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Charges Reduced in Manhattan Hit-and-Run Death of Charity Hicks

Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC

Scene of the Midtown crash that killed Charity Hicks. Image: WNBC

Charges have been reduced against a driver who allegedly killed a woman on a Manhattan sidewalk and fled the scene.

On May 31, 2014, Thomas Shanley drove a Dodge SUV onto the curb on 10th Avenue near W. 34th Street, striking a pole that fell on Charity Hicks, according to a criminal court complaint and Gothamist. Hicks, who lived in Detroit and was in the city for a conference, suffered injuries to her head and chest. She died weeks later. A second pedestrian was also injured.

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

Charity Hicks. Photo via Gothamist

The criminal court complaint said video reviewed by NYPD showed the SUV driver “swerve across two lanes of traffic and onto the sidewalk” on 10th Avenue. Shanley’s cell phone, which was recovered at the scene, indicated that the user was sending a text message at the time of the collision, according to the complaint.

Investigators found Shanley, who fled the scene on foot, in New Jersey and arrested him in August 2014, the Daily News reported. He was on parole at the time of the crash.

District Attorney Cy Vance initially charged Shanley with manslaughter and felony leaving the scene — class C and D felonies, respectively. However, the current charges against him are (class D) felony leaving the scene, criminally negligent homicide (a class E felony), and leaving the scene of an incident without reporting (a class A misdemeanor). Vance’s office declined comment on why the manslaughter charge was dismissed, as the case remains open.

In New York City, motorists accused in deadly hit-and-run crashes usually face a top charge of leaving the scene — assuming they are prosecuted at all — and are rarely charged for taking a life. So though the top charge in this case was reduced to felony leaving the scene, it’s noteworthy that Vance elected to pursue a homicide charge and succeeded in securing an indictment.

Class D felonies carry a maximum penalty of seven years in prison. Shanley is expected to go to trial in March. He has been in jail since pleading not guilty in January 2015, court records say.

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NYC Motorists Kill 2 Pedestrians and Critically Injure 2 Others in 3 Days

Giovani Romano was charged with failing to yield for fatally striking Alfiya Djuraeva at 20th Avenue and Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. He was not charged for taking her life. Image: Google Maps

Giovani Romano was charged with failing to yield for fatally striking Alfiya Djuraeva at 20th Avenue and Bath Avenue in Brooklyn. He was not charged for taking her life. Image: Google Maps

In four separate crashes since Thursday, at least two people have been struck and killed while walking, and two others were critically injured.

Last Thursday afternoon Giovani Romano hit 56-year-old Alfiya Djuraeva with a Buick while turning left at 20th Avenue and Bath Avenue in Bath Beach, according to the Daily News and WNBC. Djuraeva suffered trauma to her head and torso and died at Lutheran Hospital.

Romano, 74, was issued a desk appearance ticket for failing to yield, but was not charged for the act of killing Alfiya Djuraeva. The crash occurred in the 62nd Precinct and in the City Council district represented by Vincent Gentile.

Early Saturday morning, a BMW driver going the wrong way on 181st Street near Amsterdam Avenue in Washington Heights hit two people and a pickup truck, then fled the scene, the Daily News reported. A male pedestrian, 46, was killed. The second victim, a 46-year-old woman, was hospitalized. The deceased victim’s name was being withheld pending family notification, NYPD told Streetsblog.

Police charged Jonathan Segura, 34, with manslaughter, leaving the scene, and drunk driving, after Segura turned himself in, the News said.

Read more…

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Cement Truck Driver Kills Nancy Ventura, 61, in College Point

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed Nancy Ventura a block from her Queens home. No charges were filed. Image: WNBC

A cement truck driver killed a pedestrian in College Point last week. Accounts differ on how the crash occurred, and police have filed no charges.

On Friday, January 22, at around 9:21 in the morning, 61-year-old Nancy Ventura was crossing College Point Boulevard at 15th Avenue, east to west, when she was struck by the driver, who was southbound on the boulevard, according to NYPD.

Ventura lived a block away from the crash site. She died at New York-Presbyterian/Queens Hospital, police said.

The Daily News reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the victim “was hit by the cement truck as it made a turn onto 15th Ave.,” but the NYPD public information office could not confirm if the driver was turning or not. Photos from the scene show the truck stopped on College Point Boulevard, with the cab facing away from 15th Avenue — so it’s possible the driver was turning off of 15th, but not onto it.

NYPD often releases conflicting details on serious traffic crashes, and information initially provided by police sources often turns out to be wrong. It’s usually not possible to obtain a final NYPD crash report without a freedom of information request, which — if approved — can take months for the department to process.

