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Posts from the The Bronx Category


Driver Who Killed 3 People on Bronx Sidewalk Charged With Manslaughter

Nyanna Aquil, left, her grandfather Louis Perez, and Kristian Leka were killed in the Bronx by a curb-jumping driver last Halloween. Bronx DA Darcel Clark charged Howard Unger with multiple counts of manslaughter, assault, and homicide for the crash.

Nyanna Aquil, left, her grandfather Louis Perez, and Kristian Leka were killed in the Bronx by a curb-jumping driver last Halloween. Bronx DA Darcel Clark charged Howard Unger with multiple counts of manslaughter, assault, and homicide for the crash.

District Attorney Darcel Clark filed manslaughter and homicide charges against a motorist who fatally struck three people, including a child, on a Bronx sidewalk last year.

Howard Unger was indicted this week on three counts of manslaughter, three counts of assault, three counts of homicide, one count of misdemeanor reckless endangerment, and one misdemeanor count of falsifying records, according to court records.

Unger, 53, of the Bronx, hit several vehicles before driving a Dodge sedan over the curb on Morris Park Avenue near Bogart Avenue on the afternoon of October 31, 2015.

Unger crashed into a group of people who were out trick-or-treating, killing 10-year-old Nyanna Aquil; her grandfather, 65-year-old Louis Perez; and Kristian Leka, 24, who pushed others out of Unger’s path.

Aquil’s younger sisters, ages 3 and 8, were injured, as were Leka’s 9-year-old sister and his fiancé, according to the Times and DNAinfo.

Prosecutors say Unger is epileptic and “had not been taking medication as prescribed before the crash,” DNAinfo reported.

Image: WCBS

Image: WCBS

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NYPD: No Charges for School Bus Driver Who Killed Woman in Bronx Crosswalk

A school bus driver struck and killed Carmen Puello in a crosswalk in University Heights. The white line indicates the path of the victim — it’s unknown which direction she was walking — and the red arrow indicates the approximate path of the driver, according to NYPD. Police filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A school bus driver struck and killed Carmen Puello in a crosswalk in University Heights. The white line indicates the path of the victim — it’s unknown which direction she was walking — and the red arrow indicates the approximate path of the driver, according to NYPD. Police filed no charges. Image: Google Maps

A school bus driver killed a woman in a crosswalk in University Heights last week. NYPD filed no charges.

Carmen Puello, 43, was crossing Sedgwick Avenue at West Fordham Road at around 12:30 last Friday afternoon when the driver, eastbound in the center lane of West Fordham, struck her while turning right onto Sedgwick, NYPD told WCBS.

Carmen Puello at left. Photo via WCBS

Carmen Puello at left. Photo via WCBS

“He passed the light and when he passed the light, he realized he was supposed to make a right turn,” said a witness. “By the time he got past the yellow, he zoomed across and she was already in the intersection and he hit her.”

The bus driver hit Puello “with the front of his vehicle, knocking her to the ground,” NYPD crash investigators told WNBC. “The driver subsequently ran her over and left her lying on the roadway.”

Puello was pronounced dead at Saint Barnabas Hospital.

Sedgwick Avenue at West Fordham Road is a wide intersection with concrete medians in the crosswalks. Between 2009 and 2015, 107 people were injured in crashes at the intersection, according to city crash data. A majority — 74 — were motor vehicle occupants, a sign of collisions occurring at high speeds.

Motorists injured 33 people walking and biking at Sedgwick and West Fordham between 2009 and 2015, and injured four pedestrians there this year as of August.

Adhering to protocol when police don’t file charges, NYPD did not release the bus driver’s name to the press, identifying him or her only as being 47 years old. We called NYPD this afternoon for an update, and to ask who had the right of way, but the department’s public information office had no knowledge of the crash.

The crash that killed Carmen Puello occurred in the 52nd Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Fernando Cabrera.


