Greenway Killer is Sentenced 3½ to 10½ Years

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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.

  • road or path?

    Inexcusable and very sad. But the judge is wrong about the path. Sections of the path look exactly like a road — complete with the double yellow line down the center. Absent bollards and better markings and signage, this is one reason why it is unsafe. A couple of times I’ve stopped cabbies on the path who honestly thought it was a service road.

  • Thanks for the report Charles. I though Judge Carro’s comment that he had “traveled that bike path many times” was interesting. It was not clear to me whether he meant he had actually traveled the path by bike or foot or simply that he had traveled West Street adjacent to the path; I would be interested in how others present interpreted his comment.

    I also was intrigued by the Judge’s emphasis in his remarks to Cidron that intoxication must have been the primary factor in the incident, and that Cidron should acknowledge that. To me, all the emphasis on the role of alcohol tends to deflect attention away from the inherent dangers of motoring and the disregard for the safety of others among a substantial minority of perfectly sober motorists. I really wonder whether alcohol had really caused Cidron to become so uninhibited, or whether he didn’t really care much about people who got in the way of his precious car in the first place.

    Road or Path,

    A double yellow line means “do not cross” to anyone with a license to drive. There is no way to drive a car up the bike path without driving on top of the double yellow line, which divides to lanes neither of which are side enough to accomodate a car. That is just one of the many indicators that should hit every motorist over the head the minute they think about entering the bike path on a car.

  • steveo

    It’s a rare Streetsblog post that can bring tears to my eyes — thanks for the report, Charlie.

  • vox ferum

    Mr. Komanoff,

    Your article and argument are excellent, but your invocation of “Eichmann in Jerusalem” is dangerously hyperbolic and painfully conflationist.

    The same point– that law exists not to right wrongs but to restore faith in a system ruptured– could be made with any number of citations; to pick a passage born from Israel’s prosecution of a Nazi pushes your rhetoric into the realm of zealots, blood-thirsty radicals, and blind reactionaries.

    In other words, it does your otherwise eloquent article a great disservice.

    Respectfully,
    Vox Ferum

  • srock

    Thank you for going to the sentencing and writing about it, something which many of the people who knew Eric could not bring themselves to do.

  • Josh

    #2, while I agree with your general stance about the dangers that can be posed by drivers, this case seems to me to be pretty clearly about a guy who was too drunk to know what he was doing.

  • Pedal Power Pete

    Chelsea Piers establishments, whether it be the restaurants or special events held frequently, that serve alcohol to customers & guests who drive to and park at Chelsea Piers should take steps to protect greenway users.

    Greenway users every day are placed in harm’s way whenever a motorist leaves a Chelsea Piers establishment after having a few drinks. This was made painfully clear with Eric Ng’s killing by this motorist. What has changed since?

    A group of us had attended a community board meeting (CB4?) months ago, when CP was thinking about redesigning entrances over the path; but the agenda item was removed, and we were not able to address the board on the topic.

    The vulnerability remains, as does Eric Ng’s ghostbike, which we will visit this weekend.

  • Ken

    Does anyone know what 3 1/2 to 10 1/2 means in real terms? Does he serve only 3 1/2 if he’s good? Half of that, perhaps? Who gets to decide — the parole board?

    Also, this guy showed up for sentencing in a hoodie? THAT showed a lot of respect.

  • evan

    his first parole hearing is after three years… he may be released at any time after that…

  • Mark M.

    It wasn’t an accident. Not even in the loosest definition of the word.

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