Safe Streets for Seniors? Try Telling Police and Prosecutors.

amd_wheelchair_accident.jpgOn Friday, two pedestrians and a man in a wheelchair, all aged 60 or above, were hit by motor vehicles in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Two died. One was in critical condition as of Friday night.

Two drivers fled the scene. One remains at large. The other was found by police and said he didn’t know he’d hit anyone. No charges have been filed.

From the Daily News:

James Dong, 60, a customer operations representative at Con Ed, was on the Bowery in Manhattan about 1:30 p.m. As he was about to enter a company vehicle, a tractor-trailer came roaring down the street, slammed into him and kept going.

"There were body parts all over the street," said Jill Haas, 48, a small-business owner from Chicago.

Dong was pronounced dead at the scene, where fellow Con Ed workers cried and looked on in amazement.

The driver, who was unaware he hit Dong, was stopped on a highway in Brooklyn but was not charged.

It seems doubtful that Mr. Dong’s age had anything to do with his
death. He, like so many pedestrian victims before him, was simply at
the wrong place (i.e. on a street, on a sidewalk, in a restaurant) at the wrong time (i.e.
when another driver neglects to pay attention to where the hell s/he is
going, or how fast s/he is traveling, regardless of the fact that
his/her vehicle is negotiating an environment where most fellow street
users are not wrapped in steel).

Which is the bigger menace to society: a driver who flees the scene after tearing apart a
live human being with his vehicle, or one who tears apart a live human
being with his vehicle without noticing? That’s a trick question, of course. In New York
City the answer is none of the above — or, possibly, cyclists.

Mr. Sydnor and Ms. Morrissey appear to be two of the many seniors, whether in New York or elsewhere in the US, for whom the streets are more dangerous than most.

A few hours earlier in Queens, Bernard Sydnor, 69, was operating his motorized wheelchair across the street at Jewel Ave. and Parsons Blvd.

About 11 a.m., a car slammed into the Community Board 8 member and Korean War veteran.

Sydnor, who lives alone but has two adult sons, was rushed to New York Hospital Medical Center of Queens, where a spokeswoman said he was in critical condition Friday night. His sons were by his side.

The driver who hit Sydnor stayed at the scene and was not charged.

Early Friday, Bridget Morrissey, 74, took her daily trip to her daughter’s nearby home in Bay Ridge for her Alzheimer’s disease medication.

The great-grandmother was crossing 75th St. at 14th Ave. at about 7 a.m. when a gray car crashed into her and didn’t stop.

Morrissey, who worked at a nursing home for 35 years before retiring, died at the scene.

No arrests have been made.

The location of the Bay Ridge Parkway hit-and-run that claimed Bridget Morrissey is bracketed by intersections where two other pedestrians have been killed since 1995. Jewel Avenue in Queens, where Mr. Sydnor was struck, was the site of much-needed safety improvements last year — implemented over the objections of the local community board and City Council member. Last year DOT also launched Safe Streets for Seniors, a plan to revisit streets in each borough with the elderly in mind.

But short of a Vision Zero strategy, engineering is only part of the solution. Enforcement, and, ideally, subsequent changes in driver attitude and behavior, are critical. Again, to paraphrase Michael Kodransky: Had three New Yorkers been killed by falling cranes on Friday, the city would be in an uproar. That pedestrians every day face death at the hands of motorists, who now apparently need not even remain at the scene to be cleared of wrongdoing, should be greeted with the same level of outrage and scrutiny.

And in case you need another reminder of how far gone we are, even in that rare instance when a driver is prosecuted, remember Tenzing Bhutia.

Photo: New York Daily News 

  • I honestly am still amazed that trucks (of any kind) are on the streets of NYC. it seems we have enough to deal with cars that use the avenues like a speedway, trucks really need to be regulated and then have those regulations enforced. There is no reason anyone should have to come with in close contact of any vehicle that size (trucks).

    Just today I got boxed in by two trucks in Brooklyn.

  • JK

    Your wrath is best aimed at the state legislature. The law is written (and case law interpreted) in a way that makes prosecuting vehicular crimes very difficult. Essentially, the “I didn’t see them” excuse is license to kill— as are a long list of other excuses. Society, as represented by the state legislature, has decided that drivers should not be held accountable for their actions because of the risk that innocent motorists maybe prosecuted for mishaps beyond their control.

  • J

    I find it amazing how outraged the media gets when people drive recklessly when drunk. How is driving recklessly while stone sober any better? In many ways it’s even more cold blooded, since sober drivers are completely conscious of their deadly actions.

  • MIKE.SIDELL COMMUNITY OUREACH ADVOCATE

    BERNIE IS A FRIEND OF MINE AND WE SIT ON COMMUNITEE BOARD 8
    HE LOST HIS LEGS TO DIABETES
    HE IS STILL IN A COMA,BROKEN RIBS AND THEY REMOVED HIS SPLEEN. HE JUST PICKED UP HIS LUNCH TO GO HOOME ACROSS THE STREET AND THAN GOT SLAMMED AND THROWN BY THE SUV.
    THE INTERSECTION IS A RHOMBUS CROSSING, A CURV FROM BOTH EAST AND WEST DIRECTION AND THE INTERSECTION SITS ON TOP OF A HILL.

  • Ian Turner

    Does this mean we can now expect some livable streets action out of CB8? Please talk to Jesse Rosenbaum and point out that we can prevent this kind of carnage through effective street design. Changes may be somewhat painful to drivers, but look at the kind of pain currently being experienced by pedestrians and their families.

  • Kip

    The assumption seems to be that running over a human being in New York City is somehow excusable.

  • Zak

    JK,
    I don’t understand how vehicular crimes against pedestrians and cyclists aren’t prosecuted (often), but they are against other vehicles. I’m not being rhetorical–I just don’t understand. If you get in a fender-bender you’re cited for following too closely or reckless driving or something else, but if you kill someone, nothing. I mean, of course there’s a bias, but what are the legal grounds for the distinction? Anyone know.

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