At the beginning of the year, Streetsblog embarked on a project we hope will shed light on city pedestrian and cyclist fatalities that appear to have been written off as blameless "accidents." To date, we have filed freedom of information requests with NYPD pertaining to 10 pedestrian deaths, and will be reporting on the progress of those requests, along with those submitted in the future.
It’s no secret that NYPD takes a proprietary approach to traffic death data. Even family members are kept waiting for details about incidents that took the lives of loved ones. So though our goal is to examine crash investigations themselves, this effort will be as much about the process of extracting information from police.
Case in point: Our initial 10 requests were mailed on January 27. The date of the earliest fatality was November 30 of 2009, the most recent January 26. Today we received denials from NYPD for six of those requests. Here’s the legalese as it appears above:
In regard to the document(s) which you requested, I must deny access to these records on the basis of Public Officers Law section 87(2)(g)(iii) as such records/information does not represent final agency determination.
Note that this reasoning differs from that cited in denying information about the death of cyclist Solange Raulston.
The crashes referenced in our requests resulted in the deaths of Frank Justich, Arthur Katz, Mary Mason, Virginia McKibbin, Abundio Mendez-Perez, Joe Rollino, Edith Shaller, Catorino Solis, and two unidentified victims — one in Brooklyn, one in Manhattan. In each of these cases, press reports either made no mention of charges against the driver or indicated that the driver was already cleared of culpability. In their letters to us, NYPD did not provide names to match their file numbers, so at this point we are following up to ascertain which requests were denied.
As allowed by law, we will appeal NYPD’s denials. We’ll keep you updated.