Driver Who Killed Cyclist on City Island Bridge Pleads Guilty to Homicide

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos

A motorist who fatally struck a woman riding a bike on the City Island Bridge pled guilty to felony leaving the scene and homicide.

Gabriela Aguilar-Vallinos was on her way home from work at around 11:45 p.m. on September 11, 2015, when Michael Moreno hit her with a Hyundai sedan, then left the scene.

Aguilar-Vallinos sustained head trauma and died at Jacobi Hospital. She was 27.

Former Bronx DA Robert Johnson charged Moreno with second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and felony leaving the scene. The case was disposed by Johnson’s successor Darcel Clark.

The top charge against Moreno — manslaughter — is a class C felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Last week Moreno pled guilty to leaving the scene and homicide, class D and E felonies, respectively.

A more severe charge than homicide under state law, class D leaving the scene carries penalties ranging from probation to seven years in prison.

Moreno is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.


Mark-Viverito: Let’s Make the Whole Grand Concourse Safe for Biking

DOT made safety improvements on the Grand Concourse below 158th Street earlier this year, including this closed-off slip lane outside Cardinal Hayes High School, but the project did not include any bike lanes. Image: DOT

DOT turned this slip lane outside Cardinal Hayes High School into pedestrian space earlier this year, but its safety project for the southern section of the Grand Concourse did not include bike lanes. Photo: David Meyer

Add City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to the list of elected officials calling on DOT to get serious about protected bike lanes on the Grand Concourse.

The speaker penned a letter last week to Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg asking DOT to study protected bike lanes on the corridor from 138th Street to 158th Street [PDF], where DOT plans so far have not included any bike infrastructure.

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito

More people are hurt or killed by traffic on the Grand Concourse than any other street in the Bronx, with more than 1,000 injuries and 13 deaths in the last four years alone, according to city data. Transportation Alternatives’ “Complete the Concourse” campaign aims to change that by redesigning the street to prioritize walking, biking, and transit. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed on.

Earlier this year, DOT implemented a safety project south of 158th Street that includes expanded sidewalk space and wider concrete medians — but no bike lanes. Now Mark-Viverito, whose district touches the Concourse south of 165th Street, wants to know “what it would take to further enhance those improvements and, in particular, to add bike lanes to this area of the Concourse.”

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Bronx Electeds Call for “Complete” Concourse for Buses, Bikes, and People

Council Member Andrew Cohen speaks in favor of the "Complete the Concourse" in front of the Bronx County Courthouse. Photo: David Meyer

Council Member Andrew Cohen speaks in favor of making the Grand Concourse a complete street. Photo: David Meyer

With momentum building for a complete street and fully-protected bikeway along the Grand Concourse, Council Member Andrew Cohen joined Bronx activists on the steps of the Bronx County Courthouse this morning to call on the city to redesign the street thoroughly and expeditiously.

“The entire length of the Concourse… [represents] a design from the 1950s — all about moving cars as quickly as possible without regard for pedestrian safety.” Cohen said. “We really need to make sure that we’re getting the resources, our fair share of Vision Zero improvements to make this Concourse everything it has been in the past and everything it will be in the future.”

More than 1,000 people have been injured and 13 have been killed on the Concourse in the last four years, according to city data. In light of the staggering losses, Transportation Alternatives has called on the city to bring protected bike lanes, dedicated bus lanes, and safer sidewalks and crosswalks to the entire length of the Grand Concourse. So far, more than 3,000 people have signed on to TA’s “Complete the Concourse” campaign.

The effort also has the support of the Bronx Health REACH Coalition, which aims to combat the high rates of diabetes and heart disease in the southwest Bronx. “We have one of the highest rates of obesity in the Bronx, and having a safe Concourse means people will want to get out, they’ll be able to ride their bikes and they’ll feel much safer,” said Amril Hamer, who lives near the Concourse at 165th Street and Gerard Avenue.

