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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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DOT Bike Planning Starts From Scratch in Clinton Hill

So long, Clinton Avenue Greenway. Image: DOT

The Clinton Avenue Greenway is not going to happen. Image: DOT

After withdrawing its plan for a two-way protected bike lane on Clinton Avenue last month, DOT will start over with a series of public workshops to develop a new plan for walking and biking safety in Clinton Hill and Fort Greene.

DOT Bicycle and Greenway Program Director Ted Wright shared the news at last night’s Community Board 2 transportation committee meeting.

At the same meeting, the committee declined to endorse a new signalized crosswalk at the Jay Street exit ramp from the Manhattan Bridge, one of the final elements in the agency’s plan for a protected bike lane on Jay Street.

Wright said the purpose of the upcoming meetings will be to develop a new plan for bike and pedestrian safety in the neighborhood. “Everything is on the table. This is not just going to be us talking about Clinton Avenue again,” he said. “It’s a full scale re-look at the entire process.”

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DA Ken Thompson Still Hasn’t Charged Driver for December Sidewalk Killing

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 seems OK with that.

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 seems OK with that.

Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged the driver who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Fort Greene sidewalk with unlicensed driving, but did not file charges for taking the victim’s life. Six months after the crash, Nicodemus’s family says the DA is dragging his feet on the case.

Marlon Sewell hit Nicodemus, her boyfriend, and another person with a Chevrolet SUV on the afternoon of December 6, 2015, as the victims walked in front of 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue. Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. An NYPD statement said Sewell swerved onto the sidewalk to avoid hitting a second vehicle, which witnesses said was a bus.

“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.”

Victoria Nicodemus was 30 years old.

The current charges against Sewell are aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, an unclassified misdemeanor, and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed, a traffic infraction. For crashing on a sidewalk reportedly at a high rate of speed, killing one person and injuring two others, allegedly while driving without a valid license, Sewell faces a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. That’s the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling.

“It seems to my family that they’re really beginning to be OK with just standing pat on the misdemeanor charges, and for us that’s unacceptable,” says Hank Miller, Nicodemus’s brother.

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Brooklyn Electeds to DOT: Put Safety First at Atlantic and Flatbush

For Valentine’s Day, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin asked DOT to “complete” Atlantic Avenue. Photo: David Meyer

About a dozen people braved the cold Saturday morning to call for pedestrian safety improvements at Brooklyn’s Times Plaza and along the whole Atlantic Avenue corridor.

Times Plaza is the triangular public space at the convergence of Atlantic, Flatbush, and Fourth avenues. At a public meeting last month, local residents were disappointed that the redesign proposed by Barclays Center developer Forest City Ratner, which is contractually obligated to fund the project, failed to address pedestrian safety concerns.

“It was clear at the meeting from the community turnout that what we really needed at this plaza was a safer place to cross,” Transportation Alternatives Brooklyn Committee Co-Chair Bahij Chancey said on Saturday.

Chancey and TA were joined by Borough President Eric Adams, council members Brad Lander and Stephen Levin, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon, and representatives from Senator Velmanette Montgomery’s office and the Atlantic Avenue BID.

“How could you plan a plaza here before you make it safe?” Lander asked. “The intersection has to be safe before the plaza is made lovely. Lovely is good, safety is essential, so let’s start there.” DOT has said it plans to present pedestrian improvements for the intersection this spring.

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Family of Victoria Nicodemus: Get Reckless Drivers Off NYC Streets

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to share her department's efforts to curb traffic fatalities. Image: David Meyer

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to talk about DOT street redesigns. Photo: David Meyer

The family of Victoria Nicodemus is calling on NYPD to do more to get reckless drivers off city streets.

Nicodemus died last December when Marlon Sewell struck her with his SUV on a Fort Greene sidewalk, in a crash that injured two other pedestrians. Sewell, whose driving record reportedly includes incidents of unlicensed driving and speeding in school zones, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation. This month a judge declined to revoke Sewell’s license, which was reinstated after he killed Nicodemus, because Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

Since the vigil and art installation held in her memory, Nicodemus’s siblings have joined other victims of traffic violence and their family members at Vision Zero events, to advocate for more serious charges against Sewell and changes in laws and policies that enable motorist negligence.

