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Posts from the "Peter Koo" Category

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Council Overrides Bloomberg Veto of NYPD Hit-and-Run Transparency Bill

The City Council today voted to override a number of vetoes handed down by former Mayor Bloomberg. According to the Staten Island Advance, among the bills passed was Intro 1055, which requires NYPD to release information on hit-and-run crashes and investigations.

The bill mandates that NYPD report quarterly on the total number of “critical injury” hit-and-run crashes, the number of crashes that resulted in arrest, and the number of crashes for which no arrest was made. It requires the department to provide the council with crash locations, and “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate” each incident. Crash data, disaggregated by precinct, will be posted online.

The council originally passed the bill in December. In his veto message, Bloomberg said the bill was unworkably vague, and claimed that requiring NYPD to reveal hit-and-run data would compromise investigations while “draining scarce resources from actual police functions.”

Intro 1055 was co-authored by former Council Member Leroy Comrie, along with Peter Koo and Rosie Mendez. Koo told Streetsblog in January that he would work to override the veto. The transportation committee, led by new chairman Ydanis Rodriguez, voted unanimously to override last week.

NYPD is required to begin compliance with the law in July 2015.

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Koo Will Try Override After Bloomberg Vetoes NYPD Hit-and-Run Bill

As one of his last acts in office, Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed a bill that would have required NYPD to report to the City Council and the public on hit-and-run crashes. With lead sponsor Leroy Comrie also gone from City Hall, Council Member Peter Koo plans to marshal an effort to override the veto.

Intro 1055, passed by the council in December, would mandate that NYPD report quarterly on the total number of “critical injury” hit-and-run crashes, the number of crashes that resulted in arrest, and the number of crashes for which no arrest was made. The bill would require the department to provide the council with crash locations, and “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate” each incident. Crash data, disaggregated by precinct, would be posted online.

The hit-and-run bill was born of frustration and grief caused by NYPD’s indifference toward crash victims and their loved ones — investigations that did not start for weeks after a fatal crash and, predictably, yielded no evidence; families left in the dark on what police were doing to bring a relative’s killer to justice. According to Transportation Alternatives, of 60 fatal hit-and-runs investigated in 2012, NYPD arrested just 15 drivers.

For all his DOT did to make streets safer for walking and biking, Bloomberg let NYPD’s deterrence of traffic violence stagnate under commissioner Ray Kelly. Bloomberg’s veto message [PDF], probably drafted with significant input from NYPD, called the language of the bill unworkably vague, and claimed that requiring NYPD to reveal hit-and-run data would compromise investigations while ”draining scarce resources from actual police functions.”

Intro 1055 was co-authored by Comrie, Koo, and Rosie Mendez. With Comrie termed out, Koo’s office says he has not given up on the bill. “Councilman Peter Koo will take the lead and work with the new speaker to override the mayor’s veto,” said Koo spokesperson Ian Chan. “He intends to enact this very important piece of legislation.”

Said TA general counsel Juan Martinez, in an emailed statement: “The NYPD must make the arrest of hit-and-run drivers a top priority, because to do otherwise gives criminal drivers permission to remain on the road, which puts us all at risk, and prolongs families’ pain. New York is better than that. We will be calling on the council’s next transportation and public safety chairs to work with the NYPD and determine whether the department is giving victims’ families and all New Yorkers the justice they deserve.”

Asked whether Koo would re-introduce the bill if an override fails, Chan said the council member is focused on seeing the bid through. “Working with the speaker, of course.”

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Council Passes Hit-and-Run Bill; Greenfield Tables Speed Limit Legislation

The City Council yesterday passed legislation requiring NYPD to post regular reports on the most serious hit-and-run crashes, while a bill to lower speed limits on certain streets has been set aside until next year.

The hit-and-run bill would mandate that NYPD report in writing quarterly on the total number of “critical injury” hit-and-run crashes, the number of crashes that resulted in arrest, and the number of crashes for which no arrest was made. NYPD would further be required to provide the council with crash locations, and “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate” each incident. Crash data are to be disaggregated by precinct and posted online.

Critical injury status would be determined by emergency responders. FDNY EMS guidelines define a critically injured person as “a patient either receiving CPR, in respiratory arrest, or requiring and receiving life sustaining ventilator/circulatory support.”

If signed by Mayor Bloomberg, the bill would take effect in July 2015. The hit-and-run bill was authored by Council Members Leroy Comrie, Peter Koo, and Rosie Mendez.

“The sad and unfortunate case of Dante Dominguez — who was struck and killed by a hit and run driver last fall — along with the tragic deaths of many New Yorkers brings us together for today’s vote,” said Mendez, in a written statement. “This action is the very least that can be done to make sure that Dante’s untimely passing was not in vain and will, in fact, be the first step toward systemic change and additional measures led by the NYPD.”

“Furthermore,” said Mendez, “I hope the State Senate will adopt legislation to strengthen the investigative measures taken by the NYPD within the vicinity of any hit and run accident that results in a fatality or severe injury.”

Dante Dominguez was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Flushing in November 2012. Patrick Dominguez, the victim’s brother, told council members earlier this month that the NYPD investigation did not begin until a week after the crash. The driver was not caught.

NYPD currently investigates a tiny fraction of total pedestrian and cyclist injuries. According to Transportation Alternatives, of some 300 investigations conducted by the Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers. Just 15 of those investigations resulted in arrest.

