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Posts from the Carnage Category

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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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DOT: 1,382 Pedestrians and Cyclists Injured, 19 Killed in November

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Helen Marszalek, Floria Burton, Luisa Rosario, and Rukhsana Khan

Twenty-five people died in New York City traffic in November, and 4,466 were injured, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of November, DOT reported 131 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 13,705 injured, compared to 146 deaths and 13,563 injuries for the same period in 2014.

Citywide, at least 19 pedestrians were fatally struck by drivers last month. Among the victims were Leila Enukasvili, Mitchel Darroux, Carol Bell, Floria Burton, Agalia Gounaris, Luisa Rosario, Charles Kinyeti, Helen Marszalek, Sofiya Ostrovskaya, John Saldiran, Rukhsana Khan, Yvette Molina, Liana Platika, Bella Markowitz, an unnamed female pedestrian in Manhattan, and three unnamed male pedestrians in Queens.

Motorists killed at least 10 seniors in November: Mitchel Darroux. 72; Carol Bell, 70; Agalia Gounaris, 84; Luisa Rosario, 88; Helen Marszalek, 70; Sofiya Ostrovskaya, 66; Liana Platika, 84; Bella Markowitz, 85; the unnamed female pedestrian in Manhattan, 86; and an unnamed male pedestrian in Queens, 68.

DOT reported no cyclist deaths in November.

Across the city, 1,031 pedestrians and 351 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 18 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets, one motorist was known to have been charged criminally for causing a death: Michael McBean was charged with manslaughter and leaving the scene for the crash that killed Yvette Molina, in Brooklyn.

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DOT, Chaim Deutsch, and CB 15 Set Stage for Latest MTA Pedestrian Death

When Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn CB 15 objected, DOT dropped a plan that would have eliminated B36 turns at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

When Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn CB 15 objected, DOT dropped a plan that would have eliminated B36 turns at the intersection where an MTA bus driver killed Eleonora Shulkin, indicated by the red arrows. Image: DOT

An MTA bus driver killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Sheepshead Bay Monday. The crash happened at an intersection where DOT planned to eliminate bus turns, but the project was shelved in response to opposition from City Council Member Chaim Deutsch and Brooklyn Community Board 15.

Eleonora Shulkin, 62, was crossing E. 17th Street at around 6 p.m. when she was struck by the driver of a B36, who was turning left from Avenue Z.

The intersection where the crash occurred has marked crosswalks and traffic signals, with no apparent dedicated turn phase for vehicles. Shulkin was crossing east to west in the E. 17th Street crosswalk, according to WABC. Anonymous police sources told News 12 the victim had the right of way, but the NYPD public information office could not confirm. Police have not released the driver’s name and no charges were filed as of this morning.

MTA bus drivers have killed at least four people walking since November 1. Three of the four victims were in the crosswalk and were hit by bus drivers making turns.

Reducing conflicts between pedestrians and turning buses is one Vision Zero strategy to reduce pedestrian injuries and deaths. Last summer DOT and the MTA proposed to straighten the B36’s circuitous route on Avenue Z and Sheepshead Bay Road between E. 17th Street and E. 14th Street. By keeping buses on Avenue Z, where stops would have been centralized, DOT aimed to improve safety at a number of crossings where collisions are frequent — including the site of Monday’s crash, where the left turn for B36 buses would have been eliminated.

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4 Times DA Ken Thompson Pursued Token Charges Against Unlicensed Killers

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

It appears Victoria Nicodemus is another innocent pedestrian whose life will be devalued by Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson.

Police and prosecutors say Marlon Sewell was driving without a valid license when he struck Victoria Nicodemus and two other people on a Fort Greene sidewalk last Sunday, killing Nicodemus and injuring her boyfriend and the third victim. According to the Post and DNAinfo, Sewell was also arrested for unlicensed driving last March, and in November was summonsed for speeding in school zones three times in one week.

On the rare occasions when New York City district attorneys charge sober drivers for killing people, the defendants are usually accused of especially brazen acts of negligence or have a history of reckless driving. It seems Sewell meets that criteria, but according to court records, Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson charged him only with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating a motor vehicle while unlicensed — an unclassified misdemeanor and a traffic infraction.

Compared to other DAs, Thompson is seen as a leader among district attorneys when it comes to Vision Zero. Yet for an allegedly unlicensed defendant who mounted a sidewalk and killed a 30-year-old woman as she shopped for Christmas decorations, the Brooklyn DA feels a maximum sentence of $500 and 30 days in jail is appropriate. This is the same penalty an unlicensed driver would face for making a turn without signaling. Maximum penalties, however, are virtually unheard of. Plea deals for aggravated unlicensed operation usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone.