At a public event last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller spoke to representatives from DOT and NYPD. Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the area of Fort Greene where Nicodemus was killed, scheduled the forum in response to her death.

While Miller commended both departments for their ongoing Vision Zero efforts, he pressed NYPD to hold dangerous drivers accountable. “I’m wondering why there can’t be more done to immobilize a car, or impound a car, or create some sort of repercussions that have more of an impact that simply arresting a guy, saying ‘Ticket! We arrested him!,’ and letting him walk out the next day and get back in his car,” he asked Dennis Fulton, an NYPD crash investigator.

Fulton said the department is committed to filing additional charges against Sewell, but is limited by current laws. “I understand your sister, you know, she was on the sidewalk, she had no chance — and that’s pretty evident from the video,” Fulton said. “We’re going to act within the parameters that we’ve been dealt and we’ll do our best to bring criminal charges against the individual.”

“These are legislative proposals that we can pursue,” said Fulton, “but the police department acts within the parameters of those particular laws.”

Thompson’s office didn’t send anyone to last night’s event.

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DOT Planning Buffered Bike Lane on Lafayette Avenue in Fort Greene

DOT's proposal would replace left-lane sharrows with a buffer-protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT’s proposal would replace sharrows with a buffered bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT plans to install a buffered bike lane this summer on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn between Fulton Street and Classon Avenue.

The project, which the Brooklyn Community Board 2 transportation committee voted for unanimously last night, calls for a five-foot bike lane protected by a three-foot buffer zone [PDF]. It will be an upgrade from the current shared lane design but won’t be physically protected.

The buffered lane will create a better connection for cyclists heading from downtown Brooklyn to Fort Greene and points east, a route with significant bike traffic. There were five severe traffic injuries on the corridor between 2010 and 2014, with drivers often meandering between the two travel lanes and driving well over the speed limit. Outside of rush hour, DOT observed 24 percent of drivers speeding.

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Sidewalk Killer Free to Drive Thanks to Judge and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

A judge refused to take the license of the motorist who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk because, she said, District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges for reckless driving.

Marlon Sewell was allegedly driving without a valid license when he hit Nicodemus and two other people on Fulton Street on December 6, injuring Nicodemus’s boyfriend and the third victim. Thompson filed a top charge of unlicensed aggravated operation, a low-level misdemeanor and the same charge that police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.

The DA did not charge Sewell, who reportedly has a history of driving without regard for others’ safety, for the act of killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims — declining even to file charges under the Right of Way Law.

In December Judge Marguerite Dougherty denied a request from Thompson’s office to hold Sewell on bail based on the charges against him. “Without additional charges I see no reason to set bail,” Dougherty said last month. On Monday Dougherty told prosecutors “they had not presented an argument that would revoke … Sewell’s driver’s license,” according to DNAinfo.

“There are no allegations of the defendant recklessly driving,” said Dougherty.

She added that Sewell’s license had only been suspended at the time due to lack of child support and has since been restored.

Prosecutors told Dougherty that video evidence indicates Sewell had no “innocent reason to drive over the curb,” but DNAinfo reported that no additional charges have been filed because Sewell claimed he was “lightheaded” due to a carbon monoxide leak in his car.

Dougherty, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, said that since Sewell’s SUV was impounded there was no reason to prevent him from being able to drive legally. “It negates the necessity,” she said.

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Victoria Nicodemus, 14th Person Killed by Curb-Jumping NYC Driver in 2015

The blue dot is the approximate location of the crash that killed Victoria Nicodemus. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Victoria Nicodemus photo via Daily News. Map image: DOT Vision Zero View

The blue dot is the approximate location where a driver fatally struck Victoria Nicodemus on a sidewalk in Fort Greene. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Map: DOT Vision Zero View

An alleged unlicensed driver who witnesses say was traveling at a high rate of speed struck and killed a woman on a sidewalk in Fort Greene yesterday.

