Businessman Who Protested 1st Ave Safety Fixes: It’s the 9-Year-Old’s Fault

NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance are reportedly targeting a crossing guard for her supposed role in the death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba, who was killed by a truck driver in East Harlem Thursday morning. Meanwhile, a local businessman and community board member who waged a campaign against pedestrian refuges and protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues has publicly pinned the blame on the victim’s 9-year-old brother.

Amar Diarrassouba

Robert Carroll was issued summonses for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care, according to the Post. Reports say Carroll was turning right from E. 117th Street onto First Avenue when he hit Amar with a rear tire of the tractor-trailer. Amar and older brother Youssouf were crossing First Avenue east to west, on their way to nearby P.S. 155.

Community Board 11 endorsed protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges on First and Second Avenues from 96th to 125th Streets in September 2011, but rescinded its support two months later, when restaurant owners Frank Brija and Erik Mayor, who are also on the board, organized against the project.

Brija and Mayor, owners of Patsy’s Pizza and Milk Burger, respectively, said businesses were not contacted about the proposal for protected lanes and pedestrian islands, a claim refuted by DOT. They also said the safety measures would make traffic congestion worse and increase asthma rates.

The board ultimately endorsed the plan, which had broad community support, a second time, in March 2012. Construction was supposed to begin last spring, but was pushed back after the board waffled. While it’s impossible to know how the First Avenue redesign would have affected this crash, a narrower roadway may have saved Amar’s life by forcing Carroll to make a tighter, slower turn.

On Streetsblog and Twitter this morning, attorney Steve Vaccaro noted that, had the project proceeded as planned, the crash that killed Amar Diarrassouba might not have happened. In response, Mayor tweeted: “Steve you are pathetic to place blame on us. The child was being walked by his nine year old brother who did not pay attention.”

Erik Mayor, owner of Milk Burger and member of CB 11, waged a campaign against safety measures for the intersection where Amar was killed.

Though witnesses said truckers often use it, E. 117th Street is not a truck route. Trucks exceeding 55 feet in length, like the one driven by Carroll, are not allowed on surface streets without a permit.

The truck, owned by Texas-based McLane Company, was registered in Illinois, according to the Daily News. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement. The News reported that the truck has the mirrors, which allow truck drivers to see what is directly in front of them, but photos seem to indicate otherwise.

As officers defended Carroll at the scene — “Apparently he didn’t see them,” said NYPD spokesperson Joseph Cavitolo — crossing guard Flavia Roman was reportedly taken in for questioning. The Post reported yesterday that Vance had decided not to pursue charges against her, but today cited an anonymous source who said he is still “considering” it.

Reports indicate the investigation centers on what time Roman showed up for work, and whether she was really using the bathroom when Robert Carroll drove his truck over Amar Diarrassouba.

In 2012, 3,959 pedestrians and cyclists were wounded in Manhattan, and 41 were killed, according to NYPD. The majority of those crashes were not investigated by police. None of the drivers involved in fatal crashes are known to have been charged by Cy Vance for taking a life.

Clarification: This post originally identified Steve Vaccaro as a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives. The post has been amended to reflect that Vaccaro was not acting on behalf of TA when he confronted Mayor via Twitter.

  • Bolwerk

    Maybe we just learned where Milk Burger gets its meat. 

  • Joe R.

    I think a boycott of Milk Burger and Patsy’s Pizza is in order. If this were in my neighborhood, that’s exactly what I would do. These people may not listen to reason, but when it affects their bottom line they will certainly change their tune. Also, businesses don’t need to be consulted about changes to a public street, especially when said businesses aren’t versed in even basic transportation engineering. I’m tired of all these “experts” acting like they know what’s best.

  • Albert

    Steve,

    Glad you’re not letting irrational, mean-spirited statements like Mr. Milk Burger’s stop you from continuing to tell it like it is!

  • Remember kids, it’s really important to pay attention.  Truck drivers – not so much, you guys just keep on doing whatever.  

  • Guest

    Please follow Erik Mayor on Twitter. He’s digging such a hike for himself right now he might hit the Second Avenue subway.

    The fact that people like him are on Community Boards is somewhat depressing.

