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Three New Yorkers, Including Two Seniors, Killed by Drivers in the Past Week

Three people were killed by motorists in NYC since last Friday, including two hit-and-run victims. Two of the victims were also senior citizens.

Antonio Ramirez was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Washington Heights. The killer is still at large.

At around 4:40 a.m. Friday, a motorist in a dark-colored car fatally struck Antonio Ramirez, 40, at Audubon Avenue and 176th Street in Washington Heights, then fled the scene, according to reports. Along with neighborhood advocates, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, State Senator Adriano Espaillat, and Assembly Member Gabriela Rosa blasted DOT after the crash for rejecting a Slow Zone for the area.

From the Post:

Friday’s fatality created a haunting scene for several schools near the crash, including Kipp Star Elementary on 177th Street.

Many young children and parents at the school had to walk past Ramirez’s body, which was wrapped in a white sheet. Some teachers left the building and tried to distract the students so they wouldn’t see it.

Frustrated mom Ayiesha Washington, 27, who has a son in kindergarten, said, “I’ve lived in this neighborhood for three years, and this is the millionth accident.”

Rodriguez and Espaillat, who rarely make an issue of street safety, said this section of Washington Heights is plagued by speeding drivers coming off the George Washington Bridge and the Cross Bronx Expressway.

“This tragic hit-and-run, less than a block from a school building, truly hits home for the people of Washington Heights, particularly when so many have raised the issue of high speeds in the area to the Department of Transportation,” said Rodriguez, in a press release. “It is so easy for deaths such as these to be avoided.”

Since the program began in 2011, DOT routinely gets many more Slow Zone applications annually than it approves. The press release from Upper Manhattan electeds incorrectly claims DOT rejected 15 of 70 applications this year, when the agency actually approved 15 of 74 applications.

Rodriguez, Espaillat, and Rosa made only a passing reference to the lack of traffic law enforcement in Washington Heights in their press release, and did not mention NYPD directly. The 33rd Precinct, where the crash occurred, had issued 273 speeding tickets this year as of August, and cited 154 drivers for speeding in all of 2012.

Ramirez worked at a restaurant and was a former building super. He was married with two kids, a 14-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son.

“This biggest part of it is the dance you have with your dad,” Leslie Ramirez told WNBC. “And that man took that dance away from me. He took away that one special person I had in my life.”

The Daily News reported that, according to police, the killer was driving an Infiniti, and Ramirez was “walking against the light.” As of earlier this week, at least one outlet was reporting the driver ran a red light, but that version of the story is no longer online. An NYPD spokesperson said today that the public information office did not have details on how the crash occurred. The motorist who killed Antonio Ramirez remains at large.

Read more…

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Bill Thompson Rents Ads-by-Bicycle to Woo Borough Park Voters

The scene on 13th Avenue in Borough Park earlier today. Photo: Jewish Political/Twitter

Here’s an ironic twist for the mayoral candidate who all but ignored bicycling and walking in his transportation platform: Bill Thompson has rented mobile advertisements-by-bike, with yellow-vested, red-helmeted riders pedaling around Borough Park with Yiddish-language advertisements for his campaign.

Despite Thompson’s anemic transportation policy, it’s a step up from the last time around. In 2009, he made an anti-BRT campaign stop in Bed-Stuy and promised to remove a bike lane on Grand Street in Manhattan; now, he promises “a true BRT system,” but remains noncommittal on bike lanes.

Don’t forget: Polls close at 9 p.m. Before heading out to vote, check your voter registration status and polling location.

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No Charges Filed as Six Are Killed by NYC Drivers in Seven Days

A Brooklyn woman who was struck by a truck driver in Red Hook Wednesday was the latest victim among six city pedestrian and cyclist fatalities in the last week.

Lillian Cruz, hit by the driver of a tractor-trailer in Red Hook Wednesday, was at least the fifth pedestrian killed by a city motorist since Ray Kelly announced changes to the NYPD crash investigation squad. Image: News12 via Gothamist

At approximately 6:40 a.m. yesterday, Lillian Cruz, 60, was crossing Hamilton Avenue at Court Street when the signal changed and the driver of a tractor-trailer, westbound on Hamilton and stopped at the light, accelerated and ran her over, according to NYPD.

Cruz, of Bushwick, died at the scene. The driver was summonsed for failure to exercise due care.

