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Posts from the Crown Heights Category


DA Ken Thompson: Felony Plea for Driver Who Killed Roshard Charles, 5

A driver who fatally struck a little boy in Crown Heights and left the scene has pled guilty to felony hit-and-run.

On March 16, 2014, 5-year-old Roshard Charles was walking with his mother, little brother, and a friend on Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue when a driver aiming for a parking spot backed into him with a minivan. According to reports, as Roshard’s mother screamed and pounded on the van, Elizabeth Mayard drove away. Reports said Mayard ran red lights as she fled westbound on Empire, and was convinced by a witness who followed her to return to the scene.

Roshard Charles

Roshard Charles

From the Daily News:

[Witness Thomas] Barry and two others lifted the boy and put him on the hood of a parked car to try to keep him awake until help arrived, he said.

“Three or four times it was like he was going into the fetal position, and then he wasn’t moving anymore,” said a witness who lifted the boy. “He didn’t move again. He just didn’t move.”

The Daily News reported that Roshard “darted away from his mom,” a claim that did not match accounts from other media outlets, NYPD, or Roshard’s mother.

Rochelle Charles spoke with DNAinfo :

“I was with my baby. He was right here with me. She double parked. She wasn’t moving. She was just there. We were already walking, about to go on the sidewalk. And that’s when she started reversing really fast…I said, ‘Stop!’ I banged on [the van]. She reversed back. She heard me. She looked back. She tried to get him out of the wheel. And then she just drove off…How could you leave like that? I kept telling her to stop.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged Mayard with leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in death, a D felony, as well as misdemeanor reckless endangerment, reckless driving, careless driving, and unsafe backing of a vehicle. According to court records, last week Mayard pled guilty to leaving the scene, the top charge against her. Thompson did not charge Mayard for taking the life of Roshard Charles.

Class D felonies carry penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Mayard is scheduled to be sentenced in January.

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Empire Boulevard Reconstruction Will Create Two Plazas

A reconstruction project will add pedestrian plazas to Empire Boulevard, including this one at Remsen Avenue. Images: DOT [PDF]

A street reconstruction will add plazas to Empire Boulevard, including this one at Remsen Avenue. Images: DOT [PDF]

Dangerous intersections at each end of Empire Boulevard, which stretches east-west across the southern edge of Crown Heights, are set for some major new pedestrian space.

A street reconstruction project will reconfigure the area where Empire Boulevard, East New York Avenue, Remsen Avenue, and Utica Avenue converge. There, DOT will reroute traffic, creating a new pedestrian plaza. Similar changes are coming to the intersection of Empire Boulevard, Franklin Avenue, and Washington Avenue.

From 2009 to 2013, there were 490 injuries at the two locations combined, including 29 serious injuries, placing them in the most dangerous 10 percent of Brooklyn streets, according to DOT [PDF].

The changes are part of a multi-agency capital project to rebuild utilities and roadbeds on both ends of Empire. The project will also repave the 1.5-mile street, which received a road diet, pedestrian islands and bike lanes in 2009.

Today, the intersections where Empire Boulevard meets Utica Avenue are a mess. East New York Avenue and Remsen Avenues slice diagonally across Empire, creating triangles surrounded by car traffic and forcing pedestrians to make multiple dangerous crossings.

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No Charges for Driver Who Repeatedly Ran Over Brooklyn Pedestrian

A livery cab driver repeatedly backed over a Brooklyn rabbi Monday afternoon in Crown Heights, killing him, but no charges were filed by NYPD or Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Yekutiel Rapp was crossing Empire Boulevard at Balfour Place at around 5:30 p.m. when the driver hit him while reversing out of a parking spot, according to reports.

Yekutiel Rapp. Photo via Yeshiva World News

Yekutiel Rapp. Photo via Yeshiva World News

From Crown Heights Info:

The driver, realizing that he had hit something but unaware that it was a person, backed up his car — running the man over a second time; in the ensuing mayhem, the driver then drove forward — running him over a third time.

Witnessing the horrific crash and first on scene was a pair of Shomrim volunteers, both of whom immediately sprang into action, forcing the driver to stop his vehicle while calling for emergency rescue services and attempting to free the gravely injured man from under the vehicle.

Together with a number of bystanders they attempted to lift the car enough to free the man. Another Shomrim volunteer arrived with a large car jack and further lifted the car, at which point firefighters arrived on scene and joined in the rescue effort.