No summonses or charges were filed by NYPD or Queens District Attorney Richard Brown as of Thursday afternoon, NYPD told Streetsblog. “No charges were expected to be filed,” the Daily News reported.

This fatal crash occurred in the 109th Precinct, where the response to pedestrian deaths is lecturing people on how to walk. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Thomas Conforti, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 109th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on second Wednesday of the month at the precinct, 37-05 Union Street in Flushing. Call 718-321-2268 for information.

The City Council district where Nancy Ventura was killed is represented by Paul Vallone. To encourage Vallone to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him via phone, email, or Twitter.

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Family of Victoria Nicodemus: Get Reckless Drivers Off NYC Streets

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to share her department's efforts to curb traffic fatalities. Image: David Meyer

At the invitation of Council Member Laurie Cumbo, seated on the left, Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was in Fort Greene last night to talk about DOT street redesigns. Photo: David Meyer

The family of Victoria Nicodemus is calling on NYPD to do more to get reckless drivers off city streets.

Nicodemus died last December when Marlon Sewell struck her with his SUV on a Fort Greene sidewalk, in a crash that injured two other pedestrians. Sewell, whose driving record reportedly includes incidents of unlicensed driving and speeding in school zones, was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation. This month a judge declined to revoke Sewell’s license, which was reinstated after he killed Nicodemus, because Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

Since the vigil and art installation held in her memory, Nicodemus’s siblings have joined other victims of traffic violence and their family members at Vision Zero events, to advocate for more serious charges against Sewell and changes in laws and policies that enable motorist negligence.

At a public event last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller spoke to representatives from DOT and NYPD. Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the area of Fort Greene where Nicodemus was killed, scheduled the forum in response to her death.

While Miller commended both departments for their ongoing Vision Zero efforts, he pressed NYPD to hold dangerous drivers accountable. “I’m wondering why there can’t be more done to immobilize a car, or impound a car, or create some sort of repercussions that have more of an impact that simply arresting a guy, saying ‘Ticket! We arrested him!,’ and letting him walk out the next day and get back in his car,” he asked Dennis Fulton, an NYPD crash investigator.

Fulton said the department is committed to filing additional charges against Sewell, but is limited by current laws. “I understand your sister, you know, she was on the sidewalk, she had no chance — and that’s pretty evident from the video,” Fulton said. “We’re going to act within the parameters that we’ve been dealt and we’ll do our best to bring criminal charges against the individual.”

“These are legislative proposals that we can pursue,” said Fulton, “but the police department acts within the parameters of those particular laws.”

Thompson’s office didn’t send anyone to last night’s event.

Read more…

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NYPD: Still Defending Hit-and-Run Drivers to the Press [Updated]

A video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver suspected of killing him approaches from behind. Image: WNBC

Surveillance video shows Can Reng Ma cycling on Avenue U as the truck driver who killed him approaches from behind. NYPD told the press the driver may not have known he hit Ma because his truck was big and the crash happened too fast. Image: WNBC

Update: As of late Wednesday afternoon police have a suspect in custody and charges are pending, according to NYPD.

A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist in Sheepshead Bay yesterday, and NYPD made excuses for the driver to the media.

Can Reng Ma, 54, was riding west on Avenue U near E. 9th Street at around 5 p.m. when he was hit by the driver of a box truck traveling in the same direction, according to the NYPD public information office and published reports. The driver did not stop.

Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC

Ma was the first New York City cyclist reported killed by a motorist in 2016. Image: WNBC

Police told AMNY the truck was a 2016 Freightliner with Indiana plates, and the Post reported that it was a Ryder rental. The driver remained at large this afternoon, an NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog.

Ma, who came to the U.S. from China seven years ago, was on his way home from work when he was hit, according to WNBC, which posted video of the victim riding on the street as a large Ryder truck overtakes him. His death was the first reported cyclist fatality of 2016.

Locals told WNBC truck traffic poses a significant danger on this segment of Avenue U, where drivers double-park to unload. “Some days it is unbelievable what goes on over here,” one man said.

In New York City, most drivers who harm people and leave the scene are never charged with a crime. Provided police make an arrest, to win a hit-and-run conviction, state law requires prosecutors to prove a driver knew or had reason to know he hit someone and caused injury — a surprisingly high burden. Many cases are dropped, or are not pursued at all, once a driver claims he “didn’t see” the victim. Even the city’s recently adopted hit-and-run civil penalties depend on the drivers’ word.

Though establishing a hit-and-run driver’s knowledge that a collision occurred is crucial to seeing justice done for the victim, NYPD sources, as they have in the past, offered the person who killed Can Reng Ma a preemptive defense.

