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Senior Killed by Bus Driver in Bronx; Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Man in Queens

Two NYC pedestrians were killed by motorists over the weekend. One of the victims was a senior; the other was struck by a hit-and-run driver in the City Council district represented by Eric Ulrich, where at least five pedestrians have died in traffic in 2013.

Gloria Mabry. Photo via Daily News

Gloria Mabry. Photo via Daily News

Last Friday evening at approximately 6:45 p.m., 74-year-old Gloria Mabry was walking to her Bronx home when she was hit by an MTA bus driver. According to reports, Mabry was pushing a grocery cart along Co-Op City Boulevard when the bus driver struck her while turning left from Co-Op City Boulevard onto Dreiser Loop.

From the Daily News:

Mabry ended up getting caught under the rear wheels of the bus, horrified witnesses said. Paramedics rushed Mabry to Jacobi Medical Center, but doctors were unable to save her.

“My mother was 74 years old and bringing home a cart of groceries,” Mabry’s son, Reginald Mabry, told News 12. “There’s no way whatsoever that a vehicle going a safe speed could not have seen that little lady.”

“It wasn’t immediately clear if Mabry had the light when she was crossing,” reported the AP. In other words, it’s not known who had the right of way. The NYPD public information office had no details on how the crash unfolded, or whether summonses were issued. A spokesperson said the investigation was “ongoing,” which often means police are awaiting toxicology reports on the victim.

Mabry was killed in the City Council district represented by Andy King, and in the 45th Precinct, where as of October local officers had issued 227 speeding tickets in 2013, and 16 citations for failure to yield to a pedestrian.

At around 3:15 a.m. Saturday, Yunior Antonio Perez Rodriguez, 35, was struck as he tried to cross Woodhaven Boulevard at Jamaica Avenue. He was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. The driver fled the scene.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Reading in Ozone Park’s New Plaza

Ozone Park children read at The Uni portable library during the November 2 grand opening. Photo: DOT/The Unit

The Uni set up a portable library for the November 2 grand opening of the Ozone Park plaza. Photo: DOT/The Uni

The intersection of Liberty Avenue and 101st Avenue sits on the border of Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, and Ozone Park, Queens. A few blocks from the A train and surrounded by small businesses, it’s a natural hub for the neighborhood, but the road configuration gave over large areas of the angled intersection to cars. Last year, the Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services Corp. (BACDYS) applied to DOT’s plaza program, and last month, the finishing touches were put on the new plaza space.

BACDYS, the maintenance partner for the plaza, hosted a grand opening celebration on November 2, featuring portable library set up by The Uni Project, which brings books to sidewalks and public plazas across the city.

Ozone Park's new plaza stretches along Liberty Avenue. Photo: DOT

Ozone Park’s new plaza stretches along Liberty Avenue. Image: DOT

During the planning process, DOT had discussed a few design concepts with the community, including a plaza on the south side of the intersection along Liberty Avenue. The final result creates a plaza that stretches along 101st Avenue, which was converted from two-way to one-way traffic flow, and on Drew Street between 101st and Liberty Avenues.

The plan was refined during public workshops in May and August, and received support from Council Member Eric Ulrich, U.S. Representatives Nydia Velasquez and Ed Towns, Brooklyn Community Board 5, Queens CB 9, and a number of adjacent businesses.

Ulrich’s office tells Streetsblog that a few business owners were upset with the loss of 11 parking spaces. Two weeks ago, Ulrich held a meeting with merchants and DOT to discuss potential changes to the plaza, including a reduction in its size to restore a few of the parking spaces that were removed.

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Cyclist Gary Zammett Sr. Killed in Howard Beach; Where Is Eric Ulrich?

A cyclist was killed by a motorist in Howard Beach this week, on a street where residents say drivers routinely ignore stop signs. The crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Eric Ulrich, who has not responded to inquiries concerning street safety in the district.

