A Battery Park City resident was struck and injured by a Parks vehicle driving on the sidewalk on the morning of July 13, and had to wait for nearly 30 minutes before ambulances and police could find the location she called into 911. Dominique Galluzzi was walking east along Albany Street on her way to work, shortly after 8:30 am, when she approached the pedestrian ramp leading up to the Rector Place footbridge. This ramp is located at the corner of Albany and West Streets.
As Ms. Galluzzi neared the ramp, she crossed an intersecting sidewalk, which runs north and south between Albany and West Thames Streets, offering pedestrians access to the nearby basketball courts, Rector Lawn, and West Thames Park.
“As I got to where the two sidewalks meet,” she recalls, “I heard this loud roar and looked to my right. That’s when I saw a large, green Battery Park City Parks vehicle driving on the sidewalk, accelerating toward me.”
This vehicle was driven by Parks employee Dwight Williams. According to the police report from the incident, Mr. Williams was, “trying to stop his vehicle, when the seat cushion came off and was stuck on the gas pedal, causing his vehicle to accelerate.”
The vehicle Mr. Williams was driving appears to have been a Taylor-Dunn G-150 truck, a type often purchased by parks maintenance offices. This model weighs 1,360 pounds; is six feet, three inches long; can reach speeds of up to 18 miles per hour; and is capable of hauling 1,500 pounds of cargo, while also towing an additional load of 5,000 pounds.
“I began turning to my left, facing away from vehicle,” Ms. Galluzzi recalls, “but there wasn’t time to get out of the way. The truck hit my right side, smashing into my hip.”
At the location where the Parks truck hit Ms. Galluzzi, there is scaffolding to support a sidewalk overhead shed. According to the police report, the vehicle, “hit her on the right side, causing [Ms. Galluzzi] to be pushed approximately four feet into a scaffolding cross.” This refers to the horizontal bars that span between the vertical metal pillars, which hold up sidewalk sheds, and stabilize the structures.
“If I hadn’t seen him and moved as much as I did, I would have been blindsided and taken the hit head on,” she reflects. “But the impact was still strong enough to knock both of my shoes off, send my purse flying, and pin me to the scaffolding.”
She continues, “even after I was hit, the truck’s accelerator was still being pushed down by the cushion, so it was pressing me full force into the bar.” The combined force of the impact and the continued strain from the truck’s engine pressing Ms. Galluzzi into the horizontal bar bent the two-inch thick piping several inches at its middle point.
“For a few seconds, I was in shock, just staring at the driver, waiting for him to stop the truck from continuing to push me into the scaffold, and back up,” Ms. Galluzzi recalls. “But he seemed dazed, and just stared at me without moving or saying anything. Finally, I began screaming at him to put the truck in reverse, and he snapped out of it and backed away from me.”
Even after the truck moved backward, “I couldn’t move and I was afraid to try,” Ms. Galluzzi says. “The pain was intense. I was pretty sure my hip was shattered, and my ribs were pressed into the bars. So I held myself up against the metal for about two minutes.”
By this point, a crowd of bystanders had begun to gather. “I began shouting at people to find my purse and give it to me, because my cellular phone with inside.” Once she had retrieved her phone, Ms. Galluzzi called 911.
“Within five of six minutes, I started hearing sirens on South End Avenue,” she notes. “But they kept driving past Albany Street, then turning around and going back the other way. After hearing this three or four times, it began to dawn on me that they were lost. That’s when the 911 dispatcher called me back and asked me to explain all over again where I was. As calmly as I could, I told them I was on Albany Street, between South End Avenue and West Street. So they told me help would be there in another minute or two and hung up.”
Ms. Galluzzi recounts, “but then I heard sirens go past me and turn around again, and the 911 operator called my cellular phone again, and asked me to tell them one more time where I was. Finally, a neighbor of mine happened to walk by, spotted me, and realized that the police and ambulances were looking for me. So he ran over to South End Avenue and flagged them down.”
She says that emergency personnel finally arrived at her location, “a few minutes before 9:00 am, which means that they spent at least ten minutes wandering around Battery Park City trying to find me.” This puts their arrival at nearly 30 minutes after the initial accident, which (according to the police report) occurred at 8:33 am.
The emergency medical technicians (EMTs) “began by examining me, and carefully touching my neck and back, to be sure my spine wasn’t broken,” Ms. Galluzzi remembers. “Then, they brought out a stretcher and gently guided me to lay down on it, which was when I finally let go of the scaffolding.”
Once Ms. Galluzzi was in the ambulance, “the EMTs began asking me medical questions, and took my insurance information. They also passed along a request from the police for my identification. And I asked them to take my phone and snap some pictures of the place where I had been hit, and the scaffolding where I had been pinned — especially the bar that had been bent by my body.”
After approximately 15 minutes, “they said they were ready to take me to the hospital,” Ms. says. “I asked them what was going on with the Parks employee who had been driving the truck, and they said the police were arresting him.” (Mr. Williams was placed under arrest for an outstanding warrant dating from the early 1980s, but was also issued a summons for having hit a pedestrian.)
The ambulance drove Ms. Galluzzi to New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, where, “they found I had bruises all over my body. But I was also x-rayed, and it turned out that my hip was not broken.”
“New York City doesn’t allow bicycles on the sidewalk, so I don’t understand why the Battery Park City Authority drives these heavy vehicles at unsafe speeds on the sidewalks where our children play,” she says. “Why can’t the Parks employees walk, or push carts, instead of driving around the neighborhood in small trucks, which don’t even have license plates. How is this legal?”
“What bothers me most about this incident is the idea that I could just as easily have had my ten-year-old daughter walking beside me. Where I took the impact from the truck is at the height of her head. If she had been standing next to me, I can’t even want to think about what the result would have been.”
Battery Park City Authority spokesman Nick Sbordone said in a statement, “the safety of residents, workers, and visitors is a top priority as our staff works daily to maintain Battery Park City’s 36 acres of beautiful parks and public spaces. We are conducting a full review of the incident to determine what occurred and minimize the chances of future incidents, however rare they may be.”