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DOT: 1,445 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, 16 Killed in December [Updated]

Ovidio Jaramillo, Thomas Violante, Victoria Nicodemus, and Thomas Kirby

Ovidio Jaramillo, Thomas Violante, Victoria Nicodemus, and Thomas Kirby

Editors’ note: This post was edited after publication to include updated information pertaining to the crash that killed Brooklyn pedestrian Eleonora Shulkin.

Twenty-three people died in New York City traffic in December, and 4,657 were injured, according to the DOT Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of December, DOT reported 149 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists in 2015, and 14,888 injured, compared to 159 deaths and 14,967 injuries in 2014.

Citywide, at least 16 pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers last month. Among the victims were Victoria Nicodemus, Thomas Kirby, Ovidio Jaramillo, Ramnauth Mahabir, Eleonora Shulkin, Thomas Violante, Giovanna Livolsi, Suhuyn Park, and an unnamed female pedestrian in Brooklyn.

Motorists killed at least four seniors in December: Ramnauth Mahabir, 73; Thomas Violante, 72; Giovanna Livolsi, 76; and the unnamed Brooklyn pedestrian, whose age was reported as 77.

DOT reported no cyclist deaths in December.

Across the city, 1,152 pedestrians and 293 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of nine fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, no motorists were known to have been charged criminally for causing a death. Based on NYPD and media accounts, at least four victims were likely walking or cycling with the right of way when they were struck, but police and district attorneys are known to have applied the city’s Right of Way Law in only one of those crashes.

The Daily News reported that MTA bus driver Wayne Alman was charged under the Right of Way Law, code Section 19-190, for striking Eleonora Shulkin in a crosswalk in Sheepshead Bay. However, court records indicate Alman was cited for two traffic infractions under Section 19-190, but was not charged with a misdemeanor for harming the victim. The infraction provision of the Right of Way Law is supposed to apply to right-of-way violations that don’t result in injury. The top charge against Alman is a summons for careless driving, according to court records.

NYPD cited Zafrom Ghafoor with careless driving and failure to yield for fatally striking the unnamed Brooklyn pedestrian.

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Sidewalk Killer Free to Drive Thanks to Judge and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

The man who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk kept his driver’s license because, according to the judge, DA Ken Thompson did not charge him with reckless driving.

A judge refused to take the license of the motorist who killed Victoria Nicodemus on a Brooklyn sidewalk because, she said, District Attorney Ken Thompson filed no charges for reckless driving.

Marlon Sewell was allegedly driving without a valid license when he hit Nicodemus and two other people on Fulton Street on December 6, injuring Nicodemus’s boyfriend and the third victim. Thompson filed a top charge of unlicensed aggravated operation, a low-level misdemeanor and the same charge that police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction.

The DA did not charge Sewell, who reportedly has a history of driving without regard for others’ safety, for the act of killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims — declining even to file charges under the Right of Way Law.

In December Judge Marguerite Dougherty denied a request from Thompson’s office to hold Sewell on bail based on the charges against him. “Without additional charges I see no reason to set bail,” Dougherty said last month. On Monday Dougherty told prosecutors “they had not presented an argument that would revoke … Sewell’s driver’s license,” according to DNAinfo.

“There are no allegations of the defendant recklessly driving,” said Dougherty.

She added that Sewell’s license had only been suspended at the time due to lack of child support and has since been restored.

Prosecutors told Dougherty that video evidence indicates Sewell had no “innocent reason to drive over the curb,” but DNAinfo reported that no additional charges have been filed because Sewell claimed he was “lightheaded” due to a carbon monoxide leak in his car.

Dougherty, who was appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2015, said that since Sewell’s SUV was impounded there was no reason to prevent him from being able to drive legally. “It negates the necessity,” she said.

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Eyes on the Street: Just Another Brush With Death at a Typical NYC Crossing


The design of 29th Street and 39th Avenue in Long Island City is typical of thousands of New York City crossings: an intersection of relatively narrow streets where drivers are allowed to park to the edge of crosswalks with no design elements to force motorists to slow down.

The combination of poor visibility and lack of traffic-calming features leads to crashes like the one in the video, taken Thursday, when an Access-A-Ride driver sped into a crosswalk while turning left and struck a child with a van’s door-mounted mirror. Luckily it appears the child wasn’t seriously hurt.

Jean Cawley, who sent us the video, has written to DOT officials, including Queens DOT Commissioner Nicole Garcia, several times to ask for traffic-calming measures at this intersection and other locations in the area. Cawley also submitted a petition to DOT from residents of Dutch Kills.

