Law charge. The law carries a fine of up to $250 and a maximum sentence of 30 days in jail. Court records indicate Gonzalez was jailed for four months after his arrest.

Earlier this month Gonzalez was sentenced to three years probation and five days of community service, according to court records. Gonzalez was also fined $88. There is no indication that the court took action against Gonzalez’s driving privileges.

Richard Brown, whose leniency toward drivers who kill and injure people is well-documented, was recently elected to another term after running unopposed.