Locals say motorists routinely run stop signs on 84th Street in Howard Beach, where Gary Zammett Sr. was killed. No charges were filed. Photo: The Forum

Gary Zammett Sr. was out to buy cheesecake for his wife when he was hit by the unnamed driver of an SUV at 84th Street and 160th Avenue at around 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, according to reports in the Queens Chronicle and the Forum. A family member said he suffered extensive injuries to his face and limbs. Zammett, thought to be in his 50s or 60s, died at Jamaica Hospital about 90 minutes after the crash.

Reports don’t provide details of the crash itself, but locals say motorists regularly break the law on 84th Street. From the Chronicle:

Eighty-fourth Street is a major thoroughfare in the Rockwood Park section of Howard Beach. It is the only two-way route in that section of the neighborhood besides Cross Bay Boulevard and connects the community with Lindenwood on the other side of the Belt Parkway.

“That intersection was a ticking time bomb that exploded,” said a resident who lives a block away, who identified himself only as Gary. “We need more lights on 84th Street.”

The intersection has a four-way stop — as do most of the others along 84th Street — but Gary and other residents say drivers often run the signs. Jones said she and her family witnessed cars jumping the stop sign at the scene when they visited after the accident.

“We saw cars physically run straight through the stop sign,” she said.

Immediately after the incident, police officers pulled over drivers near the intersection who ran through stop signs or were not wearing their seatbelts.

The driver who killed Zammett was not charged.

Reports say Zammett’s family members and Community Board 10 want a stop light at 84th Street and 160th Avenue. Since motorists are ignoring existing stop signs, it seems consistent enforcement is also needed. The 106th Precinct, where the crash occurred, issued 1,036 citations for red-light running in 2012, and 746 tickets for disobeying street signs.

There were seven pedestrian and cyclist injuries, and one pedestrian fatality, along a nine-block stretch of 84th Street south of the Belt Parkway between 1995 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat. No crashes were reported during that time frame at the intersection where Zammett was killed.

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Eric Ulrich Won’t Say What He’s Doing About Vehicular Killings in His District

After reiterating his opposition to speed cameras, and following the deaths of at least six pedestrians and cyclists in his district in the last 15 months, Queens City Council Member Eric Ulrich isn’t talking about street safety.

On the subject of keeping New Yorkers safe from dangerous drivers, Eric Ulrich is uncharacteristically silent.

At the end of June, an editorial from Alexander Blenkinsopp — an Ulrich constituent and member of Community Board 9 and the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association — applauded state lawmakers for approving NYC’s speed camera demonstration program. Blenkinsopp said he hoped the cameras would be used to slow speeding drivers near schools in Woodhaven. He also noted anti-enforcement rhetoric from Ulrich, which peaked before the council endorsed the speed camera measure.

Ulrich said at a committee meeting in March that speed cameras would be “punishing the middle class.” He went on to call them a “stupid and moronic idea” and “part of a radical agenda,” adding for good measure, “This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of in my life.” He condoned drivers speeding down school streets at night when nobody is around.

Blenkinsopp said that at least six pedestrians and cyclists died in traffic in Woodhaven between 1996 and 2009. At least six pedestrians and cyclists have been killed by drivers in Ulrich’s district since May 2012, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Since March, when Ulrich told Streetsblog he believes speed cameras are a revenue scam, at least one pedestrian has died in his district — Rafael Diaz, a senior struck by a motorist on May 16.

Speeding is the leading factor in NYC traffic deaths, and the probability of pedestrian death increases dramatically with motorist speed. Yet Ulrich’s disdain for automated speed enforcement is unequivocal. “We agree to disagree,” he tweeted in reply to Blenkinsopp’s editorial.

Despite his history of ridiculing DOT traffic calming efforts, however, Ulrich told us he is “committed to ensuring the safety of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists” across the city. “I believe that greater traffic enforcement by the NYPD and installing traffic calming measures such as speed bumps and stop signs in speed prone locations is the best way to achieve this goal,” he wrote.

