Widow of Manhattan Pedestrian Rubin Baum Not Likely to See Justice Done

Another innocent bystander was killed by an outlaw motorist in Manhattan last weekend, and indications are that another perpetrator will go unpunished by police and prosecutors.

Rubin and Denise Baum. Photo via Daily News

On Saturday night at around 10:30 p.m., Rubin and Denise Baum were attempting to hail a cab at Park Avenue and E. 59th Street when, according to reports, the driver of a Mazda sedan, eastbound on 59th, ran a red light and struck a minivan, which was headed north on Park. The Mazda spun into the Baums. Rubin pushed Denise out of the car’s direct path, though she was struck and thrown into a parked vehicle. Rubin was pinned underneath the car.

Baum, an 80-year-old decorated war veteran whose father was also killed at the hands of a Manhattan motorist, died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

Whether it was the driver of the Mazda or the minivan, given the direction each vehicle was traveling, one of the two had to have run the light — barring a traffic signal malfunction, which has not been cited as a possible cause. Since the collision could not be avoided, and the vehicles collided with sufficient force to send one of them spinning into the Baums, it is highly likely that at least one driver was speeding as well. Yet just a few hours after the crash police told DNAinfo that “no criminality was suspected,” NYPD-speak for “case closed.”

“I want to know who did this,” Denise Baum told the Daily News. “Was he drunk? Was he on drugs?”

If either driver had been found under the influence, criminal charges would probably — but not certainly — have been issued. Otherwise, these things happen.

NYPD bluntly refuses to properly investigate traffic crashes that result in injury and death. A package of City Council bills and resolutions intended to suggest that NYPD fulfill its obligations under the law does not have the support of council speaker and mayoral aspirant Christine Quinn, who speaks unequivocally on maintaining police budget levels but has no opinion on whether NYPD should protect New Yorkers from random street killings.

Thanks to the arbitrary “rule of two,” motorists who run people over are almost always immune from prosecution as long they didn’t mean to kill you, which in New York State means they weren’t drunk at the time. The juris doctor’s answer to the tooth fairy, the rule of two exists only in the minds of prosecutors who believe in it, but it’s a tradition that shows few signs of abating.

Rubin Baum was the 27th Manhattan pedestrian or cyclist known killed by a motorist in 2012. To date, no motorists are known to have been charged by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for killing a pedestrian or cyclist this year. An e-mail to Vance’s office about this crash was not immediately returned.

This fatal crash occurred on the border of the 18th and 19th Precincts. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to the commanding officer of either precinct, go to the next precinct community council meeting. Community council information is available on each precinct’s web page.

The City Council district where Rubin Baum was killed is represented by Dan Garodnick. To encourage Garodnick to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7393, garodnick@council.nyc.ny.us or @DanGarodnick.

  • Sadly, the case of Ian Clement would suggest that the Rule of Two is not limited to prosecutors’ minds.

  • Joe R.

    If a cyclist had run a red light and killed a pedestrian the media would be all over it but this incident barely rates a mention. As to traffic light malfunctions, I have seen my share of traffic signals which were green in both directions simultaneously but this is a relatively rare malfunction (I’m talking about seeing less than a dozen instances in my entire life). Still, it’s enough that I always look for cross traffic even when I have the green.

  • It’s interesting to see how the identity of the victim affects the treatment in the news article, both in the article itself and especially in the comments.

  • Reader

    On the Upper East Side, where politicians and community board leaders line up to levy $1000 fines on poor delivery workers on e-bikes that “almost” hit senior citizens, those same leaders remain conspicuously silent when a real live flesh and blood senior is killed by a motorist.

    How big of a fine will Jess Lappin propose the city levy on drivers who kill?  What kind of resolution will the local community board issue against reckless motorists?  I won’t hold my breath waiting for the answer.

  • vnm

    If this had happened in the suburbs the motorist would have had the book thrown at him.

  • AdamDZ

    This is mind blowing. Obviously one of the drives broke the law which resulted in someone’s death and nothing is being done about this.

    But yeah, imagine if this was a cyclist!!! It’ll be all over the news and everybody would wand the cyclist hung.

    This is so screwed up…

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