“I heard the guy banging on the car telling him to stop,” witness Calvin Thomas told the Post.

Rapp, a noted 66-year-old orthodox rabbi, died at Kings County Hospital. Police had filed no charges as of this afternoon. An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog the investigation is still open.

Unless the driver is charged and convicted of breaking a traffic law he will in all likelihood remain in good standing with the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

This fatal crash occurred in the 71st Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 71st Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at MS 61, 400 Empire Boulevard. Call 718-735-0527 for information.

Yekutiel Rapp was killed was killed in the City Council district represented by Laurie Cumbo, and in Brooklyn Community Board District 9.


Alleged Unlicensed Driver Kills Brooklyn Pedestrian While Fleeing Police

An unlicensed driver fleeing police crashed into another vehicle and killed 21-year-old Dave Jones on a Brooklyn sidewalk Monday, raising questions about whether the officers adhered to NYPD policy on vehicular pursuits.

Police pulled over 18-year-old Raymond Ramos near Schenectady Avenue and Sterling Place in Crown Heights after midnight Monday, according to DNAinfo.

As the officers approached, Ramos drove away. With police in pursuit, Ramos made it seven blocks before his car collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Nostrand Avenue and St. Johns Place, police said.

Both cars barreled up onto the sidewalk fatally plowing into a pedestrian who was walking north, a preliminary investigation by the NYPD showed.

Ramos hit Jones, who died of head injuries at Kings County Hospital. Three people in the other vehicle were injured, DNAinfo reported.

The Post also reported that, according to police, the crash occurred after Ramos “led cops on a brief chase.”

Ramos was charged with manslaughter, reckless endangerment, homicide, fleeing police, reckless driving, unlicensed driving, speeding, and other traffic infractions, according to court records. His next court appearance is set for Friday.

DNAinfo reported that, according to anonymous police sources, officers who pulled Ramos over “smelled marijuana coming from his vehicle,” but no charges were issued for impaired driving or drug possession.

There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened Monday. The crash happened about a mile from the location of the traffic stop. Judging from a Daily News photo that shows both vehicles overturned on the sidewalk, Ramos was driving at high speed at the time of impact. After Ramos fled the traffic stop, did officers chase him at speed through a Brooklyn neighborhood? Were they in pursuit when Ramos hit the second car? At the very least, an investigation is warranted to determine whether the pursuit conformed to protocol.

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Can Atlantic Ave Become a Great Street? DCP Will Study the Possibilities

The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP

The Department of City Planning has launched a study of Atlantic Avenue between Vanderbilt and Ralph Avenues. The study area stretches two blocks in either direction. Image: DCP

Atlantic Avenue is one of the most prominent streets in Brooklyn, but it’s also one of the most dangerous. The major thoroughfare, paralleled by the LIRR and a subway line just two blocks away, remains a barrier between neighborhoods, plagued by speeding traffic and lined with auto body shops. Can it become an urban street that welcomes people instead of repelling them? The Department of City Planning is going to look at the possibilities along 2.4 miles of Atlantic Avenue.

DOT made Atlantic the first arterial slow zone in the city to receive a 25 mph speed limit, and volunteers with Transportation Alternatives have adopted it as one of their advocacy priorities. Borough President Eric Adams imagines a completely revamped Atlantic Avenue with new development and pedestrian-friendly streets. “In ten years’ time we want to see a completely different Atlantic Avenue,” he told Streetsblog in April.

That effort is getting an assist from the Department of City Planning’s transportation division, which launched a study of Atlantic between Vanderbilt Avenue and Ralph Avenue. While it doesn’t cover the entire stretch to East New York and into Queens, these 2.4 miles includes key sections of Clinton Hill, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Crown Heights.

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Community Boards Split on Franklin Avenue Road Diet and Bike Lane

A proposal to enhance safety on Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights, which would put the street on a road diet and extend a painted bike lane one mile further south, is stuck in a tale of two community boards. CB 8, which covers the northern half of the project, is set to back the plan after its transportation committee voted 9-1 in support on Tuesday. CB 9, covering the area below Eastern Parkway, narrowly rejected the plan at a general board meeting last week, though the board’s district manager says it will likely come up again for another vote next month. The vote was a surprise coming from CB 9, which has a track record of urging the city to retrofit streets with bike lanes.