After Ulrich weighed in on Blenkinsopp’s editorial, we emailed him and two of his staffers. We asked Ulrich what measures he has taken to improve traffic enforcement and traffic calming in his district, and where he stands on the deployment of speed cameras near Woodhaven schools, as called for by Blenkinsopp. When we didn’t hear back, we emailed Ulrich and his staffers again a week later. We received no response.

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Speed Camera Foe Eric Ulrich Says He Cares About Street Safety

Does Eric Ulrich really believe that motorists who drive at up to 45 mph on neighborhood streets “pose no threat to anybody else on the road,” as he said at a City Council hearing Monday? You be the judge.

Eric Ulrich is in favor of traffic calming, when he's not ridiculing it.

We contacted Ulrich’s office yesterday to see if he was aware that motorists have killed at least four pedestrians in his district in the last 11 months. The victims include John Eberling, 76, an active retiree killed by an alleged drunk driver; Sheena Mathew, 38, a mother of young children struck by a motorist who did not stop; Francisco Camacho, 59, hit head-on by a driver on Cross Bay Boulevard; and Rohan Singh, 47, an immigrant from Guyana left to die in the street by a hit-and-run killer.

In an email to Ulrich’s office, we asked if he knew the identities of these victims, and if he has spoken with their families. We asked if he knows that speeding is the lead factor in NYC traffic deaths, and that the probability of pedestrian death increases dramatically with motorist speed.

Ulrich has publicly ridiculed proven safety measures, and his reaction to a bloody crash outside his own district office was to tell those concerned about vehicular violence to “get a life.” In light of his performance on Monday, his opposition to speed cameras, and previous dismissive remarks regarding street safety, we also asked what Ulrich is doing to reduce traffic deaths in his district, assuming he considers them an issue.

Here is his response, in its entirety:

First, let me begin by thanking you for your concern for the safety of my constituents. I share this concern and want you to know that I am committed to ensuring the safety of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike — not only in my district but across the five Boroughs. I believe that greater traffic enforcement by the NYPD and installing traffic calming measures such as speed bumps and stop signs in speed prone locations is the best way to achieve this goal. If the State Legislature approves the use of speed cameras, I believe they will be used primarily as revenue generators for the city’s coffers. Therefore, I am opposed to Res. No. 916-A and will be voting “no” at tomorrow’s stated meeting.

Strip away the platitudes and what we know for sure is that, once again, Eric Ulrich opposes definitive action to reduce crashes and save lives.

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Vacca Defends Speed Cams While Ulrich Defends Speeding

This afternoon, the City Council’s transportation committee held a hearing on resolutions asking Albany to move forward on two street safety initiatives: legislation allowing New York City to start a speed camera demonstration program, and a bill to close a loophole in the state’s careless driving law. Votes on the resolutions are expected at the full City Council meeting on Wednesday.

Eric Ulrich: Speeding drivers "pose no threat to anybody else on the road." Photo: City Council

Most of the hearing today was consumed by heated rhetoric about speed cameras.

Two camps became instantly clear. On one side are council members who support automated enforcement, led by Jimmy Van Bramer of Queens and committee chair James Vacca of the Bronx, who had the backing of advocates including Transportation Alternatives and Tri-State Transportation Campaign. On the other side sat the considerably noisier opposition, led by council members Dan Halloran and Eric Ulrich, both of Queens, backed by AAA New York and related lobbyists.

Ulrich, in particular, used the hearing to dismiss the dangers of speeding, saying that people who drive 10 to 15 mph over the limit (that would be up to 45 mph on local NYC streets) “pose no threat to anybody else on the road.” In fact, the risk of killing a pedestrian skyrockets as vehicle speeds escalate over 20 mph, and speeding was a factor in 81 fatal crashes on NYC streets last year.

