Last night, dozens of protestors gathered in Fort Greene to remember the at least 14 New Yorkers under the age of 18 killed in traffic so far this year, including Fort Greene’s own Lucian Merryweather, 9, and demand more traffic enforcement from the police. Chanting “NYPD, make it safer on our streets” and “safe streets, slow down,” the march entered the 88th Precinct’s community council meeting for a question-and-answer session with the precinct’s commanding officer, Deputy Inspector Scott Henderson.
Marchers at last night’s traffic safety protest in Fort Greene. Photo: Dmitry Gudkov
“Five children have been killed on the streets of New York City in less than five weeks’ time since the end of September,” march organizer Hilda Cohen said. “The death of an innocent child is an unbearable tragedy, and each one is preventable.”
Automobile crashes are the leading cause of injury-related death for New York City children. Last night’s march comes a week after a similar march in Jackson Heights, where Amy Tam and Hsi-Pei Liao spoke about their 3-year-old daughter Allison, killed by a turning driver who ran her over in the crosswalk as she walked with her grandmother. Tam and Liao came from Flushing to march in last night’s protest.
Amy Cohen and Gary Eckstein, whose son Sammy was killed by a driver on Prospect Park West, spoke at the march. “This past Saturday was supposed to have been his bar mitzvah,” Cohen said. “Too many children are dying on our streets.” Cohen called on the NYPD to increase its enforcement of speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians and urged the City Council to pass a bill to lower the speed limit to 20 mph in residential neighborhoods. She also urged Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to choose transportation and police commissioners who will prioritize street safety.
“When you are on the street, your life is in someone else’s hands — everyone else’s hands. And most of these hands are on the steering wheel of a car,” said Esme Brauer, 11. “Drive safely. Follow the rules of the road. Please.”
After reading the names of New York City children killed by drivers so far this year, marchers then walked to the corner of Clermont and DeKalb Avenues, where Merryweather was killed on the sidewalk by a reckless driver, before continuing to the 88th Precinct’s community council meeting. At the meeting, Henderson expressed sadness over Merryweather’s death before defending the precinct’s traffic safety record.
A flier from the precinct referencing the crash that killed Merryweather was distributed at the meeting warning drivers not to speed, text, or drive drunk. Cohen later thanked Henderson for the education material targeting drivers, but at the beginning of the meeting, Henderson revealed his ignorance concerning traffic safety in his own precinct. Henderson said that before Merryweather’s death, there had not been a traffic fatality in the 88th Precinct since 2008. The audience began to murmur loudly and Henderson called the disruption “disrespectful.”
In the front row, immediately in front of Henderson, was Jacob Stevens, whose wife Clara Heyworth was killed by an alleged drunk driver in 2011 in the 88th Precinct. Charges against her killer were dropped after a botched NYPD investigation.