A road diet and bike lane could be coming to Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

A road diet and bike lane could be coming to Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights. Image: DOT

This stretch of Franklin Avenue is 34 feet wide and currently has one dotted line down the middle, with one parking lane and one travel lane on each half of the street. The narrow moving lanes leave little room for drivers to share space with cyclists — or even other drivers. Requests from the Crow Hill Community Association in 2011 and Assembly Member Walter Mosley in 2013 prompted DOT to take a look at the street. On April 2, the agency hosted a public workshop with members from both community boards to come up with solutions.

The plan [PDF] swaps the narrow two-lane configuration for an 11-foot travel lane, a striped five-foot bike lane, and nine-foot parking lanes on either side. The street would retain two car lanes for two blocks between St. John’s Place and Eastern Parkway to leave space for drivers to queue up before the light at Eastern Parkway.

Combined with changes to better coordinate the signal timing along Franklin for southbound traffic, DOT says the new configuration will have plenty of room for existing car traffic.

The plan also restricts left turns from westbound Atlantic Avenue to Franklin and would expand the concrete median on Atlantic to shorten crossing distances for pedestrians and slow drivers turning left onto Atlantic from Franklin.

“Our membership did have some concerns about eliminating the left turn from Atlantic to Franklin,” said CB 8 transportation committee co-chair Rob Witherwax in an email, but he noted that pedestrian safety improvements for residents crossing the 100-foot wide arterial street “will be well worth it.” DOT says the diverted car traffic, which it counted at no more than 83 vehicles per hour, can easily be absorbed on nearby streets.

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Imagining a New Atlantic Avenue for de Blasio’s New York


With the dangerous, highway-like conditions on Atlantic Avenue, much of the surrounding area is under-developed. A chain link fence surrounds this parking lot near Franklin Avenue.

Atlantic Avenue is one of New York’s most prominent streets, and in most respects, it is completely broken.

Stretching more than ten miles, Atlantic cuts through several neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens while functioning mainly as an urban highway for private motorists and truckers making their way east, toward the Van Wyck and Long Island, or west, to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

It is plagued with constant, speeding traffic. The avenue’s wide, highway-like conditions induce drivers to floor it, and as a result Atlantic is one of the most dangerous streets in New York City. When Council Member Steve Levin took a speed gun out to Atlantic, he found 88 percent of drivers were going more than 10 miles per hour over the limit. From 2008 to 2012, 25 people were killed on the 7.6-mile stretch of Atlantic between Furman Street in Brooklyn Heights and 76th Street in Woodhaven.

When the city announced that Atlantic would become the first street in the “arterial slow zone” program, with a 25 mph speed limit and re-timed traffic signals, it was welcome news. Atlantic is the kind of monster that has to be tamed if the de Blasio administration is going to achieve its Vision Zero street safety goals, and the new speed limit is a good first step.

In the long-run, though, Atlantic Avenue and the many other city streets like it will need much more comprehensive changes to not only eliminate traffic deaths, but also accommodate the economic growth and housing construction goals that City Hall is after.

Today, much of Atlantic Avenue is an eyesore, especially along the stretch east of Flatbush Avenue. It’s basically an unsightly speedway, and land values along the eastern portion of Atlantic have historically been depressed. Empty lots sit beside carwashes and parking lots. Grassy weeds poke up through a decrepit median. Some portions fall under the shadow of elevated train tracks — the Atlantic Branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which otherwise runs below ground.

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we imagine an Atlantic Avenue that is an asset to the neighborhoods which surround it, rather than a challenge to work around?

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When Traffic Deaths Don’t Make the News: Jelani Irving, 22

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

Jelani Irving. Photo from the Irving family via Ghost Bike Project

While NYC traffic deaths are down in the first few months of 2014, they are still so frequent that not every fatality gets reported in the news. This is often the case when a victim dies from injuries in the hospital days after a crash. That’s what happened earlier this year to 22-year-old Jelani Irving.

Irving was critically injured just before 6:15 a.m. on February 2 while riding his bike at the intersection of Classon Avenue and Washington Avenue in Crown Heights. Irving’s sister, Imani Irving, said he was riding his bike home from work after his shift as a yellow cab driver.