Cruz was at least the second pedestrian killed by a semi truck driver in the last two weeks, following the February 28 death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba. Tractor-trailer drivers have killed at least three other pedestrians on city streets since last August, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. The victims include Ignacio Cubano, Ken Baker, and Jessica Dworkin.

Many of the trucks involved in these fatal collisions are too long to be operated on surface streets without a permit. Despite recent deaths, the presence of trucks in areas that should normally be off-limits has not been a focus of NYPD or the media.

The type of collision that killed Cruz is supposed to be prevented by crossover mirrors, which allow drivers of large trucks to see directly in front of them. It is not known whether the truck was equipped with the mirrors. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the mirror requirement.

Monday evening at around 8 p.m., 75-year-old Roberto Baez was struck by the driver of a Nissan in the Bronx. Baez was crossing Soundview Avenue mid-block near Taylor Avenue when he was killed, a police spokesperson said. No summonses were issued.

Monday morning, 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak was among several people hit by a curb-jumping motorist near LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City. Drudak was killed and four others were injured. NYPD told the media the driver was speeding and reaching for a carton of milk when the crash occurred. Nevertheless, no charges were filed.

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Pedestrian Abraham Samet Killed by Driver in Borough Park Last Monday


Streetsblog has learned that the man killed by the driver of a van in Borough Park last week was Abraham Samet, 68.

NYPD told Streetsblog that Samet was struck while crossing New Utrecht Avenue at 12th Avenue at 12:33 p.m. on Monday, March 12. He was pronounced dead on arrival at Maimonides Medical Center. No arrests were made and the investigation is ongoing, according to police.

Bystanders interviewed by DNAinfo and VIN News, along with the driver himself, relayed details that point to speed as a potential factor. Witnesses said they heard a loud noise at the moment of impact and that Samet was thrown approximately 15 feet. The driver, who spoke with DNAinfo but would not give his name, said he tried to avoid Samet but could not stop in time.

Another witness, shown in the VIN video, commented on dangerous conditions at the site of the crash, where New Utrecht and 12th meet at 50th Street in the shadow of the D train. The intersection was the scene of 21 crashes resulting in 25 pedestrian injuries between 1995 and 2009, while nearby blocks saw numerous pedestrian fatalities and scores of pedestrian and cyclist injuries, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

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Requiem for Three Pedestrian Islands in Boro Park

For the historical record, here’s three minutes of rather dull video capturing the pedestrian refuges on Fort Hamilton Parkway and 46th Street in Brooklyn. When the camera pans right you can also see the intersection at 47th Street, where there’s another refuge. I took the footage at the tail end of the p.m. rush this Wednesday, a few minutes before 6:30.

This is the Safe Streets for Seniors project that had local Assembly Member Dov Hikind up in arms for months, contending that the refuges impeded emergency response and interfered with deliveries to local businesses. While nearby Maimonides Medical Center and the FDNY said the islands posed no problem, the Hatzolah volunteer ambulance corps apparently felt differently and petitioned the local community board to have them taken out. Now DOT is going to remove these three refuges and add 24 blocks of striped center median, from 37th Street to 61st Street, to help compensate for the loss. A median island between 45th Street and New Utrecht Avenue will get shaved down but remain in place.

So, watch and see what all the fuss is about. In the snippet of time I got on video, the only person with any reason to complain is the cyclist who got a rude honking from a passing van driver at about the two-minute mark. Below is more footage from the intersection at 45th Street and the median island that’s slated for shaving.

Read more…

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What We Don’t Know About the Crash That Killed Aileen Chen

Here are a dozen questions pertaining to the crash that took the life of 16-year-old Stuyvesant H.S. student Aileen Chen as she rode her bicycle last Saturday a block from her home in Borough Park at around 6 p.m.

Twenty-First Ave. and 62nd St., Borough Park, Brooklyn: What happened here? Image: Google Maps

  1. How fast was the BMW traveling when Aileen and her bicycle first came into view?
  2. How fast was the driver going when he struck her?
  3. How far from the point of first impact did Aileen’s body come to rest?
  4. Was the 26-year-old driver alone, or were there others in the car?
  5. Was she hurrying for some reason, or distracted?
  6. Has the driver’s smartphone been impounded and checked to see if she was phoning or texting at the time of the crash?
  7. Is the area of Borough Park in which the crash took place residential, as it appears from an Internet view?
  8. How long and far from the collision might a driver who had been visually scanning the road have seen Aileen?
  9. Which party was traveling on 21st Avenue, which appears wider and perhaps more prone to fast driving than the cross street, 62nd Street?
  10. Does the driver have a record of moving violations?
  11. Whose testimony was the basis of the NYPD statement that Aileen ran a red light?
  12. Did anyone other than the driver witness the crash? Has the NYPD taken their evidence?

