An unidentified female bicyclist was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver at the corner of West and Chambers Streets on Saturday evening, shortly before 8pm. The driver of the vehicle that allegedly hit the woman reportedly continued driving, but stopped two blocks away, where he was arrested.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) said in a statement, “on Saturday, June 11, 2016, at approximately 19:52 hours police responded to a call of a person struck by a motor vehicle at Chambers Street and West Street within the confines of the First Precinct. Upon arrival, police determined that a 2011 Ford truck being driven by a 26-year-old male was traveling southbound on West Street and making a right turn to westbound Chambers Street when he struck a female bicyclist also traveling southbound in West Street. Emergency Medical Service responded and transported the victim to Bellevue Hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival after sustaining head and body trauma. The operator of the vehicle left the scene but was detained in the vicinity of Warren Street and North End Avenue.” An NYPD source added that because the woman was carrying no identification, officials have not yet been able to ascertain her name or address.
Multiple witnesses say that seconds after the unidentified woman was run down, an off-duty MTA police officer chanced upon the scene. After calling for an ambulance and police assistance, Officer Otis Noboa drove west along Chambers Street, in the direction that witnesses told him the white Ford had gone when fleeing the scene. After canvasing the area for several minutes, he spotted the same vehicle, stopped on Warren Street, between North End Avenue and River Terrace. He called again for backup from NYPD units, and apprehended 26-year-old Samuel Silva, a resident of Newark, New Jersey. The NYPD statement said that Mr. Silva has been charged with “manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident, failure to yield to a pedestrian, and driving while ability impaired.”
This is the second time in less than a week that Officer Noboa has intervened to apprehend a dangerous driver while off duty. Last Monday, he and his wife were driving along Dyckman Street in Upper Manhattan, when he observed several NYPD officers chasing a man who had rammed several parked cars, and nearly run down multiple pedestrians while driving on a sidewalk, before abandoning his vehicle and fleeing on foot. Officer Noboa jumped from his car, and ran with NYPD officers as they pursued the driver into a heavily forested area in a nearby park, where the suspect was apprehended.
September, 2011: Rector Place resident Seema Galati is run over on South End Avenue and Rector Place when a speeding car hits as she crosses the intersection.
Regarding the Saturday evening incident, Catherine McVay Hughes, chair of Community Board 1 (CB1), said, “this tragic accident emphasizes the urgency of Vision Zero,” in a reference to Mayor Bill de Balsio’s push to reduce traffic deaths. In the years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Ms. Hughes continued, “CB1 has requested a vehicular and pedestrian study to be funded for Lower Manhattan to address increased density and changing traffic patterns. As recently as May 24th, I testified at the Transportation Committee of the New York City Council that ‘CB1 has repeatedly made budget requests for construction and traffic mitigation,’ because the City still has not funded our community’s repeated requests. A comprehensive study and plan to make our streets safe is needed, and this is a tragic wake-up call that will hopefully get our elected officials to finally listen, fund and implement the needed changes on the ground that are created by the post-9/11 growth in our district.”
Bob Townley — the founder and executive director of Manhattan Youth, who also serves on CB1, where he has long called for a greater emphasis on traffic and pedestrian safety — said, “they can call West Street a ‘street’ all they want, but it’s really an eight-lane highway. And that intersection is the equivalent of a highway off ramp.”
He also noted that, “CB1’s task force was instrumental is getting fences put on the north side of Chambers to stop pedestrians from crossing there. But we need more than that. Chambers and West is a very dangerous intersection. Cyclists rely on a green light that they think gives them an all-clear. But all it really tells them is that perpendicular traffic, along Chambers, has stopped. The green light for cyclists misleads them into thinking that they have the exclusive right of way, but the greater danger is cars coming off of West, not those crossing along Chambers. And the position of the bike lane relative to West Street puts cyclists directly in the blind spot of southbound drivers making a right turn onto Chambers Street.”
Thanksgiving, 2015: A car racing (in the wrong direction) along Rector Place in a failed attempt to grab a parking spot jumped the curb, sheared a metal sign post out of the sidewalk, and wrecked two other cars.
“What we really need there,” Mr. Townley continued, “is a dedicated turning lane from West, with its own light, indicating that every other user of that intersection — meaning pedestrians and cyclists West Street, as well as drivers on Chambers Street — have all come to a stop. And pedestrian and cyclists need the same thing: a dedicated signal telling them that no other traffic from any direction is going to cross as long as they have the light. That’s what we don’t have right now, but the signal for cyclists makes it appear that we do.”
Tammy Meltzer, a member of CB1 who also serves on the Parent-Teacher Association at P.S./I.S. 276 (where she advocates for greater street safety measures), said, “Saturday night’s tragedy underscores the need to review the major street crossings in Battery Park City in terms of our ever-growing traffic of all kinds. We need to increase safety measures to protect pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike to minimize tragedies like this.”
The Saturday incident comes against the backdrop of years of concerns about pedestrian safety in Battery Park City, where tour buses, corporate cars, delivery vans and other vehicles seek often seek a shortcut around clogged streets in the Financial District, while others come to compete for scarce parking spaces, or in search of a place to idle during downtime.
Rector Place resident (and recent New York University Law School graduate) Marilyn Feng, who was run over and killed by a drunk driver at West and Albany Streets in February, 2009. Her finance was seriously injured in the same incident.
In 2009, Rector Place resident Marilyn Feng was crossing West Street at Albany Street with her fiancé, Dennis Loffredo, when they were both hit by a drunk driver. Ms. Feng, a recent graduate of New York University law school, was killed instantly, while Mr. Loffredo was seriously injured. (The driver, Martin Abreu, was convicted in 2010 of charge that included vehiclar homicide, vehicular assault, and operating a vehicle while intoxicated. He was sentenced to serve as much as ten and a half years, but was released from prison in May, 2015, after serving five years and two months.)
In 2011, a Rector Place Seema Gulati resident was run over (and seriously injured) by a corporate car that turned from Rector onto South End Avenue at high speed, as she was crossing the intersection.
And late in the evening of Thanksgiving, 2015 a driver speeding the wrong way along Rector Place (in a vain effort to grab a parking space) jumped the curb with enough force to shear from the sidewalk the steel post holding a stop sign, after which it slammed into (and wrecked) two parked cars.