Marlon Sewell, 39, drove a Chevrolet SUV over the curb at 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue, at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, striking 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus, her 37-year-old boyfriend, and a 75-year-old man, according to reports.

Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. Witnesses said Sewell drove onto the sidewalk because he was driving too fast to stop for a B25 bus in front of him.

From the Daily News:

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” said witness Anthony Singh, 22, who works on the corner. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

“She lost a lot of blood,” he said. “Her body was really pale. They were pumping her chest while they took her away on the gurney.”

“This place was a madhouse,” said Byron Logan, 72, who was buying lottery tickets when the accident happened. “I’ve never seen so many people screaming.”

Nicodemus, an art curator who lived in Brooklyn Heights, died at Brooklyn Hospital Center. Her boyfriend and the third victim were hospitalized.

NYPD charged Sewell with aggravated unlicensed operation and driving without insurance. Aggravated unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, is the same charge police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction. It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, though plea deals usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone. Sewell was not charged by police or District Attorney Ken Thompson for killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims.

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When Will DDC Build the Brooklyn Greenway on Flushing Ave and West Street?

A preliminary rendering of the two-way bikeway and planted buffer slated for West Street in Greenpoint. Image: DDC

A preliminary rendering of the two-way bikeway slated for West Street in Greenpoint. Image: DDC

It’s been more than three years since NYC DOT announced its full implementation plan for the 14-mile Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, a series of 23 capital projects that would build out the biking and walking path in high-quality, permanent materials. At the time, DOT said that construction would begin soon on the Flushing Avenue and West Street segments of the greenway, but with 2015 drawing to a close there’s still no sign of progress. What gives?

Both segments have gone through the community board review process. The Brooklyn CB 1 transportation committee voted for the proposal for West Street in 2012, and in 2013 CB 2 voted in favor of the Flushing Avenue segment, which was supposed to reach the construction phase last fall. As is often the case with capital construction projects, however, the Department of Design and Construction hasn’t implemented the greenway segments according to schedule.

DDC only furnished a vague progress report on the greenway projects, without a timetable, so we turned to Brooklyn Greenway Initiative co-founder Milton Puryear, who says that both the Flushing Avenue and West Street segments of the greenway are fully funded, designed, and ready to go.

Puryear pins the delays on Flushing Avenue and West Street on subsurface infrastructure improvements that must precede greenway construction. The West Street portion, for instance, includes bioswales and high-level sewers that will prevent stormwater from overloading the sewage system and from mixing with raw sewage before it goes into the river.

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More People Get to Fulton Street By Bike Than By Car

Is parking really that important for merchants? Not according to surveys of their customers. Image: FAB Alliance [PDF]

Is car parking really that important for merchants? Not according to surveys of their customers. Image: FAB Alliance and Pratt Area Community Council [PDF]

When shop owners oppose new plazas or protected bike lanes, even in the city’s most walkable neighborhoods, they often say their businesses rely on street parking to attract customers. Removing even a handful of spaces, they claim, would lead to economic ruin. The reality, of course, is that an overwhelming majority of New Yorkers don’t drive to do their shopping, and making streets better for walking and biking tends to pay off for merchants even if some parking spaces are removed. A new survey shows that Fulton Street in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill is another New York City shopping street where the vast majority of people arrive without taking a car [PDF].

The Fulton Area Business Alliance and the Pratt Area Community Council partnered on a survey of 477 neighborhood residents, shoppers, and visitors between June and August this year. People responded to the survey online and in live interviews along Fulton Street between Ashland Place and Classon Street. One of the survey questions asked respondents how they “typically access Fulton Street,” giving the option to choose more than one mode of travel.

Of the 401 people who responded to that question, 75 percent said they typically walk to Fulton Street. About 59 percent said they take transit, about evenly split between the bus and subway, and 16 percent said they bike, either on their own bicycles or with Citi Bike. Just 15 percent said they take an automobile to Fulton Street regularly. The survey did not distinguish between taxis, liveries, and private vehicles, which all fall under the “automobile” category.

More than half of the respondents said they visit Fulton street at least twice a week. Two-thirds of respondents live nearby in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill.