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Posts from the Hell’s Kitchen Category

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Cy Vance Nets Felony Conviction of Driver Who Killed Senior Shu Ying Liu

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance secured a felony hit-and-run conviction against a truck driver who killed a senior in Hell’s Kitchen.

Cy Vance. Photo: Manhattan DA

On February 5, 2013, Jack Montelbano ran over 69-year-old Shu Ying Liu with a private dump truck as Liu crossed 41st Street at Ninth Avenue in the crosswalk and with the right of way. The Times reported that Montelbano drove away from the scene though witnesses alerted him to the collision.

Liu, who reportedly once worked as a magazine editor in China, lived on W. 54th Street, near the site of the crash. She was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital.

Police found Montelbano in New Jersey, where he lived and where the truck was registered. A prosecutor with Vance’s office said Montelbano was “involved in a fatal car crash at that same spot several years ago,” the Post reported after Montelbano’s arrest.

Vance charged Montelbano with felony leaving the scene. Montelbano pled not guilty and was convicted at trial last Friday, June 19. The case was prosecuted by ADA Patricia Stolfi Collins.

To convict a driver for hit-and-run in New York State, prosecutors must prove a motorist knew or had reason to know an injury occurred. This is more difficult than it may seem. Under state law, “I didn’t see her” is not an admission of guilt, but a potent defense strategy. In another case brought by Vance, a jury acquitted the postal worker who killed cyclist Marilyn Dershowitz, despite video evidence showing the driver stop his truck after the collision before driving away from the scene.

Montelbano was convicted of a class D felony, which carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced in July.

Years before Liu was killed, Community Board 4 asked DOT to give people more time to cross at Ninth Avenue and W. 41st Street, an intersection with a history of crashes. Liu’s death sparked renewed calls for DOT action, and the agency finally made improvements, including a dedicated pedestrian signal phase, last summer.

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NYPD: No Charges for Collision That Killed Man on Hell’s Kitchen Sidewalk

Victor Grant was killed on the sidewalk after two drivers collided on 11th Avenue at 42nd Street. No charges were filed. Image: NY1

Victor Grant was killed on the sidewalk after two drivers collided on 11th Avenue at 42nd Street. No charges were filed. Image: NY1

NYPD filed no charges after a vehicle collision that resulted in the death of a man who was walking on a sidewalk in Hell’s Kitchen.

Last Friday at approximately 9:45 p.m., 56-year-old Victor Grant was walking on 11th Avenue just south of W. 42nd Street when the drivers of a GMC SUV and a FedEx Freightliner truck collided on the avenue, according to reports. The SUV driver then jumped the curb, pinning Grant beneath the truck, the Daily News reported.

The crash occurred outside a FedEx facility located on the southeast corner of the intersection. Photos published by the Daily News show the SUV on the sidewalk next to the building, with a toppled fire hydrant on the street. It is unknown if the FedEx driver was en route to or from the FedEx building.

Grant, who lived in the Bronx, was pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital, according to News 12. No charges were filed against either driver by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

The Post reported that both drivers passed a Breathalyzer test at the scene, but media accounts did not mention driver speed, which was likely a factor in the crash. A woman interviewed by NY1 said the intersection of 11th Avenue and 42nd Street, in the theater district, is “very dangerous, especially at night.”

As of April, officers from the 10th Precinct, where the crash occurred, had issued just 31 speeding tickets in 2015. The precinct didn’t cite a single driver for speeding last month.

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Crashes Highlight the Hell’s Kitchen Bus Crunch

Last Monday, a left-turning coach bus driver struck two Spanish tourists in the crosswalk at 47th Street and 10th Avenue in Manhattan, sending them to the hospital with critical injuries. On Thursday, another bus driver crashed into scaffolding a few blocks away, causing minor injuries to passengers. The local community board chair says that without adequate bus facilities, neighborhood streets are getting overwhelmed.

The topic came up at a hearing last week where regional transportation leaders weighed New York’s big transit challenges, but only piecemeal solutions seem to be in the works at this time.

The bus driver in last Monday’s crash, 37-year-old Richard Williams, rolled over the leg of 62-year-old Maria Bagona and critically injured Maria Aranzazu Madariaga-Fernandez, 50 in the crosswalk. The women, relatives visiting New York from Spain, had planned to return home on Tuesday but were hospitalized.

The Post reported that the turning driver had a green light, neglecting to mention that the pedestrians would have also had a walk signal. In an interview from the hospital with the Daily News, the women set the record straight. “We were waiting to cross,” said Madariaga-Fernandez. “When the light turned, we started to cross. Suddenly, there was a bus… and it hit us.”

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TSTC and Manhattanites Call for Port Authority to Improve Bus Facilities

TSTC's Veronica Vanterpool, center, and CB 4 chair Christine Berthet, to her right, outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal today. Photo: Madeline Marvar/TSTC

TSTC’s Veronica Vanterpool, center, and CB 4 chair Christine Berthet, to her right, outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal today. Photo: Madeline Marvar/TSTC

The Tri-State Transportation Campaign joined locals in Hell’s Kitchen today to call on the Port Authority to invest in improved and expanded bus facilities to relieve pressure on local streets.

With no more space left in the authority’s existing facilities, a growing number of buses are parked by curbs near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Locals and advocates have long urged the Port Authority to remove idle buses from neighborhood streets and improve conditions for bus riders with a new garage and renovations to the terminal.

“The asthma rate for our children is the third highest in Manhattan,” said Christine Berthet, chair of Manhattan Community Board 4 and co-founder of CHEKPEDS, in a written statement. “Bus gridlock prevents pedestrians from crossing the streets and retail stores see their revenues plummet. With each residential tower replacing a bus parking lot, the problem has escalated to crisis proportions.”

Today’s event took place before the Port Authority board was scheduled to vote on the 2014-2023 capital program.

“Every day, more than 8,500 buses carry nearly 400,000 people through the PABT and the GWBBS [George Washington Bridge Bus Station] so it’s baffling that there are no funds in the next capital program for a new bus garage or improvements to the bus terminal,” said Veronica Vanterpool, TSTC executive director.

A billion-dollar bus garage was proposed in the authority’s 2007-2013 capital program, but the project was dropped in 2009, Vanterpool told Streetsblog. The authority is looking to build a 100-spot garage annex on W. 39th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, but that proposal is dependent on a federal grant. It’s also much smaller than the garage that was shelved by the authority, Vanterpool said.

Vanterpool noted that the authority can make year-to-year budget and capital spending adjustments, which leaves room for bus improvements to resurface.

“The annex is certainly something that will help,” said Vanterpool, “but the Port Authority needs to revisit its priorities and start making capital investments for buses.” 

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After CB 4 Committee Signs on, DOT Will Study Safer Fifth and Sixth Avenues

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, which is part of an area DOT will be studying for pedestrian and bicycle upgrades. Photo: Google Maps

Sixth Avenue at 14th Street, part of an area DOT will be studying for a street redesign. Photo: Google Maps

After a unanimous vote of support from Community Board 5, a request for DOT to study protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements on Fifth and Sixth Avenues in Manhattan got another boost from the CB 4 transportation committee last Wednesday. After the committee’s unanimous 6-0 vote, a DOT representative said the agency intends to begin studying the potential redesign of the avenues this fall.

“We don’t have any information that we can share with the community board right now, because we are looking at the corridor,” said DOT’s Colleen Chattergoon. “We hope to do some data collection in the late fall.”

While most of Fifth and Sixth Avenues are within the boundaries of Community Board 5, which had already supported the request, advocates are looking for backing from community boards 2 and 4, along the southern sections of the avenues. “You have a constituency who supports making Fifth and Sixth Avenues into public spaces that are safe, efficient, pleasant, and basically serve people better,” said Transportation Alternatives volunteer Albert Ahronheim, before presenting a petition signed by more than 10,400 people and letters of support from 118 businesses along the avenues.

The request now heads to CB 4’s full board on May 7. Advocates hope to secure support from CB 2 soon, as well.

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Vance: Tour Bus Driver Who Killed Pedestrian Convicted of Manslaughter

A tour bus driver who killed a pedestrian in Hell’s Kitchen while driving drunk has been convicted of manslaughter and homicide.

Victim Timothy White. Photo via ##http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2011/05/08/philadelphia-man-killed-in-tour-bus-accident-in-new-york-city/##KYW-TV##

Victim Timothy White. Photo via KYW-TV

Steve Drappel, now 60, was making a left turn from 47th Street onto Ninth Avenue at around 10 p.m. on May 7, 2011, when he ran over 29-year-old Timothy White, according to published reports and a press release from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.  White, who was in a crosswalk, was dragged for half a block before witnesses alerted Drappel by screaming and banging on the bus.

White was in town from Philadelphia to visit family and was walking to his cousin’s home after dinner, according to a DNAinfo story published the day after the crash.

“He was the perfect son,” his father Robert White, 67, said Sunday from his Pennsylvania home.

The devastated dad said his son had battled health problems and “was an inspiration to all of us.”

“Tim was a hero,” his mom Julia said. “He was a hero to all of us.”

Police found a cup containing vodka next to Drappel’s seat, and an open bottle of vodka in the luggage compartment of the bus, which reports said Drappel admitted was his. His blood alcohol level was .14.

The Post reported that Drappel had been in three crashes since 1997, and had citations for speeding and driving with a suspended license. Drappel was driving a bus owned by TraveLynx, a Florida company, for Chinatown-based tour operator L & L Travel, reports said.

According to the Vance press release, Drappel was convicted this week, following a bench trial in New York State Supreme Court, of second degree vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and two counts of driving while intoxicated.

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Eyes on the Street: From Parking to Parklet in Hell’s Kitchen

Courtesy of Christine Berthet of CHEKPEDS, here are photos of what could be Manhattan’s newest public space, a pocket park on Dyer Avenue in Hell’s Kitchen.

This plaza, conceived by area residents, occupies a sliver of traffic island on Dyer between 34th and 35th Streets, near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The space was formerly used for motorcycle parking.

Berthet says this is an interim installation, since plans are on hold to convert three lanes of leftover asphalt on Dyer into a park.

See the before shot after the jump.

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Council Candidates on the Issues: Yetta Kurland, District 3

In anticipation of primary day on September 10, we continue our series on City Council candidates with a Q&A with civil rights lawyer Yetta Kurland, who’s running to represent District 3. The district covers Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea, and the West Village, and it’s currently represented by Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Yesterday we posted responses from District 3 candidate Corey Johnson. A third candidate, Alexander Meadows, did not respond.

City Council District 3 candidate Yetta Kurland. Photo: Yetta Kurland/Facebook

Streetsblog: Protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues involved extensive planning efforts with CB 4. Does the district benefit from the bike lanes and pedestrian islands? Would you like to see similar treatments on other avenues in the district?

Yetta Kurland: Protected bike lanes and pedestrian islands are a benefit to the Lower West Side in a number of ways. Most prominently, bicycle safety, traffic calming, shortened pedestrian crossing distance and reduced particulate emissions. The most urgent need for bicycle lanes in Manhattan is currently on 5th/6th Avenues, as bicycle transit is still dangerous in the middle of the island.

SB: The City Council will soon vote on changes to the Manhattan Core parking regulations. What direction would you like to see off-street parking policy take in the future?

YK: While I firmly believe that new development should take the holistic needs of the community into account, parking is not the right need to start with. New development should include affordable housing, access to adequate school seats, community oriented retail and more. The focus on parking stymies those other goals, and is out of touch with the culture of Manhattan.