Hamer, who bikes in the neighborhood, said the Grand Concourse’s current un-protected bike lanes leave much to be desired. “They don’t have that bike lane infrastructure in place, so we’re competing with the double-parked cars, somebody maybe opening a car door on you or something like that, so it’s not safe at all,” she said.

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Vanessa Gibson Endorses Grand Concourse Protected Bike Lane

Council Member Vanessa Gibson wants protected bike lanes on the Grand Concourse. After meeting with Bronx Transportation Alternatives volunteers this week, Gibson signed onto the campaign, joining four other council members whose districts include the Concourse.

Below 162nd Street, there is no bike infrastructure whatsoever on the Grand Concourse. Above 162nd, where the street becomes a divided road with service lanes, there is a buffered bike lane that’s frequently obstructed by double-parked cars.

The Grand Concourse is one of four “Vision Zero Great Streets” in the city supposed to receive safer designs as part of upcoming reconstruction projects. It consistently ranks as one of the state’s most dangerous roads for pedestrians.

Gibson joins council members Fernando Cabrera, Andrew Cohen, Rafael Salamanca, Ritchie Torres in supporting TA’s “Complete the Concourse” campaign, which has amassed 2,500 petition signatures. The effort also has the tacit support of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., who committed to safer bike lanes on Grand Concourse in his February “State of the Borough” address.

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De Blasio, Vacca, Trottenberg Rebuff Opponents of East Tremont Safety Plan

A leader of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association tried to thwart DOT’s safety plan for East Tremont Avenue at a town hall in the Bronx last night and was firmly rebuffed by Mayor de Blasio, Council Member Jimmy Vacca, and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. After the exchange, Raisa Jimenez, whose son Giovianni Nin was killed by a hit-and-run driver on East Tremont earlier this year, made an emotional plea to prevent the further loss of life.

East Tremont Avenue between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard is an exceptionally dangerous 1.1-mile stretch where hundreds of people were injured between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Angel Figueroa, 74, was struck and killed at the intersection of Puritan Avenue in 2013.

The DOT plan would convert the two-way street from four lanes to two, with a center turn lane and pedestrian islands [PDF]. Community Board 10 voted against the project when DOT first proposed it last year, and the agency set it aside. On June 11, Nin, 26, was struck and killed on East Tremont, and Vacca prodded DOT to proceed with the redesign.

Last night John Cerini of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association attacked de Blasio and Vacca for moving ahead with the project. You can watch the entire exchange — about nine minutes — in the video above.

“We voted for you. You represent us,” Cerini told de Blasio. “We’re not in England, we’re not a monarchy. We’re not asking you to be our king and make decisions for us… Our community board voted against this.” He asked opponents of the project to identify themselves, and nearly 50 hands went up.

“I think you’re misreading the Constitution a little here,” said de Blasio. “We are elected with the point of saying to people what we intend to do, and I certainly talked about Vision Zero and what it would mean for this city to protect people, because we were losing hundreds of people per year.”

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Tonight: Tell Mayor de Blasio the Bronx Supports a Safer Tremont Avenue

Mayor de Blasio will hold a town hall in Throggs Neck tonight, and Transportation Alternatives organizers are expecting a significant turnout from a small but vocal group of area residents and businesses who oppose a DOT road diet for East Tremont Avenue.

East Tremont Avenue is where a hit-and-run driver killed 26-year-old Giovanni Nin as he was biking to his girlfriend’s house from work on June 11. The crash happened near Mayflower Avenue, just a block from where three drivers struck and killed 74-year-old Angel Figueroa in 2013.

A 2015 DOT safety plan called for a road diet, pedestrian islands, and other improvements that could have saved Nin’s life [PDF]. But the Throggs Neck Merchants Association and other groups organized to defeat the plan and Bronx Community Board 10 voted against it. DOT did not implement the project as scheduled.

In this video from a June memorial ride honoring Nin, made by TA’s Luke Ohlson, local Council Member Jimmy Vacca blasts CB 10 for voting against the plan.