Every one of these questions is answerable, although none were answered in the press accounts, which nevertheless drip with the customary “victim guilty, case closed” quality of articles about bicyclist fatalities. All of these questions, I submit, are relevant to finding fault — a process that, though painful, is essential, as it is in every serious-injury or fatal traffic crash, to the arduous task of reforming traffic engineering, enforcement, jurisprudence and behavior.

The foundation of any meaningful investigation of the crash that killed Aileen is found in the first three questions. Driving faster than 30 mph on ordinary streets such as the two that intersected here is both prohibited by law and a statistical separator between surviving being struck by a car, and not. Higher driving speeds also increase crash likelihood by making visual scanning less effective, shortening drivers’ reaction-time window, lengthening stopping distance, and impeding detection of the vehicle by other road users.

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Maimonides Hospital, FDNY: Boro Park Ped Islands Don’t Slow Response Times

Despite what Dov Hikind and Marcia Kramer say, the fire department reports no trouble navigating the new pedestrian refuge islands on Fort Hamilton Parkway.

Here’s something Marcia Kramer, Dov Hikind, and Marty Markowitz forgot to mention in all their accumulated lawsuit threats, media events, and TV coverage on the Fort Hamilton Parkway pedestrian refuges: FDNY and Maimonides hospital report that the project has not affected response times.

In opposing the pedestrian islands, designed to calm traffic and provide a safer crossing for Borough Park’s large senior population, Kramer, Hikind, and Markowitz have attempted to wrap themselves in the banner of public safety. They claim that the islands make it difficult for emergency vehicles to traverse the road, slowing response times to nearby Maimonides. According to Maimonides itself and the FDNY, however, their vehicles are able to move freely and respond to emergencies as effectively as ever.

“As far as the hospital is concerned, there has been no issue with delivering care,” Maimonides Assistant Vice President for Public Relations Eileen Tynan told Streetsblog. “Our ambulance drivers concur.” If medical care is suffering as a result of the pedestrian islands, it’s news to those providing care.

The FDNY similarly reported no problem with its fire trucks or ambulances navigating the redesigned Fort Hamilton Parkway and no threat to public safety. Said a fire department spokesperson by e-mail, “FDNY met with DOT regarding these ‘pedestrian refuge islands’ before they were installed. As with any project, any concerns would be discussed and fixed. I do not have any information that says our units cannot drive safely on Fort Hamilton Parkway.” FDNY EMTs and paramedics respond to 1.2 million emergencies citywide each year, or three a minute.

Dov Hikind’s office has not responded to requests for comment about the statements from Maimonides and FDNY.

One subset of emergency responders who may be influencing Hikind’s opposition to pedestrian safety infrastructure is Hatzolah, the Orthodox Jewish volunteer ambulance service. Hatzolah has petitioned the local community board to ask the city to take out the refuge islands, according to CBS 2.

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Kramer and Hikind Exaggerate Victory in War on Pedestrians

Last night Marcia Kramer served up more of her unique brand of public service journalism, triumphantly reporting that the city will remove pedestrian safety measures designed to prevent seniors from getting killed and maimed in Borough Park traffic. Touring Fort Hamilton Parkway with Dov Hikind, the State Assembly rep who threatened last month to sue NYC DOT over the recently-installed pedestrian islands, Kramer reported that the city has agreed to remove what she called “the offending barricades.” But it seems like in their zeal to run up the score against pedestrian safety improvements, Kramer and Hikind overstated the extent of the changes in store for the street.

According to multiple sources familiar with the current status of the project, the changes that the city is considering will narrow but not remove the pedestrian refuges. It’s not clear how wide the refuges will be after the alterations. The changes will also include adding pedestrian safety features to other intersections on Fort Hamilton Parkway.

DOT spokesperson Seth Solomonow said the details of the changes are still getting fleshed out: “We are considering making adjustments and additional improvements along the corridor, though nothing has been finalized at this time.”