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City Council Candidates on the Issues: Corey Johnson, District 3

Campaign season in New York is already well underway. And when New Yorkers vote in the primary election on September 10, it won’t just be for the next mayor. They’ll also be choosing City Council members, borough presidents, the comptroller, and the public advocate.

In a series of candidate interviews, Streetsblog will be focusing on contested City Council races. In addition to proposing and voting on legislation, council members recommend Community Board appointees and occupy a powerful bully pulpit that can make or break proposals for safer streets and effective surface transit. Witness Dan Dromm’s support for “Diversity Plaza” in Jackson Heights, Melissa Mark-Viverito’s advocacy for East Harlem protected bike lanes, and Brad Lander’s defense of the Prospect Park West bike lane. Conversely, look at Peter Vallone, Jr.’s obstruction of a pedestrian plaza in Astoria, or the bellyaching from Staten Island’s Vincent Ignizio that’s made it harder for bus riders to use Select Bus Service.

City Council District 3 candidate Corey Johnson. Photo: Corey Johnson/Facebook

On the West Side, three Democratic City Council candidates — Community Board 4 Chair Corey Johnson, civil rights lawyer Yetta Kurland, and Community Board 2 member Alexander Meadows — are vying to replace Christine Quinn, who is vacating the District 3 seat she first won in 1999. The district covers Midtown, Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and the West Village, an area that has been a hotbed of livable streets progress, from protected bike lanes to pedestrian plazas to parking reform.

Streetsblog sent questionnaires to the campaigns to get a better understanding of where the candidates stand on transit, traffic safety, and transportation policy. We begin in alphabetical order with responses from Corey Johnson and will run Yetta Kurland’s answers in a separate post. Alexander Meadows did not respond.

Streetsblog: Protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues involved extensive planning efforts with CB 4. Does the district benefit from the bike lanes and pedestrian islands? Would you like to see similar treatments on other avenues in the district?

Corey Johnson: I was proud to partake in the Community Board 4 planning efforts that resulted in the bike lanes and street redesign including sidewalk expansions and on-street bike parking. There are still areas with outstanding safety concerns that I will continue to push DOT to address but I stand behind dedicated bike lanes as part of a more comprehensive plan that includes increasing mass transit options, reducing congestion, and enforcing traffic laws for cyclists, as well as for cars and trucks.

SB: The City Council will soon vote on changes to the Manhattan Core parking regulations. What direction would you like to see off-street parking policy take in the future?

CJ: In July 2012, I wrote a letter to City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden expressing the opinion of CB 4 that opening accessory parking to transient public use will negatively affect the pedestrian safety and quality of life in residential districts and encourage the building of excessive parking capacity. We need to reinforce the current market trends towards reduced parking demand and increased transit use, rather than add to parking availability that encourages driving and car oriented development and undermines the clean air and health objectives of PlaNYC 2030.

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Eyes on the Street: Bike Corrals Protect Ninth Avenue Bike Lane

A new bike corral on 9th Avenue, between 39th and 40th Streets. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Bike parking corrals adjacent to a protected bike lane — a first for New York City, and perhaps the nation — have been installed along Ninth Avenue in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen. Check out these pics from Clarence, snapped on Thursday.

First requested by Community Board 4 in fall 2011, and receiving a supportive 11-0 committee vote in February, the corrals provide 18 bike racks along the “floating” parking lane the between the bicycle lane and general traffic lanes.

At the request of the community board, sidewalk bike racks on blocks that are receiving bike corrals will be removed.

A pedestrian island and bike corral on 9th Avenue at 36th Street. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Casa di Isacco restaurant is maintaining a four-rack corral between 39th and 40th Streets, Pomodoro restaurant is maintaining a seven-rack corral between 38th and 39th Streets, and Ora Thai Cuisine is maintaining a seven-rack corral by a pedestrian island between 35th and 36th Streets.

In the words of Streetsblog reader Eric McClure: Is there a higher form of bike lane than the bike-parking-protected bike lane?

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