After stating that speeding is no big deal, Ulrich attacked the safety record of speed cams. “These are not proven to improve safety. The statistics are bogus. The numbers are fudged,” he claimed. Then Ulrich joined AAA in casting doubts on the city’s implementation of automated enforcement. ”I don’t believe them, and I don’t trust them,” he said of NYC DOT.

Ulrich and Halloran, like the police union and State Senator Marty Golden, say that the city should hire more officers for traffic enforcement instead of pursuing an automated enforcement program, because cameras cannot determine if a driver is drunk or has a suspended license.

Vacca and Van Bramer pushed back. “I am supporting this legislation,” Vacca said, “because these cameras can be another weapon in our arsenal.”

“It is not an either-or approach,” Van Bramer said. “It’s been done successfully in over 100 large cities across the country. There’s no reason to believe it can’t be done on the streets of New York City.”

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Participatory Budgeting Offers Chance to Vote for Livable Streets Projects

Eight city council members have put a portion of their discretionary capital funds up for a vote as part of an exercise in participatory budgeting, which allows residents to decide how the money will be spent in their own neighborhoods. Votes in each district are approaching soon, and there’s an opportunity to support livable streets projects.

With participatory budgeting, residents of a City Council district have a say in how $1 million in discretionary capital funds are spent. Photo: Daniel Latorre/Flickr

The participating council members are David Greenfield, Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, and Jumaane D. Williams of Brooklyn; Dan Halloran, Eric Ulrich, and Mark Weprin of Queens; and Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan. Each has put up $1 million in discretionary capital funds, with residents submitting ideas that will appear in early April on a final ballot, open to district residents age 16 and older.

In Lander’s district, stretching from Cobble Hill to Borough Park, there are five projects related to pedestrian safety and livable streets:

  • A Safe Routes to School project at Yeshiva Torah Temimah, on Ocean Parkway near 18th Avenue [PDF];
  • Extending an upcoming DOT capital project on Church Avenue by adding curb extensions at Coney Island and McDonald Avenues [PDF];
  • Constructing a larger plaza space at the triangle intersection of Church Avenue, 14th Avenue, and 35th Street;
  • Adding capital funds to an existing DOT project on Hicks Street, to gain concrete curb extensions and improve visibility at the intersection with Congress Street;
  • Creation of a new concrete pedestrian plaza adjacent to a community garden at Van Brunt Street and Hamilton Avenue.

Lander is hosting a science fair-style expo where residents can learn more about the projects on the ballot, this Thursday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Park Slope branch of the Brooklyn Public Library.

Council Member Stephen Levin’s office identified two projects that may be of interest in the district, stretching from Park Slope to Greenpoint along the East River waterfront:

Read more…

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John Eberling, 76, Latest to Die in Traffic in Eric Ulrich’s Council District

A Queens senior struck by an alleged drunk driver last week was at least the fourth person to die in traffic in Eric Ulrich’s City Council district in the last six months.

John Eberling. Photo via Daily News

John Eberling, 76, was crossing Jamaica Avenue at 80th Street at approximately 4:30 on the afternoon of February 27 when he was struck by an SUV driven by Viveshdyal Thakoordyal, according to reports.

Eberling, a retired warehouse manager, was declared dead on arrival at Jamaica Hospital.

“He was the sweetest man you could ever know,” said Eberling’s niece, Diana Freeman, to the Daily News. “When my father died, he stepped in and became my surrogate father. He gave me away at my wedding.”

Thakoordyal, 45, was charged with first degree vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated, according to online court records.

Though Eberling’s alleged killer was arrested and charged, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has a history of granting favorable deals in DWI death cases.

Last December, Demitrios Matsoukatidis received probation for killing Ditmars senior Lizardo Aldama. Brown’s office reported that Matsoukatidis had a blood alcohol content of .16, twice the legal limit for driving. He was charged with second degree manslaughter and DWI.