Police say Irving was struck by a 61-year-old man driving a 1999 Nissan Maxima northbound on Washington. The driver was turning right onto Classon — a turn with a very obtuse angle that motorists can make at speed — and struck Irving as he was cycling south in the northbound lane. NYPD says Irving veered left, crossing the path of the driver. The driver was cited for two equipment violations; press reports at the time said they were for bald rear tires. There were no citations or arrests related to Irving’s death.

Irving, unconscious and in cardiac arrest, was taken to Kings County Hospital and classified by NYPD as likely to die. He died of his injuries four days later.

The crash was covered by the Brooklyn Paper and Gothamist but it was not known that it caused Irving’s death until his name later appeared in WNYC’s “Mean Streets” traffic fatalities tracker.

Irving’s cousin, Daniel Gregoire, works at a Unitarian church in Pennsylvania and wrote about his family’s loss on the church’s website:

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Cumbo Calls for Safer Atlantic Ave, and Trottenberg Promises Action

Photo: Ben Fried

City Council Member Laurie Cumbo with advocates from the Prospect Heights Neighborhood Development Council, Make Brooklyn Safer, Tri-State Transportation Campaign, New York League of Conservation Voters, and Transportation Alternatives. Photo: Ben Fried

Minutes after Council Member Laurie Cumbo and street safety advocates called for immediate action to reduce traffic violence on Atlantic Avenue, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the audience at a Vision Zero forum in Crown Heights last night that DOT intends to make Atlantic one of its early priorities for safety fixes.

Atlantic Avenue is one of the biggest and most dangerous streets in the city, running east-west across the length of Brooklyn. It routinely ranks near the top of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s list of the borough’s deadliest streets for pedestrians. From 2002 to 2013, more than 1,400 pedestrians and cyclists were injured on Atlantic.

At a press conference preceding last night’s Vision Zero town hall at Medgar Evers College, Cumbo stressed the need to act soon. “We can’t wait for another child to be the face of why we need Vision Zero,” she said. “So many of these accidents could be avoided with the right measures.”

As it happens, the city intends to tackle Atlantic Avenue soon. During the forum, Trottenberg said Atlantic would be one of the 50 street safety projects DOT takes on this year. Noting that Atlantic Avenue is a big, wide, heavily trafficked street, Trottenberg said, “That’s the kind of street that DOT views as a challenge, and we want to step up.” The city’s Vision Zero action plan calls for “arterial slow zones” on streets like Atlantic that see a disproportionate share of injuries and deaths.

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Hit-and-Run Driver Charged With Reckless Driving for Killing 5-Year-Old

Last night just before 8:30, five-year-old Roshard Charles was crossing Empire Boulevard between Nostrand Avenue and Rogers Avenue with his mother, his baby brother, and a friend. They were just outside his family’s apartment when a double-parked driver threw her car in reverse, hit the gas and killed the boy as he was about to reach the sidewalk. The driver fled the scene, but now faces hit-and-run and reckless driving charges.

Rashard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

Roshard Charles. Photo: DNAinfo

DNAinfo spoke this afternoon with Roshard’s mother, 27-year-old Rochelle Charles:

“I was with my baby. He was right here with me. She double parked. She wasn’t moving. She was just there. We were already walking, about to go on the sidewalk. And that’s when she started reversing really fast…I said, ‘Stop!’ I banged on [the van]. She reversed back. She heard me. She looked back. She tried to get him out of the wheel. And then she just drove off…How could you leave like that? I kept telling her to stop.”

Witnesses lifted the boy onto the hood of a nearby car and attempted to keep him awake before paramedics arrived, according to the Daily News. Charles was taken to Kings County Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. NYPD says no one else was injured in the crash.

“I love him so much. I took really good care of him,” Rochelle Charles told DNAinfo. “Saturday we went to Applebee’s. It’s just me and him. Last week, we went to the movies.”

The Daily News reported that the child “darted away from his mom” before the driver crushed him, but other media accounts do not include this allegation, and NYPD told Streetsblog this afternoon that this claim was not part of its record of the crash. The Collision Investigation Squad continues to investigate the death.

After striking Charles, driver Elizabeth Mayard, 23, of Brooklyn, fled the scene, running red lights as she drove westbound on Empire. According to the Wall Street Journal, another driver who saw the crash followed her for two blocks before she pulled over and the witness convinced her to go back to the crash scene. Another witness at the scene described Mayard as hysterically crying and apologizing. She now faces charges for leaving the scene of a fatal crash, reckless driving, and three red light violations.

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