On Traffic Justice, Stringer Lets Ray Kelly and Cy Vance Off the Hook

After the driver who killed six year-old Amar Diarrassouba on Thursday was let off with two summonses, for failure to yield to a pedestrian and not exercising due care, NYPD says its Accident Investigation Squad has concluded its investigation. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance refuses to comment.

Assembly Member Robert J. Rodriguez, Borough President Scott Stringer and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito announce Stringer's letter to DOT. Photo: Stephen Miller

This afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was joined by other elected officials and approximately a dozen community leaders on the sidewalk in front of Diarrassouba’s school, P.S. 155 in East Harlem, to show their outrage.

“We mourn, but we also are angry,” Stringer said. “We should never be standing at a press conference like this again demanding action.”

But instead of demanding action from the NYPD and the DA, Stringer announced that he is sending a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “This is a shot across the bow to the Department of Transportation to take meaningful action,” Stringer said.

It’s a strange tactic, given that DOT is expected to continue its implementation of protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges in East Harlem this year — a project that was, for a time, obstructed by Stringer appointees to Community Board 11.

Citing the significant safety gains of DOT’s Safe Routes to Schools program, Stringer’s letter calls for some worthy improvements, including bringing more Leading Pedestrian Interval signals to East Harlem (currently the neighborhood only has two, while there are 143 in the rest of Manhattan) and installing reduced-speed school zone signs at P.S. 155, which currently has none. But by focusing his critique solely on DOT, Stringer is letting law enforcement off the hook.

“We’re certainly going to defer to the police and the district attorney on these issues,” said Stringer, who is not sending a letter to the DA or NYPD. His specific policy recommendations to DOT, meanwhile, indicate that he has no problem telling less powerful agencies what to do.

Stringer’s letter doesn’t mention the street safety project that will bring bike lanes and pedestrian islands to First Avenue and has already redesigned a stretch of Second Avenue just west of P.S. 155. It also doesn’t mention that two of Stringer’s community board appointments, Erik Mayor and Frank Brija, delayed the project by claiming it would make asthma rates worse. In the end, the full community board voted to support the traffic calming plan not once but twice.

Stringer and Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez both noted that the truck driver was on East 117th Street, a narrow residential street, and Stringer did call for an investigation into why the driver was not using a truck route. Some P.S. 155 parents have cited East River Plaza, the big-box retail development two blocks east of the school, as a source of increased truck traffic in the neighborhood. It is physically impossible to access or disembark from East River Plaza using designated truck routes.

Meanwhile, Mark-Viverito questioned how NYPD determines where to station crossing guards. “What is it based on, whatever community screams loudest?” she asked, urging police to work with DOT so traffic safety data drives decision-making about crossing guards.

After the press conference, Mark-Viverito told Streetsblog that she is sending separate letters to DOT and NYPD about Diarrassouba’s death. We have a request in for copies of those letters.

  • Eric McClure

    The outrage is sadly misplaced. Won’t someone — anyone — beyond the advocacy community call out NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s office for their respective failures to enforce and prosecute vehicular crime?

  • Morris Zapp

    “We’re certainly going to defer to the police and the district attorney on these issues.”

    And with that, Scott Stringer lost all credibility on everything ever.

    The End.

  • Guest

    Scott Stringer, we need meaningful action, not letters.  Start by removing Brija and Mayor from the Community Board.  

  • Lisa

    Stringer is all talk and no action. I have a sneaking suspicion that CB11 members have a significantly higher car ownership than the rest of the community. We need better representation for the majority of us, walkers, bikers, and transit users. We also need a mechanism for evaluating the performance (or lack thereof) for CB members. Just saying that they attended meetings is not good enough. If people are obstructing proposals and not doing their jobs, they should be removed from the community board. End of story.

  • Eric McClure

    This is the intersection of 117th Street and First Avenue: http://goo.gl/maps/owXpi. How could truck driver Robert Carroll not have seen someone — even a six-year-old boy — crossing from the near-right corner to the far-right corner?  And what was a tractor-trailer doing on this street? http://goo.gl/maps/7BJ5P

  • Michael Ludwig

    I suspect the driver was simply in a hurry or not paying attention, so he cut in front of the children in (or about to enter) the crosswalk. It happens thousands of times a day. That is what is so distressing about this: the banality of the interaction coupled with the tragedy of the result.

  • Jsfox

    If this had been a cop who was killed I bet there would have been more than a two summonses. Is a cops life worth more than a 6-year-olds?

  • JK

    Was the tractor trailer over 55 feet, the NYC limit? AID cops carry measuring wheels calibrated to inches. Did they measure? (The trailer alone appears to be 55ft and its lenght should be in the truck companies records)Why isn’t this being reported? Was the truck driver carrying NYC truck route maps? How many summonses has NYPD been giving out for trucks off of truck routes? How many for oversize trucks? How many oversize permits does DOT grant? Where is this recorded?  Why isn’t all of this info online? These are basic facts that do matter to this case. CM Mark-Viverito should be asking for this info.

  • Street Safety

    Let’s be clear about one thing: 

    Scott Stringer’s Community Board appointees delayed the redesign of First Avenue. Scott Stringer is the public official most responsible for this tragedy.

  • Anonymous

    The DOT should respond by creating massive no parking zones, private car bans and 10mph speed limits.

  • Thornpearl

    The family of the deceased child knows what really happened. Did the young student bolt from his older brother? If so, then all this talk is for nothing. It is regrettably sad but the the two young boys should have been supervised by an adult. I have sent my children to school and my heart was alwasys in mouth because i was so scared, I would look out my hallway window which saw the street my kids had to cross to go to school which was small one way street around 25-30 feet to cross, I have been on 117th street and First Ave. and I am 60 year old adult and i am totally scared and nervous crossing that intersection. This event was a perfect storm, large trucks near a school,lack of enforcement  by nypd,crossing guard lett sceene should have notified school safety officer for relief. RIP young man

  • While you speculate about how this all may have been the perished child’s fault, Thorn, the failure to yield citation makes it clear the truck driver was the one who “bolted” against the law. The next step in a functioning justice system would be to prosecute this fatal negligence in criminal court.

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