"The wrongdoer is brought to justice because his act has disturbed and gravely endangered the community as a whole, and not because damage has been done to individuals who are entitled to reparation. It is the body politic itself that stands in need of being repaired, and it is the general public order that has been thrown out of gear and must be restored." — Hannah Arendt
At 9:40 p.m. on a Friday evening last December, 27-year-old Eugenio Cidron left an office party at Chelsea Piers, steered his silver BMW onto the Hudson River Greenway, a bicycle and pedestrian path where cars are not allowed, and drove south for a full mile until he smashed head-on into cyclist 22-year-old Eric Ng at Clarkson Street, killing him instantly.
Cidron, who was drunk, pleaded guilty in November to second-degree manslaughter, in exchange for a sentence of 3½ to 10½ years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Thursday morning, Jan. 3, in lower Manhattan. A number of Eric’s friends and associates plan to be there.
I’ll be there too, although I never met Eric, a graduate of the NYC Department of Education’s teaching fellow program who was subbing at Automotive High School in Greenpoint at the time of his death. But I know that a prison term for killing a cyclist or pedestrian is a rarity – roughly on the order of a comet, say, or a total solar eclipse. Most killer-drivers get off scot-free or, at worst, get their license lifted or receive a suspended sentence. If Cidron is actually going upstate for a while, I want to see it happen.
Perhaps that sounds harsh or bloody-minded. Perhaps it is. But after twenty-some years of watching the brutal and cavalier way drivers routinely treat other road users, I think some payback, and pushback, is long overdue.
Perhaps those of us who ride should bring bike gear into the courtroom to self-identify. That seems fitting. Writing last year about Eric’s death, I said, "Everyone who rides in New York dies a little when a cyclist is killed." Our presence will reflect that.
I hope not just Cidron and his family but the D.A.’s office — indeed, the entire city — will feel our grief at losing Eric and see our resolve to hold drivers accountable for acts that rend the community.
Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 am, Thursday, January 3, at NY State Supreme Court, 111 Centre Street, Room 948 (9th Floor) "Part 32," in the court of Justice Gregory Carro. It is possible that other sentencings may precede Cidron’s, so plan accordingly.