Portraits of cyclists killed on the streets of New York, Eric Ng, Keith Powell, Andre Anderson, and Carl Nacht by artist Christopher Cardinale.
Yesterday was the sentencing for Eugenio Cidron, the driver who killed bicyclist Eric Ng on the Hudson River Greenway thirteen months ago and pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter in November.
Leaving the courtroom after the sentencing, I was approached by Cidron’s family. It wasn’t quite what I would have expected. A young woman, perhaps his sister, gently touched my arm while the others looked at me with moist eyes and told me how sorry they were for my loss.
I took their hands one by one and said I wasn’t actually a friend of the victim; I was there because, like him, I ride a bike in New York. They nodded and said they understood. We clasped hands again and went our separate ways down the corridor to the elevator and out of State Supreme Court.
Inside, in the presence of half-a-dozen armed court officers, a handful of reporters and twenty spectators — half there for the victim’s sake, half for the killer’s — Cidron had received an "indeterminate sentence" of 3½ to 10½ years, the range specified in his plea bargain.
Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal recited the by-now familiar facts. On the evening of Dec. 1, 2006, Cidron left an office party at Chelsea Piers, steered his silver BMW onto the Greenway, where motor vehicles are forbidden, and drove south for a mile until he smashed head-on into cyclist Eric Ng. Just 22 years old, Ng was "vibrant and kind," a recent college grad, a teacher, and his mother’s "angel," according to a letter Mrs. Ng wrote to Cidron after the fatal crash.
A few facts were new: Cidron had driven alongside the Greenway on adjacent West Street "a hundred times," indicating that he should have known where he was before he encountered Eric coming from the opposite direction. And he was traveling at 60 miles an hour, according to the NYPD Accident Investigation Squad.
The defendant, short, stocky, shaved head, clad in a hoodie and a North Face jacket, spoke softly: "I’m really sorry for all the pain I have caused to his family and friends. I’m pleased [Eric’s mother] has been able to forgive me. I hope someday his father and sister will too. Words can’t express how truly sorry I am for this tragic accident that happened and for all the pain I have caused."
Justice Gregory Carro was unmoved. "As someone who has traveled that bike path many times [I’d say] it’s almost impossible not to perceive you are on a bike path. It’s hard for me to believe you only realized you hit him after you heard the thud… unless you were so intoxicated that you shouldn’t have gotten behind the wheel.
"You say you think about it every day? You better think about it every day," Justice Carro added, before Cidron was handcuffed and taken from the courtroom.
"No amount of retribution will ever ease my pain and cure my broken heart," Eric’s mother wrote in her letter to Cidron. She didn’t want Cidron to go to prison and she believes Eric would have felt the same. But Eric, young and precious to his family as he was, did not belong to them alone. He belonged, as we all do, to the larger community.
"The wrongdoer is brought to justice because his act has disturbed and gravely endangered the community as a whole," wrote Hannah Arendt almost fifty years ago. "It is the general public order that has been thrown out of gear and must be restored." Restoration will never come to Eric’s loved ones. For the rest of us, today brought some measure of repair.