  • Guest

    Hole. Not hike.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Lesson:  if you are a child (or on a bike) it doesn’t matter if you are crossing with the light.  And it also doesn’t matter if you have already started to cross.  Those who criticize jaywalkers and jaybikers take note: looking at the lights instead of those coming to hit you (and those jaywalking in front of you) is suicide.  “Cross at the green, not in between?”  Forget it.  It’s still your fault.

    This is not new.  When my kids were little, I taught them to generally cross in the middle of the block illegally rather than at the corner, and not to move (for as many light cycles as necessary) unless there were no moving vehicles in sight for two blocks or more.  If they had to cross at the corner, I told them to look back for vehicles turning.

    They had to cross Prospect Park West and Prospect Park Southwest to walk to school.  I taught them to walk through the subway underpass across Prospect Park Southwest.  When crossing PPW at 9th Street, I told them not to move unless a set of cars had already stopped at the light, to shield them from those who might run it.  And then hustle across the street, so they don’t get run over by someone jumping the light, but do not fall, or they will surely run you over.

    In other words, I taught them to cross the street in terror.

    The stairway of that subway station across both PPSW and PPW (near the movie theater) used to be closed on the weekend. I wrote a letter to the head of stations at NYCT asking that it be left open, so my kids could avoid crossing those streets, and they kept it open for me.

  • Joe R.

    @disqus_wlgcE8xXNg:disqus I highly recommend using subway underpasses to cross streets wherever they exist. That’s how I always cross Queens Boulevard. It’s much faster than waiting for the light, and I know I’ll get to the other side alive.

  • Morris Zapp

    What I’d like to know is if this intersection is equipped with life-saving LOOK! markings.

  • Anonymous

    I expect to see this kind of discussion proliferate – how will community groups and individuals respond when injuries or fatalities occur at locations where safety improvements were proposed but local opponents obstructed? What happens when a cyclist gets injured where the bike lane was erased on Bedford Avenue or when a pedestrian is struck where the plaza was never installed in Astoria? If this community had acted quickly to approve those safety treatments such that 1st Avenue at 117th Street (http://goo.gl/maps/kyqMZ) looked like 1st Avenue at 10th Street (http://goo.gl/maps/VmHd1), then there may be a very good chance Amar is alive today, and everyone who opposed or delayed that proposal needs to think about that.

    At the end of the day, if an intersection next to a school requires paid, uniformed government personnel to escort children across the street just so they won’t being crushed under the wheels of a semi, then the design of that street is failing the community.

  • JK

    Did this truck have an oversize permit? The limit is 55 feet and it looks 65-67 feet from the photo.  Is the oversize/weight permit database online for public use? Why not? A longer truck needs a bigger turning radius and has a bigger turning blind spot. Is the oversize limit being enforced at all in NYC? How many summonses? Does every Duane Reade and Rite Aide tractor trailer have an oversize permit? They are all operating with 55 foot trailers and cabs typically add 8 to 10 feet.  Bet you that a sample of 20 tractor trailers parked on the street will show that most are longer than 55 feet. Why is NYPD ignoring yet another traffic safety law?

  • While it is impossible to know with certainty what difference the presence of the concrete refuge island would have made in this case, the whole point of them is to protect pedestrians and calm traffic.  The DoT’s empirical studies have shown, repeatedly and conclusively, that pedestrian refuges in fact work, and do reduce injuries and fatalities.

    I hope any community board member asked to consider improvements like this for their neighborhood in the future is familiarized with the circumstances of this tragic death, and asked whether, if it was their kid walking to school, would they rather have the pedestrian refuge or another 2 parking spaces. 

  • Joe R.

    @77dd00db93265cc480eeb02d3429821a:disqus From my observations, the length limit on trucks in NYC generally isn’t enforced at all. Interestingly, at one time the 55 foot limit was pretty much universal across the country. Eventually, they started permitting longer trucks on the West Coast. Eventually, these trucks were permitted everywhere (except NYC). As much as I hate to say it, NYC will probably eventually have to drop the 55 foot limit. If the limit were to be enforced, it would greatly increase the price of goods here. That said, I think the length issue is a red herring. We can safely operate any sized truck here, even the ones with 48-foot double trailers, provided we have cameras to cover all the blind spots, plus lights which flash on the side of the truck when it’s turning. While we’re at it, better training for certain classes of truck drivers, notably those driving private sanitation trucks, wouldn’t hurt.

  • Albert

    Using Mr. Milk Burger’s word, “pathetic”:

    “Pathetic” is *not* someone who calls attention to the delay of street safety amenities.

