Today, elected officials and safety advocates demanded safer streets and justice against criminal drivers after two young men died in hit-and-run crashes in Brooklyn on Saturday.
Council Members Mark Treyger, Stephen Levin, and Ydanis Rodriguez, along with the director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely-White, gathered at the corner of Franklin and Noble Streets in Greenpoint to advocate for safer streets and implore the criminal drivers to turn themselves in.
On Saturday, Neftaly Ramirez, 27, was killed by what is believed to be a private garbage truck while riding his bike on Franklin Avenue near Noble Street in Greenpoint, officials said. Later that day, a driver in Gravesend fatally struck 18-year-old Alejandro Tello, who was on a skateboard at the time, while crossing Avenue U. Cops found both men lying in the street after the drivers had long sped away.
While few details about the crashes have been released publicly, officials denounced the criminal behavior of hit-and-run drivers at the press conference corner where Ramirez lost his life on Saturday.
“It is heartless, inhumane, and criminal to commit a hit-and-run,” said Treyger, commending the Gravesend residents who collected surveillance footage of the crash to help police investigators. “The public is watching, elected officials are watching. Drivers, step forward or you will be found.”
“To leave the scene is unconscionable and against the basic principles of human decency,” said Levin, who lives nearby the Franklin Street crash scene.
According to city data, 46 pedestrians and 9 cyclists have been killed in traffic crashes from January 1 to June 30, 2017 — including two people struck and killed near Marine Park and Gravesend; a 69-year-old bicyclist struck and killed by a truck on Avenue X near Coney Island Avenue; an 88-year-old man killed nearby at Avenue X and Ocean Parkway; a 90-year-old woman struck in broad daylight on Gravesend Neck Road, a woman killed by a tractor trailer on Caton Avenue; the first Citibike fatality in June; and an elderly pedestrian killed this month while crossing Flatbush Avenue in Marine Park.
In 2015, Mayor de Blasio passed legislation to increase hit-and-run fines up to $20,000, but some advocates say the problem continues.
“Hit and runs remain an epidemic in New York City,” said Council Member Rodriguez, who is chair of the Transportation Committee. Rodriguez recently sponsored two bills that aim to increase enforcement on criminal drivers — an amber-alert type notification for hit-and-run drivers and a bill that would allocate reward funds for tipsters whose information leads to an arrest.
Paul Steely-White, director of Transportation Alternatives, advocated for the installation of a protected bike lane on Franklin Street, a narrow roadway shared by trucks, garbage trucks, cars, and cyclists.
Steely-White and Levin cited the Kent Avenue protected bike lane as an example of a lane that has increased safety. While Kent Avenue is a much wider roadway that accommodated a protected lane, the TA rep said that other changes could be made to ensure street safety, like adjusting parking rules and truck loading times.
“Saving lives is more important than preserving parking spaces,” said Steely-White, acknowledging the controversy surrounding his statement. “That’s a debate we’re having in the Vision Zero era.”
But officials argued that legislation and Vision Zero implementation can take us only so far.
“We need to change the culture,” said Rodriguez, as trucks, cars, and cyclists steadily passed by, mere feet from his podium. “Vast numbers of New Yorkers take public transportation, walk, and cycle. Drivers should know that they don’t own the street.”