Ray Kelly, Cy Vance, and the Post Are Why NYC Kids Need Crossing Guards

You don't normally hear from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly or Manhattan DA Cy Vance when a child is killed by a motorist.

In case you missed it, after years of bashing the city’s efforts to make walking and cycling less dangerous, the editors of the New York Post have decided they care about children’s safety. But in its Saturday editorial persecuting the crossing guard who was not present when 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba was fatally struck by a truck driver, the Post chose not to acknowledge that if police and prosecutors were doing their jobs, the NYPD crossing guard program would not be necessary in the first place.

Look at today’s headline stack: a young couple and their baby killed by a hit-and-run driver in Brooklyn; a 61-year-old pedestrian in critical condition in the Bronx; another pedestrian seriously hurt by a curb-jumping motorist in Midtown. All this death and suffering, and more, since Amar Diarrassouba was killed last Thursday. The fact is reckless driving is rampant in NYC, it happens at all hours of the day and night, and the law enforcers charged with bringing it under control — NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, and, in little Amar’s case, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance — have failed to do so.

From the Post editorial:

New York’s criminal-justice system has a duty to hold this guard liable for her words and her actions. The authorities need to probe this case thoroughly — and pursue the full measure of punishment allowed by the law.

New York City employs more than 2,000 crossing guards to keep its schoolchildren safe as they navigate Gotham’s busy streets and cross dangerous intersections. Those who take these jobs take on an important public trust. Amar Diarrassouba’s death is a reminder of the terrible price that the innocent pay when someone in a position of public trust blows off that responsibility.

It’s much easier for the Post to scapegoat Flavia Roman than to take on the players responsible for the city’s deficient traffic justice system, and though editorials trashing street safety measures are common, we can’t recall the last time the paper called for the prosecution of a killer motorist. But forget the cowardice and rank hypocrisy on display here. Let’s talk about public trust.

Whose job is it to protect children when crossing guards are not on duty? Ebrahim Kebe, Timothy Keith, Kevin Rodriguez, Dashane Santana, Moses Englender, Andrew Ramirez, Aniya Williams, Joshua Ganzfried, Max Mendez, Axel Pablo, Diego Martinez, Hayley Ng — all children killed by city motorists. In none of these cases was the driver known to have been charged for taking a child’s life.

Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez died when a van, left unattended and idling, jumped the curb and crashed into a line of pre-schoolers in Chinatown. The children were under the supervision of adults who were helpless to save them. There was no similar outcry for their prosecution, nor was the driver charged criminally, though the families of the victims begged outgoing DA Robert Morgenthau to take action, and advocates pressed Vance to pursue the case.

Max Mendez, 6, and his mom were struck on an East Harlem sidewalk by the driver of an MTA tow truck in 2010. Max was killed. Witnesses said the truck driver was on his phone at the time of the collision, and that he didn’t check in front of him before crashing into the pair. Yet NYPD immediately declared “no criminality suspected,” and Vance did not file charges.

It’s fitting that Robert Carroll Jr., the truck driver who killed Amar Diarrassouba, was not mentioned in the Post editorial, and that his role in the crash is referenced only in passing. (The Daily News, while excoriating Roman, practically casts Carroll as a hero.) Had this crash happened outside school hours, removing the crossing guard peg, the city press corps would have moved on by now, and Amar would be portrayed as another child whose life was ended by a motorist who had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Based on how the tabloids normally report child traffic deaths, neither Cy Vance nor Ray Kelly would be part of the story.

We asked Vance’s office if prosecutors were considering charges against Carroll or Roman. A spokesperson declined to comment.

  • There are more than 2,000 crossing guards but just 19 officers assigned to the NYPD’s AIS. We should flip those numbers.

  • krstrois

    Agree with you, Doug.

    It’s quite clear that none of these reporters has ever really talked to a crossing guard. They do what they can, which is almost nothing. The crossing guards by my son’s school in Clinton Hill watch helplessly as car after car blow through crosswalks where they are standing. Give them training, speed guns and the ability to issue fines for all sorts of moving violations before blaming them for any of this. 