Consistent NYPD enforcement wouldn’t hurt either. The 114th Precinct, where the crash in the video occurred, issues an average of just 23 tickets a month to drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians.

Below are images from a two-vehicle collision at the same intersection that sent a cab onto the sidewalk.

“Cars barrel through our streets in a dangerous manner all day, every day,” wrote Cawley in an email to Garcia, with the video and photos attached. “I hope you will help. DOT’s actions may save a life.”

Read more…

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NYC Drivers Killed at Least 16 People on Sidewalks and in Buildings in 2015

A woman who was struck by an unattended taxi in December died from her injuries this week. The driver was not charged by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

Suhuyn Park, 22, and her 21-year-old boyfriend were walking at W. 51st Street and Eighth Avenue at around 8:30 p.m. on December 30 when a yellow cab, a Toyota minivan, rolled onto the sidewalk and struck them both, according to DNAinfo. The cab came to a stop after it hit another taxi.

From the Post:

The 67-year-old cabdriver had gotten out of the car to help his passenger to the sidewalk when the vehicle suddenly started rolling, cops said.

Park, who lived in South Korea, died Monday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Her boyfriend was treated for injuries and released.

No charges were filed. NYPD told the Daily News police “do not believe criminal activity played a role in the tragic accident.”

In 2009 a van left idling by a commercial driver killed toddlers Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez on a sidewalk in Chinatown. That driver was not charged by NYPD or former Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau. A state law named after Hayley and Diego created the offense of careless driving, but as is the case with the city’s Right of Way Law, adopted in 2014, NYPD barely uses it.

Park was the 16th person known to have been killed by a New York City motorist on a sidewalk or inside a building in 2015. There were five such fatalities in 2014, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog. Two of the 13 drivers involved in last year’s crashes were charged for taking a life.

At least one other person died as a result of motorist negligence over the holiday break. On Christmas Eve the driver of a commercial van struck and killed a 77-year-old woman at E. 21st Street and Gravesend Neck Road in Sheepshead Bay, according to the Daily News. Police charged Zafrom Ghafoor with careless driving and failure to yield.

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In Memoriam

As of this writing New York City is on track to break the record for the lowest number of pedestrians killed by motorists in a year. The current low mark of 132 139 deaths was set in 2014, the first year of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative.

To live up to his pledge to take Vision Zero “a lot farther,” Mayor de Blasio will have to use every tool at his disposal.

To live up to his pledge to take Vision Zero “a lot farther,” Mayor de Blasio will have to use every tool at his disposal.

Assuming the official numbers bear it out, the de Blasio administration deserves credit for this milestone. Lowering the city’s default speed limit, adopting laws to hold negligent drivers accountable for causing harm, and deploying the maximum number of speed enforcement cameras permitted by Albany have almost certainly helped reduce the death toll.

In addition, in 2015 de Blasio defended the Right of Way Law from attacks by state lawmakers and the Transport Workers Union, which mounted an ugly full-bore campaign to exempt bus drivers from responsibility for striking people in crosswalks. Responding to decades of citizen activism, de Blasio reduced auto traffic in Central Park and Prospect Park, while his DOT began a project that should make notorious Queens Boulevard safer, and announced plans to bring a long-awaited protected bike lane to Amsterdam Avenue. After a series of pedestrian killings at the hands of motorists last fall, the mayor stood with victims of traffic violence and promised to take Vision Zero “a lot farther.”

Another record low number of traffic deaths would surely grab headlines. However, it looks like injuries will remain mostly static from 2014 to 2015. Injury figures are not as prone to random variation and are a more reliable safety indicator than fatalities. To get those numbers down, and to further mitigate needless loss of life, the de Blasio administration will have to fully commit to prioritizing walking, biking, and transit over driving.

Streets that are safer for cyclists tend to be safer for everyone, yet this year DOT backed away from de Blasio’s commitment for 6 percent bicycle mode share by 2020. DOT has shied away from adding bike lanes to streets that are crucial to creating a viable bike network, even when City Council members want them. The agency’s timidity was highlighted this year by the grassroots “Department of Transformation,” which conducts low-cost street reclamations where DOT has failed to act.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton made clear his attitude toward livable streets when he suggested that the Times Square plazas be ripped out — a public relations disaster de Blasio declined to contain. Given Bratton’s apparent distaste for people-oriented streets, it’s little wonder NYPD has applied the Right of Way Law only a few dozen times since it took effect in 2014. NYPD still investigates a fraction of all traffic crashes, and hit-and-run drivers are almost never brought to justice. In a year when motorists killed at least 15 people on sidewalks and in buildings, NYPD precincts advised seniors to wear bright clothing and focused enforcement on people walking and riding bikes.

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