Center Boulevard and 48th Avenue, the Long Island City intersection where a pedestrian was nearly mowed down by an erratic and angry driver. Locations approximate. Image: Google Maps/Carly Clark
A Queens man will go to court tomorrow following a charge that he damaged the vehicle of a driver who -- twice -- nearly ran him down in the street. The incident occurred some three weeks before the road-raging motorist encounter
that triggered a legal ordeal for Manhattan cyclist Ray Bengen.
On the morning of May 6, Gerald Beekman (an alias we're using at the victim's request) was walking his two dogs on 48th Avenue in Long Island City, en route to Gantry Plaza State Park. When he reached Center Boulevard, which borders the park, Beekman checked for oncoming traffic. Seeing only a black car to his left some distance away and moving slowly (Beekman assumed the driver was looking for a parking spot), he started to cross. As he approached the middle of the street, Beekman checked to his right for traffic that is obscured by a grassy median (pictured here
). At that point, the car he had seen to his left barreled past -- on the wrong side of the street and, by Beekman's estimate, traveling at 40 to 50 mph -- missing Beekman by three feet, and nearly running over his dogs, who were in front of him. After passing Beekman, the driver hit a piece of trash in the street, presumably an empty can or bottle, which issued a loud report.
Here's what happened next, in Beekman's own words:
As soon as the black car stopped, I walked the approximately 30 feet from the pedestrian crossing to where the driver was sitting -- almost alongside the south facing parked cars -- but pointing the wrong way.
I was in a state of mild shock. I had almost watched my dogs run over right in front of me and I felt sickened. It must have taken me about 15-20 seconds to walk with my two dogs to the black car and when I reached it, I leaned toward the open passenger side window and shouted, "Hey buddy, where's the fire? You almost killed me and my dogs!"
The driver looked startled and disoriented. He also appeared to be holding a cell phone and in the middle of a conversation. Sounding confused, he asked, "Did you hit me?" It was apparent he had not seen me at all and had no idea I was in the crosswalk 30 feet behind him -- or that there was a crosswalk or an intersection.
I was taken aback and replied sharply, "Do you see me driving a car? I was on the crosswalk back there when you almost killed us!" I told him he should get out and check he hadn't run anyone over, because he had nearly taken me and my dogs out when he blew through the crosswalk, speeding the wrong way up the street, not looking where he was going. I told him I was lucky he hadn't killed my dogs and me. "You're reckless and dangerous. Get a grip!"
With that exchange, which lasted less than a minute, Beekman walked away. But the driver then made a U-turn, Beekman says, and drove straight toward him. Beekman ran for the curb, dragging his dogs by their leashes. The driver stopped in a crosswalk and, remaining in his car, began shouting.