At Vacca’s urging, DOT has since moved to implement the traffic-calming plan by the end of the summer. Now opponents are expected to vent at the mayor himself at this evening’s town hall. Nin’s family and members of TransAlt’s Bronx Committee will also be in attendance to support the road diet.

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Bronx CB 8 Delays Vote on Play Street Where Driver Killed 8-Year-Old

Bronx Community Board 8 delayed a decision on whether to approve a play street application from the school where a motorist killed 8-year-old Rylee Ramos, when people complained that a play street at a different school would interfere with their driving.

Responding to complaints from motorists, Bronx CB 8 postponed a decision on a play street application from the school where Rylee Ramos was killed by a curb-jumping driver.

When motorists complained, Bronx CB 8 postponed a decision on a play street application from the school where Rylee Ramos was killed by a curb-jumping driver.

The Riverdale Press reports that the 50th Precinct has joined P.S. 307, Horace Mann School, and St. Margaret’s of Cortona in requesting that CB 8 sign off on opening street space to kids during school days. The schools already cordon streets for children, but they want to make it official, which NYPD says is important in the event of a crash.

“By formalizing this process and enforcing it, responsibility for an accident would land squarely on the shoulders of the driver,” Deputy Inspector Terence O’Toole, commanding officer of the 50th Precinct, told the Press.

In 2014 a motorist backed onto the sidewalk on Eames Place outside P.S. 307 in Kingsbridge Heights, striking 10 people and killing Ramos. Since then, according to the Press, the 50th Precinct has positioned barricades to keep motorists off the street at drop-off and dismissal times.

While Horace Mann and St. Margaret’s are applying for drop-off and dismissal play street hours, P.S. 307, which doesn’t have a playground, wants to keep one block of Eames Place open to children for the entire school day.

“We are desperate to find a place for our students to go out and to be able to run around and just have some exercise,” P.S. 307 assistant principal Debra Springsteen told the CB 8 land use committee at a meeting last month. “There’s 150 kids in the lunchroom. They’re screaming at each other in the lunchroom because they just don’t get a chance to be outside. So, that’s why we’re imploring.”

DOT requires that school play street applications be endorsed by the local precinct and community board, and the committee chose to postpone a vote on all three requests until September. “The panel said the delay would allow more time for the community to discuss the issue,” the Press reported.

Despite entreaties from NYPD and school officials, disgruntled motorists carried the day.

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DOT Overrides CB 10, Advances E. Tremont Safety Project After Cyclist Death

DOT will implement a road diet on the stretch of East Tremont Avenue where a motorist killed cyclist Giovanni Nin in June. Last year DOT had dropped the project in response to a hostile reception from Bronx Community Board 10.

How do Mayor de Blasio and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg determine when a street safety project should move forward regardless of the local community board vote?

In early 2015, DOT proposed a number of improvements for East Tremont between Williamsbridge Road and Bruckner Boulevard [PDF]. The plan would reduce through traffic lanes and add a center turn lane, pedestrian islands, and other traffic-calming measures. No bike lanes were included in the project.

Hundreds of people were injured in crashes on this segment of East Tremont between 2009 and 2013, according to DOT. Twenty-one of the injuries were severe or fatal. Fifty-nine of the victims were pedestrians and 10 were cyclists. In 2013, three drivers struck and killed Angel Figueroa, 74, as he tried to cross East Tremont at Puritan Avenue.

CB 10 voted against the plan after the Throggs Neck Merchants Association rallied people to oppose it, according to the Bronx Times. “DOT stated that it would be happy to abide with the CB 10 decision,” the paper reported.

A year after DOT abandoned the East Tremont project, a hit-and-run driver killed Nin, 26, while he was riding his bike about a block away from where Figueroa was hit.

At a memorial event for Nin last month, City Council Member James Vacca blamed CB 10 for derailing the East Tremont improvements. Then on July 11 he wrote to DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Constance Moran [PDF], telling the agency to follow through on the project:

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