Since taking office in 2014, Thompson has applied or accepted pleas for a top charge of unlicensed operation after several crashes that took victims’ lives, including cases he inherited from former DA Charles Hynes.

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Victoria Nicodemus, 14th Person Killed by Curb-Jumping NYC Driver in 2015

The blue dot is the approximate location of the crash that killed Victoria Nicodemus. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Victoria Nicodemus photo via Daily News. Map image: DOT Vision Zero View

The blue dot is the approximate location where a driver fatally struck Victoria Nicodemus on a sidewalk in Fort Greene. The red dot is where a curb-jumping driver killed 9-year-old Lucian Merryweather in 2013. Both crashes happened in the 88th Precinct, where cops issue an average of about 10 speeding tickets a month. Map: DOT Vision Zero View

An alleged unlicensed driver who witnesses say was traveling at a high rate of speed struck and killed a woman on a sidewalk in Fort Greene yesterday.

Marlon Sewell, 39, drove a Chevrolet SUV over the curb at 694 Fulton Street, near South Portland Avenue, at around 5:30 p.m. Sunday, striking 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus, her 37-year-old boyfriend, and a 75-year-old man, according to reports.

Police told WPIX Sewell was “zooming” down the street. Witnesses said Sewell drove onto the sidewalk because he was driving too fast to stop for a B25 bus in front of him.

From the Daily News:

“The bus stop was right there. He didn’t realize it was stopping,” said witness Anthony Singh, 22, who works on the corner. “The driver went up on the curb trying to avoid it. He was going pretty fast.”

“She lost a lot of blood,” he said. “Her body was really pale. They were pumping her chest while they took her away on the gurney.”

“This place was a madhouse,” said Byron Logan, 72, who was buying lottery tickets when the accident happened. “I’ve never seen so many people screaming.”

Nicodemus, an art curator who lived in Brooklyn Heights, died at Brooklyn Hospital Center. Her boyfriend and the third victim were hospitalized.

NYPD charged Sewell with aggravated unlicensed operation and driving without insurance. Aggravated unlicensed operation, a low-level misdemeanor, is the same charge police and prosecutors apply when an unlicensed driver commits a traffic infraction. It carries a maximum penalty of a $500 fine and 30 days in jail, though plea deals usually result in a fine and no jail time, even when a driver kills someone. Sewell was not charged by police or District Attorney Ken Thompson for killing Nicodemus and injuring the other victims.

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To Make NYC Streets Safer, Focus on the Cause of 98 Percent of Harm

Graph: Google Docs

Source data: DOT and NYPD. Chart by Streetsblog

On Wednesday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer spoke in support of legislation that would create a “bicycle safety task force.” The language of the bill, introduced by Council Member Rosie Mendez at Brewer’s request, says the task force would make recommendations for improving bike infrastructure. But in testimony to the council transportation committee, Brewer suggested the panel would also provide a venue for people to gripe about cyclists.

“My office fields nearly daily complaints, many from seniors, who experience near misses with bikers, many of [whom] are breaking the law in some fashion,” Brewer said.

Earlier in the week Mendez staffer Matt Viggiano said basically the same thing to AMNY: “We have a lot of seniors who have called our office with complaints when cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road, and present dangerous conditions for pedestrians.”

There’s no way to pinpoint the extent of the problem described by Brewer and Viggiano. The city does not track near-collisions between cyclists and pedestrians, just like it doesn’t track near-collisions involving motorists or the actual incidence of traffic law-breaking. But for the past few years the city has collected data on reported collisions between people biking and walking. The numbers show that targeting bikes can’t achieve major gains in pedestrian safety, because nearly all pedestrian injuries and deaths are caused by motorists.

DOT recently released 2014 figures on cyclist-pedestrian collisions [PDF] reported to NYPD. People on bikes struck and killed three NYC pedestrians last year, according to DOT, and injured 305 people walking. By comparison, motorists killed 134 pedestrians in 2014, and injured 10,981. So last year cyclists were accountable for just over 2 percent of pedestrian deaths, and less than 3 percent of injuries. And that year was an outlier for fatalities.

From 2000 through 2014, cyclists killed 11 people in NYC, while motorists killed 2,425 pedestrians, making cyclists accountable for .4 percent of deaths over 15 years.

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Rukhsana Khan, 41, Third Pedestrian Killed by MTA Bus Driver in November

MTA bus drivers killed three people walking in November. The most recent victim was Rukhsana Khan, a 41-year-old mother of six. Image: News 12

MTA bus drivers killed three people walking in November. The most recent victim was Rukhsana Khan, a 41-year-old mother of six, struck on Thanksgiving eve. Image: News 12

New York City motorists killed three people walking over the holiday break.

At around 6 p.m. last Wednesday, November 25, an MTA express bus driver hit 41-year-old Rukhsana Khan on Ocean Avenue between Avenue J and Avenue K.