Hikind has been attacking the pedestrian refuges since last fall, with a few assists from Kramer. Her CBS2 segments have portrayed the refuges — built as part of NYC DOT’s citywide Safe Streets for Seniors initiative — as agents of “cement chaos” (note: they are made of concrete). While the Safe Streets for Seniors program uses traffic injury and demographic data to pinpoint locations where senior pedestrians are most in need of safety improvements, Kramer and Hikind are fond of using visual anecdotes and mangled logic to make their case for undoing street designs that save lives.

After announcing his intent to sue DOT over the pedestrian islands, Hikind told Streetsblog, “I care about pedestrians at least as much as you do.”

Read more…

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Dov Hikind Threatens to Sue the Safety Off Fort Hamilton Parkway

Assembly Member Dov Hikind is stooping to a new low, even by Albany’s standards, to ensure that traffic keeps on menacing pedestrians to the fullest extent possible on NYC streets.

Dov Hikind rails against pedestrian safety measures at a CB12 hearing last fall.

The central Brooklyn rep announced today that he’s trying to force the Department of Transportation to remove pedestrian refuges from Fort Hamilton Parkway, threatening what looks to be a copycat lawsuit modeled after the anti-bike lane case filed by well-connected opponents of the Prospect Park West redesign.

Hikind’s office says he plans to file the lawsuit in the next 10 to 14 days, under the same state provision, known as article 78, employed by the PPW plaintiffs.

The Fort Hamilton Parkway refuges were installed last year as part of DOT’s citywide effort to improve street safety in areas with high proportions of senior pedestrians. The project [PDF] targeted a stretch in Borough Park with a grisly record of traffic violence, as local City Council Member Brad Lander wrote in the neighborhood newspaper Hamodia last fall:

On December 31st, 2009, a 74-year-old woman was hit by a truck and killed as she crossed Fort Hamilton Parkway at 49th Street in Boro Park. In April of this year, a 55-year-old person was killed crossing Fort Hamilton just a few blocks away. Nearby, several other pedestrians have been struck by cars. In 2008, when a car collision at Fort Hamilton and 44th Street killed two people, a local resident called it the “corner of death.”

Hikind’s announcement omits all mention of these fatalities. In a press release replete with scare quotes around the phrase “senior safety,” his office announced the delivery of 1,100 petitions to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri seeking the removal of the refuges. Hikind characterizes the refuges, which give pedestrians safer crossings and cause drivers to take turns more carefully, as “absurd islands.” A project to prevent deaths and injuries is, in Hikind’s view, part of “Sadik-Khan’s crusade against vehicles and motorists.”

Hikind, repeating arguments from a rant he delivered at Brooklyn Community Board 12 last year, hides behind a familiar argument against traffic calming projects all over the country: that streets designed to improve safety impede emergency response, in this case for vehicles en route to Maimonides Medical Center. Streetsblog noted in December that these claims are divorced from public health and safety research, which show that life-saving benefits accrue from traffic-calming, while no correlation exists between patient mortality rates and the time it takes to transport patients to a hospital. From a safety perspective, there is no reason to think that a Fort Hamilton Parkway without pedestrian refuges would do anything except put people at greater risk.

As Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt has written, using the emergency response argument against traffic calming measures entails a fundamental miscalculation:

Designing roads to meet some supposed emergency response criteria, for that dramatic last-second rescue, actually helps raise the risk of dying in a much more common way: In traffic.

Dov Hikind’s crusade against pedestrians will only cost lives. All he is seeking is to do is make Fort Hamilton as dangerous as it used to be.

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School Bus Kills Four-Year-Old Boy in Borough Park

Picture_1.pngA school bus on Amrom Altman's block. Image: Google Street View.

A yeshiva bus hit and killed a four-year-old boy in Borough Park this morning, the Times reports.

According to witnesses, the child, Amrom Altman, was running after his school bus when he slipped on ice. The driver didn't see Altman and continued to drive as the child fell between the front and rear wheels of the bus. The bus driver was circling the block, rather than waiting in front of Altman's house, to avoid blocking traffic on the one-way street, the Times reports.

Altman was killed in front of his house, mid-block on 49th Street between 13th and 14th Avenues. After being flagged down by residents who saw the crash, including Altman's older brother, the driver stopped near the end of the block. The driver passed a Breathalyzer test, and no charges have been filed, according to the Times.

The Times also spoke to neighbors who are blaming the city for Altman's death:

Neighbors faulted the city for not removing ice and snow. Gill Hoffman, who lives up the block, said a friend had seen the accident. “The child was slipping on the snow under the bus. It’s a shame. We are very embarrassed that we live in such a city,” he said.