    “Pathetic” is someone who shamelessly tries to lade the dead 6-year-old’s innocent surviving brother with misplaced guilt that could easily ruin the rest of his life.

  • I told Erik Mayor on Twitter that I’d probably be in the area of his restaurant around lunchtime tomorrow but that, given his attitude and that I’d be arriving by bike, he wouldn’t be getting our family’s business. He says that’s no loss but maybe next time. I won’t ever be eating at his restaurant, however.

  • gneiss

    Nice one.  Way to go Erik – when in doubt, blame a 9-year old.  The very definition of pathetic.

  • I guess the penalty for not paying attention when you’re nine years old is the death of your brother.  Maybe they should post signs or something. “Warning children left unattended on their way to school will be killed by careless drivers who are really sorry(but it was just an accident).”

  • Frank Dell

    Unbelievable.  If you can’t blame the victim then blame the victim’s brother.  The truck was on a street where it was prohibited without a permit.  Erik Mayor doesn’t seem to care about that aspect of the killing of young Amar.  His lack of empathy is staggering.  That young boy could have easily been his own son.  At the very least, our city owes our children a safe route to school.

  • Mark Walker

    I will never eat at Patsy’s again. Nor will I recommend it to others when the subject of coal-fired pizza ovens comes up — I will recommend competitors instead. I have also deleted Patsy’s from a small restaurant guide I operate. I will also write to the Manhattan borough president’s office to request that these two callous and clueless “businessmen” be removed from the community board.

  • It appears that he has deleted his @erikmayor twitter account, though his @LatinLime account is still active.

  • Mark Walker

    Community board members are appointed by the borough presidents. The borough president of Manhattan is Scott Stringer. His email is bp [at] manhattanbp.org. Write to him briefly and civilly demanding the removal Mayor and Brija and paste in the link to this Streetsblog story. It will take you two minutes. Act now.

  • Anonymous

    @m_walker:disqus Excellent idea. Thank you for suggesting that.

  • Sample Letter

    Dear Borough President Stringer:In consideration of the health and safety of residents of East Harlem and everyone who uses First Avenue, I respectfully request that you move immediately to remove Erik Mayor and Frank Brija from their positions at Manhattan Community Board 11. We deserve better. Please see the article below for more details. Sincerely,TK TK http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/03/01/businessman-who-protested-1st-ave-safety-fixes-its-the-9-year-olds-fault

  • Another Sample Letter

    By now I am sure you are aware of the tragic death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba, who was killed by a truck driver while walking with the light across First Avenue with his brother.  I am disturbed, shocked, and outraged to learn that the driver of the truck was given a basic traffic summons and will likely otherwise suffer no consequences for his negligence.  This happens far too often in New York and must change before another child is killed.

    As a father, this is something I feel passionately.  No parent should have to endure this kind of pain, especially when traffic deaths are among the most preventable tragedies, provided the city enforces the law and designs streets that protect pedestrians, especially children doing nothing more unusual than walking to school.

    Along those lines, I was even more disturbed to learn that Community Board 11 delayed the installation of potentially life saving traffic calming measures on First Avenue that may have made a difference in this case.  Specifically, it seems as if Erik Mayor, the owner of Milk Burger and a CB11 member, was particularly callous following the death of this boy, blaming the incident not on the truck driver nor even on the crossing guard, but on the 9-year-old brother.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/03/01/businessman-who-protested-1st-ave-safety-fixes-its-the-9-year-olds-fault/

    I fail to see how such a man can serve on a Community Board.  If he can not represent the best interests of the children of his district, then I do not believe he has a place representing anyone at all.

    I hope and pray that you will see to it that Community Board 11 does a better job of what should be our primary responsibility as fathers and citizens: protecting our kids.

  • Joe R.

    While on the subject of community boards, I would love to see the makeup of Community Board 11 by both race and income level. I’ll bet CB11 is not representative at all of the community it serves, just like most community boards in the city don’t seem to be. I think community boards should be selected at random from the general population of adults in the community. If for some reason a person chosen can’t serve, or doesn’t want to, you move on to the next person. This would have to be better than the present system of borough presidents choosing their lackeys to serve on community boards.

  • Anonymous

    Last year I liked to ride over to see the new bike lanes being installed along Second and First Avenues. I always stopped at Patsy’s for a slice or two or three. Never again.