  • Down Down with the Regime!
    How much more blood needs to be spilled before the Ray Kelly regime will take action? How can we have accountability for NYPD?

  • Frank Dell

    All these needless deaths.  Beyond tone deaf, Kelly and Vance (and Morgenthau) are heartless.

  • highwayman

    As a both a truck-driver and an avid cyclist, here is my take on the situation:  most likely, Mr. Robert Carrol Jr  the truck-driver is not at fault.  Most likely, he never wanted to be on that street in the first place.  Any good trucker knows it’s all too easy to kill someone with the big rig AND NOT EVEN KNOW IT!  Often these truckers are forced to drive to these small streets because of their carriers’ decisions.  Please petition prosecutors to go after the carriers.  They’re the ones that sent Mr. Carrol (and many like him) into such bad situations.

    From this story, I have a few questions:

    1)  WHERE was the customer that the driver was supposed to stop at located?  Was that street on the way to said customer’s loading zone?

    2) Did the customer state what kind of truck should be sent to his loading zone?

    3)  HOW long & wide is the trailer involved in the accident?  In the State of Pennsylvania, for small roads, there’s a rule that limits trailers to a maximum of 28 and-a-half feet with a maximum width of 8 feet (96 inches).  What rules does NYC have governing the length of such trailers?

    4)  Besides the truck-route map, does NYC-DOT have a map of designated zones & streets that show maximum length & width restrictions?  Does NYC-DOT diligently post signs signalling these descriptions?  Such maps, sent to motor-carriers and their drivers, would better protect the drivers from the wrong-headed decisions of their employers.

    My personal sentiment is this:  the size of trailers sent to many parts of NYC –especially to Manhattan– should be strictly limited to the above mentioned maximums stated by Pennsylvania’s rules:  no greater than 28.5 feet length x 8 feet width x 13.5 feet height.  That limitation should be vigorously enforced against the carriers –NOT the drivers.  It’s the carriers that made the decision, and the drivers that are forced to carry these out. 

    Protect the truck-drivers.  Crack down on their carriers.  The truckers, themselves, know they should not be there.  Give them the help they need to say “no” to their employers/lessors.

  • Anonymous

    @7c5046822cc4cc18db9136cc1b5ba956:disqus  I think you’re absolutely right that carriers need to be held accountable for the work they direct others to do–including sending people unprepared into very dangerous situations like this one. And, regrettably, I think it’s entirely possible that the trucker didn’t see the children. I’m certainly amazed by how little I can see in the cars and moving vans I’ve rented over the last few years. Compared to the human-level speeds and nearly 360 visibility that comes with biking, driving even the smallest compact car feels to me like riding a bull while wearing a welding helmet.

    But understanding the factors that controlled the driver’s bad decisions isn’t the same as concluding, without a meaningful investigation, that he was not at fault–and that’s what the NYPD has done. And investigating the trucker’s decisions is not what the media is interested in either. They want to blame the crossing guard or DOT. They’re even willing to countenance blaming a nine-year-old. But questioning police enforcement isn’t on their agenda. 

    Nor does understanding the driver’s situation mean exculpating him. I know a truck driver who on her first trip into New York City saw one of those signs on an overpass saying the clearance was X (12’6″, I think) when her truck was Y (13’6″?), so she just stopped. She ended up holding up traffic for nearly an hour before cops arrived to assure her that she’d fit under the overpass. It wasn’t easy on her to stop everything to make the safe decision. (I can only imagine the honking and screaming . . .) But she did it. And Carroll could have made the safe decision not to go down that residential street on which he could not possibly have had any business. He is almost certainly culpable here–even if a lot of other people are too.

  • Anna Bishop

    Please support Amar by signing the Change.org petition asking for justice..
    http://www.change.org/petitions/prosecute-the-truck-driver-who-hit-and-killed-amar-diarrassouba

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