In other council news, a bill that would lower speed limits to 25 miles per hour on narrow one-way streets has been shelved. Sponsor David Greenfield issued the following statement Thursday:

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Vaccaro: NYPD Coerces Injured Hit-and-Run Victims to Not Pursue Charges

The City Council transportation committee met today to gather testimony on NYPD hit-and-run crash investigations, but NYPD didn’t send anyone to the hearing. The committee also took up a bill that would codify updates to DOT’s innovative Street Design Manual.

Family members of hit-and-run victim Dante Dominguez, with Council Members Rosie Mendez and Leroy Comrie. Photo: ##http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/flushing-hit-and-run-inspires-council-bill/article_232113e3-a3d4-5ca0-97dd-f26b871953ca.html##Queens Chronicle##

Family members of hit-and-run victim Dante Dominguez, with City Council Members Rosie Mendez and Leroy Comrie. The driver who killed Dominguez was not caught. His brother says NYPD did not start its investigation until a week after the crash. Photo: Queens Chronicle

Intro 1055 would require NYPD to report to the council every two years on hit-and-run crashes that result in serious injury or death, including the number of crashes per precinct, and to provide “a brief description of what steps were taken to investigate each such incident.” Bill sponsor Leroy Comrie said today that hit-and-run fatalities have increased by 31 percent since 2010, with 47 deaths in 2012.

“The families want to know if NYPD has thoroughly pursued all avenues of evidence in actively finding the perpetrators that claimed their loved ones,” said Comrie. “They deserve to know the status of their investigation and what they can realistically expect to happen. And the public needs to know that these crimes are not simply swept under the rug, but actively pursued.”

Comrie also wants NYPD to collect video evidence within a five block radius of hit-and-run crashes, though this would take the form of a resolution, rather than a law, since the council believes it can not force the department to change the way it handles crash investigations.

During testimony, Juan Martinez, general counsel for Transportation Alternatives, said hit-and-run collisions are “perhaps the most callous criminal act that a driver can commit.” Of some 300 investigations by the Collision Investigation Squad in 2012, Martinez said, around 60 involved hit-and-run drivers. Of those, only 15 resulted in an arrest.

Martinez said more oversight would lead to better enforcement. “Government can’t manage what it can’t measure,” he said.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro joined Martinez in suggesting changes to the hit-and-run bill. Martinez recommended crash data be shared with the public as well as the council, and Vaccaro said reports should come once or twice a year, instead of every other year. Said Vaccaro: ”I think this data is going to show there’s a big problem here.”

Vaccaro testified that, based on his firm’s experience with clients and other crash victims who seek guidance over the phone, New York City police officers often refuse to take a report on a hit-and-run unless an injured victim agrees to be transported to a hospital by ambulance. This can be a deterrent for victims who have no health insurance, or who are not aware of coverage available to them through the Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation, which offers compensation for crashes caused by uninsured drivers. Many times, Vaccaro said, victims are traumatized to the extent that they don’t realize they need medical care until hours after a crash.

Shockingly, in some instances Vaccaro said NYPD officers threaten not to include a perpetrator’s license plate number in a report, if it is known to police, unless an injured victim agrees to not pursue a criminal case. “Hit-and-run is a criminal offense that needs to be treated as one,” said Vaccaro. “Someone should not be forced to choose between insurance and compensation for their injuries and seeing the driver who injured them and then drove off from the scene brought to justice.”

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Dante Dominguez Latest Hit-and-Run Victim in Peter Koo’s Council District

At least four people have been killed by hit-and-run drivers in the City Council district represented by Peter Koo, who likes public plazas but has said safe street infrastructure belongs in the suburbs. Photo: Daily News

A man killed in Queens over the weekend was at least the fourth pedestrian in 2012 to die in Peter Koo’s City Council district, and at least the fourth pedestrian fatality in the 109th Precinct this year. All four crashes were hit-and-runs.

Dante Dominguez, a 45-year-old father of three, was struck by the driver of a black BMW at the intersection of 41st Avenue and Union Street in Flushing on Friday at approximately 11:20 p.m., according to reports. The driver fled the scene.

Dominguez lived upstate and was visiting family, friends told the Post. He was described as ”a great artist, extremely talented, humble, funny and cool.”

Less than two weeks before Dominguez’s death, 76-year-old Victor Florio was killed on Booth Memorial Avenue by a motorist who ran from the scene on foot but was later apprehended. In March, a hit-and-run driver took the life of an unidentified 65-year-old man at 149th Street and 45th Avenue. The MTA bus driver who struck 22-year-old Meilan Jin at Northern Boulevard and Union Street in February did not stop.

Council Member Koo is a fan of public plazas, but he hasn’t had much to say about traffic-calming during his first term, except to declare his opposition to bike lanes, which can improve safety for all street users. To encourage Koo to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, which could include lending his vocal support to the Crash Investigation Reform Act, contact him at 212-788-7022 or pkoo@council.nyc.gov. You can also awaken his dormant Twitter account @PeterKoo2009.

The 109th Precinct made headlines in 2009 when an officer driving at high speed slammed into a pedestrian on Queens Boulevard, a suspicious crash that NYPD pinned on the victim. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Brian J. Maguire, the precinct’s commanding officer, go to the next community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at the precinct. Call the precinct at (718) 321-2268 for information.