One year ago, Kent Lowrie pleaded guilty to manslaughter and received five years probation, a $1,000 fine, and a six-month license revocation for the death of 6-year-old Zhaneya Butcher in Jamaica. According to reports, Brown’s office feared Lowrie was not drunk enough to get a manslaughter conviction.

This fatal crash occurred in the 102nd Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Henry Sautner, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 102nd Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month at Richmond Hill Library, 118-14 Hillside Ave. Call 718-805-3215 for information.

The City Council district where John Eberling was killed is represented by Eric Ulrich, known among other things for telling New Yorkers concerned about traffic killings to “get a life.” Since last September, at least three other people have lost their lives to motorists in Ulrich’s district: Francisco Camacho, age 59; Ramon Russel, 37; and Sheena Mathew; 38. To encourage Ulrich to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7069, eulrich@council.nyc.gov or @eric_ulrich.

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Jokester Ulrich Welcomes Serious Discussion of Traffic Safety… Just Not Now

Council Member Eric Ulrich, reportedly a top candidate to take on the suddenly vulnerable Anthony Weiner in New York’s 9th congressional district, kept it classy yesterday when asked to explain his own embarrassing Twitter behavior. After telling a constituent to “get a life” for suggesting that bike lanes and traffic calming can help prevent crashes like the one that critically injured a 53-year-old grandmother in his district this weekend, the 26-year-old southeastern Queens rep led off his response to Gothamist’s John del Signore with a Weiner quip:

First of all, I can say with certitude that my Twitter account, to my knowledge, has not been hacked. With that said, I cannot believe that anyone would use a tragic incident like the one that occurred on Friday to advance their own agenda. To suggest that a bike lane would have prevented this from happening is simply absurd. While I welcome a serious discussion about traffic safety in my district, I will not allow people to use this unfortunate event to begin that conversation.

Ulrich told political reporter Azi Paybarah that the constituent who tweeted her traffic safety concerns, who goes by the handle hangingbyastrap, had been “harassing” him. “Don’t use this tragedy to advance your agenda,” Ulrich said.

So don’t harass Eric Ulrich by reminding him that people in his district are getting injured and killed in preventable traffic crashes. Just shut up about the grandmother sent to the hospital with life-threatening injuries after a van driver crashed into another van and jumped the sidewalk in Ozone Park, or the 81-year-old woman who was mowed down by a tow truck driver as she crossed Woodhaven Boulevard. Don’t even bother with the data that show bike lanes make streets safer for motorists and pedestrians in addition to cyclists.

If you want to engage Eric Ulrich in a discussion of traffic safety, you must not tether your remarks to the actual events that cause people to lose life and limb, or the actual solutions that can prevent similar events from happening again.

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Worried About Cars Killing People? Eric Ulrich Says “Get a Life”

Re-posted from Brooklyn Spoke.

On June 2, New York City Council Member Eric Ulrich, the same guy who had the bright idea to introduce a new licensing system for bicyclists, tweeted his own “random observ” about bike lanes:

Interestingly, this tweet no longer shows up in his history.  He may have felt the need to delete it after this tragic incident happened in his district on June 3:

WOMAN STRUCK BY OUT OF CONTROL VAN IN QUEENS

OZONE PARK (WABC) — A grandmother is fighting for her life after two vans collided in Queens. The force of the impact sent one of the vans careening through the intersection and onto the sidewalk.

The victim, a 53-year-old woman, was left sprawled across the pavement, gasping for breath and covered in blood.

Family members say she was waiting on the corner to cross the street, on her way to pick up her grandchildren from school.

The accident happened at 103rd Avenue and 93rd Street in Ozone Park.

Ulrich’s office is at 101st Avenue and 93rd Street.

The next day, a Queens resident and former Community Board 9 member tweeted this reply to Council Member Ulrich, expressing her concern about his priorities:

I can think of about a million possible responses to this if you’re as inclined to dislike bikes, bike racks, and traffic calming as Ulrich appears to be.

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