Rukhsana Khan. Photo via Daily News

Rukhsana Khan. Photo via Daily News

From the Daily News:

“The lady was in the middle of the street crossing,” said William Bizaldi, 64, who later discovered he had lived in the same building with the victim. “I heard like a boom and she looked like a plastic doll when she got hit.”

Albert Britton, 45, was onboard the bus at the time, and said the impact sounded like the bus “hitting a pothole.”

Khan, who had six children, was pronounced dead at New York Community Hospital.

Ocean Avenue is a wide, flat street, with four lanes for motor vehicle through-traffic at the location where Khan was struck. Video of the crash published by News 12 shows the bus driver traveling at a high rate of speed at the moment of impact. Video and photos taken at the scene showed that the bus was damaged on the front driver’s side.

In a second report, the Daily News spoke with people who said the bus driver was speeding, and that reckless driving is common on Ocean Avenue.

Neighbors implored the city to crack down on fast drivers. Witnesses said the bus was speeding, and urged officials to install speed bumps near the site.

“This area right here, they come speeding, 60 or 65,” said Wanda Bizaldi, 52, a neighbor. “Whether she was right or wrong, that’s too fast. It’s a shame that she died right here in front of the building.”

Drivers have injured dozens of people on Ocean Avenue this year, according to DOT crash data. The 70th Precinct, where the crash occurred, issues an average of between one and two speeding tickets a day.

NYPD filed no charges against the bus driver who killed Rukhsana Khan. MTA bus drivers have killed five pedestrians and one cyclist in 2015, including three pedestrians in November, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog.

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DOT: Drivers Injured 1,536 Pedestrians and Cyclists in October, and Killed 19

Nyanna Aquil, Sheniqua Silva, Louis Perez, Kristian Leka, and Shannon Lies

Nyanna Aquil, Sheniqua Silva, Louis Perez, Kristian Leka, and Shannon Lies

Twenty-five people died in New York City traffic in October, and 5,009 were injured, according to DOT’s Vision Zero View crash data map.

As of the end of October, DOT reported 113 pedestrians and cyclists killed by city motorists this year, and 12,042 injured, compared to 132 deaths and 12,267 injuries for the same period in 2014.

Citywide, at least 18 pedestrians and one cyclist were fatally struck by drivers last month. Among the victims were Mariano Contreras, Steven Turetsky, Vispi Mukajam, Shannon Lies, Meena Mahabir, Sheniqua Silva, Latiesha Ramsey, Kyler Hailey, Anna Rodriguez, Guy Ryff, Joseph Ciresi, Janet Peters, Nyanna Aquil, Louis Perez, Kristian Leka, and unidentified male and unidentified female pedestrians in Brooklyn.

Motorists killed at least one child and three seniors in October: Nyanna Aquil, 10; Joseph Ciresi, 82; and the unnamed female pedestrian in Brooklyn, who was 92.

Across the city, 1,106 pedestrians and 430 cyclists were reported hurt in collisions with motor vehicles. Per NYPD policy, few of these crashes were investigated by trained officers.

Of 15 fatal crashes on surface streets reported by Streetsblog and other outlets in October, one motorist was known to have been charged for causing a death.

Mariano Contreras was killed by a hit-and-run driver who was not immediately caught or identified. Meena Mahabir was killed, her 2-year-old niece was critically injured, and the child’s mother was hospitalized when a motorist ran a red light, collided with another vehicle, and hit the victims on a Richmond Hill sidewalk. The driver was not charged or ticketed. NYPD said “no criminality was suspected” after Sheniqua Silva was killed and two others were hurt when drivers collided and a Coca-Cola truck hit them on the sidewalk as they waited for a bus in Port Morris. A motorist hit Nyanna Aquil, Louis Perez, and Kristian Leka on a Bronx sidewalk while the victims were out trick-or-treating on Halloween. The driver was not charged. Latiesha Ramsey was pushing a laundry cart across a street in Bedford-Stuyvesant when the light changed and a truck driver hit the gas and ran her over. NYPD blamed Ramsey for the crash. Cyclist Anna Rodriguez was hit by a truck driver who was charged with manslaughter after he tested positive for cocaine. Vispi Mukajam and the unidentified 92-year-old woman were killed in Queens and Brooklyn, respectively, by drivers making turns. No charges were filed for either crash.

Historically, nearly half of motorists who kill a New York City pedestrian or cyclist do not receive so much as a citation for careless driving.

In three cases, immediately after a pedestrian was killed, police exonerated the driver by telling the press the victim was not in a crosswalk or was crossing against the signal.

Six motor vehicle occupants died in the city in October, according to DOT, and 3,473 were injured.