    I would boycott the Milk Burger — or is that BLOOD Burger? — but fortunately, I don’t even know where it is.

  • Anonymous

    Wow.  Even the NRA people know to keep their mouths shut after a child gets shot.

  • vnm

    It’s the crossing guard’s fault. It’s the brother’s fault. (Usually it’s the victim’s fault.) When drivers kill people through negligence, our police, district attorney, and community boards are ready to blame ANYBODY but drivers. 

  • vnm

    Note, this courtesy afforded to city drivers (immediate exculpation by the police and prosecutors) does not extend to suburban drivers, who it seems are regularly charged for fatalities that occur outside the city. Nor does this courtesy extend to operators of other types of heavy equipment within the city, like cranes.

  • CheapSkate

    This child’s tragic death is sadly reminiscent of the death of Jessica Dworkin who was also killed by an oversized truck making a right turn. How many pedestrian deaths is it going to take before the City realizes that these huge trucks don’t belong on city streets?

  • East Harlem resident

    Community Board 11 members also voted to allow East River Plaza mall delivery trucks – such as the semi involved in Amar Diarrassouba’s death – to conduct overnight deliveries so that there is now 24-hour traffic to and from the Pleasant Avenue mall.  Rather than listening to local residents’ concerns about traffic safety, pollution, noise and other quality of life issues, CB 11 members focused on jobs during negotiations for their support. Of course, the property owners and retail tenants have failed to deliver on almost every single promise. Employment thresholds were never met.  No landscaping, no traffic remediation, and lots and lots of noise. East River Plaza businesses should also be a part of this discussion visa vis traffic enforcement from 116th Street to 1120th Street and from the FDR to Second Avenue. Erik Mayor and his ilk know full well that the culpability for Amar Diarrassouba’s death goes way beyond a part-time traffic agent or the victim’s brother. Shameless.

  • Joe R.

    @7a18cb8cd2b36f1fbdab198381f0a652:disqus It appears CB 11 is neither representative of the community nor concerned over its welfare. It’s always money and business which seems to take priority with community boards. I submit that if certain types of businesses have large, costly negative externalities, the community is better off without them. Any business that greatly increases truck traffic falls under that category. Whatever jobs are created is offset by the added cost of injuries/deaths from these trucks, plus the general local increase in cancer and asthma rates. I’m tired of those in charge acting like all businesses are equally good. Look for example at those adult entertainment places which were forced into the outer boroughs when Times Square was cleaned up. Given their effect on property values and the negative clientele they attract, we would be ahead of the game getting rid of them. Just because something is called a business doesn’t mean we should always roll out the red carpet. Besides, it seems many of these businesses we try to attract always fall short when it comes to the number and quality of jobs they create. I think we were better off when there were mostly businesses run by local residents. They had a vested interest in keeping their community good, unlike the interlopers now who run businesses by day, then fly to their suburban enclaves at night.

  • Anonymous

    I say we go picket in front of Erik Mayor’s business!!!! Enough is enough 

  • Ydiarrassouba

    Erik Mayor, i wonder if u have any sensitivity running in ur vein. My Great nephew has been traumatized by that tragic event. His young brother was taken away from him. I dare u putting the blame on him for ur political,personal agenda. That’s so pathetic,and insane 4 blaming a 9years old,who lost his best friend a brother. I dont know how u can sleep at nite and most importantly run a business.

  • Ydiarrassouba

    Erik Mayor, i wonder if u have any sensitivity running in ur vein. My Great nephew has been traumatized by that tragic event. His young brother was taken away from him. I dare u putting the blame on him for ur political,personal agenda. That’s so pathetic,and insane 4 blaming a 9years old,who lost his best friend a brother. I dont know how u can sleep at nite and most importantly run a business.

  • Ydiarrassouba

    Certainly agree with that idea.

  • Ydiarrassouba

    Thank You so much for that support. The comment coming from Erik Mayor is so hurtful, and his action is adding more in the pain the decease family is goin thru,especially the poor 9years old Youssouf. And i encourage and fully support ur action. And thank for all those people who are showing sympathy ,prayers and support to our family
    .

  • Ydiarrassouba

    Please go for the boycott.

  • Adam

    I say we go picket in front of Erik Mayor’s business!!!! Enough is enough +100500

    http://www.plagiarismdetect.com

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