At Upper West Side Vigil, Families Mourn 9-Year-Old Lost to Traffic Violence

Hours after Mayor de Blasio unveiled his administration’s approach to sharply reducing traffic deaths yesterday, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered at an Upper West Side intersection to mourn 9-year-old Cooper Stock, who was killed last Friday by a turning taxi driver while crossing West End Avenue with his father.

Koffi Komlani, the driver who killed Stock, has received only a summons for failure to yield to a pedestrian, and has not faced criminal charges or disciplinary action from TLC. The case remains under investigation by NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance.

“The fact that people can drive into people and kill them and get away with a traffic violation, which I understand is commonplace, is utterly appalling,” said Barron Lerner, Stock’s uncle, who was joined by the victim’s mother, Dana Lerner, at the vigil. “I can’t imagine to live in a society that would tolerate that,” he said.

Julie Dermer, who lives in the same building as the Stock family and whose son was friends with Cooper, reminded the crowd that Upper West Siders have been advocating for safer streets for years, including a 2008 report with recommendations for 97th Street, where Cooper was killed. “The response has been, ‘We’ll study it,'” she said. “I’m not an urban planner, but this doesn’t seem like rocket science.”

Last year, Community Board 7 requested an honorary street renaming to memorialize 4-year-old Ariel Russo, who was killed by an unlicensed teen driver, but the same community board has dragged its feet for months and even years on safety fixes for major streets like Amsterdam Avenue. “This community does not need more streets named after children who were killed by cars,” said Julie Kowitz Margolies, who also lives in the same building as the Stock family. “What we need is safer streets that will keep our children safe and alive.”

Photo: Stephen Miller
Comptroller Scott Stringer was among the elected officials who attended the vigil. Photo: Stephen Miller

Elected officials at last night’s vigil included Comptroller Scott Stringer, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assembly Member Daniel O’Donnell, and Council Members Helen Rosenthal, Mark Levine and Ydanis Rodriguez.

Rosenthal and Levine, who represent the area where the two fatalities occurred, sent a letter [PDF] yesterday to DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Margaret Forgione asking her to implement short-term fixes to the intersection where Stock was killed, including a longer head-start for pedestrians crossing the street.

“We have a new government in this city, and we’re ready to be held accountable,” Stringer said before urging drivers to drive responsibly or not at all. “If you can’t drive, get out of your car and stop hurting our children. Enough is enough,” he said. “I’m angry as a parent like all of you, and we’re not going to let this happen any more in our city.”

“This area unfortunately has been studied to death, and we need to work with the community board and the DOT to make the changes,” Brewer said, before reiterating her support for lower speed limits on residential streets. “Every single driver in the city of New York should be going at 20 miles per hour, not 40, and not 50 or 60,” she said. “We also need to do something about trucks and buses; they’re too big and they’re too heavy.”

“This is a citywide issue,” said Rodriguez, who is in the running to chair the council’s transportation committee. “With the leadership of Speaker Mark-Viverito and Mayor Bill de Blasio, especially with the plan that he presented today, we will be working together to be sure that we are addressing this issue that affects the whole city.”

Last night’s vigil also memorialized 73-year-old Alexander Shear, who was killed by a tour bus driver at 96th Street and Broadway not even an hour before Stock was killed.

Organizers estimated that approximately 250 people attended the event, stretching nearly a block down West End Avenue.

  • Mark

    The danger that these intersections at West End and 97th and Broadway and 96th have been apparent for years. Community members have been working since before 2008 to fix these intersections. Very specific and concrete plans were brought before the community board in 2008 and 2010, but the transportation committee of CB7 under the leadership of Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig stifled these safety recommendations. Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig have been hostile to the UWS community members who have been working to make our streets safer. For years Dan and Andrew have refused to communicate with street safety activists. They have used parliamentary tricks to kill or slow safety initiative after safety initiative. They have promoted a false debate about what changes can actually make our streets safer.

    No meaningful improvements to the safety of the UWS streets are going to happen with such determined safety opponents chairing the CB7 transportation committee. Many changes need to be made improve street safety on the UWS, and a good start needs to be getting new, competent leadership for the transportation committee of CB7.

  • Tralfaz

    Community Boards who are unfriendly to livable streets should take heed. The momentum for safer streets is clear. The Mayor is behind making our streets safer. Never in the history of NYC have there been so many protests, rallies, and vigils. Never have there been so many public officials speaking in favor of finally doing something concrete. Never have there been so many outraged and the numbers are growing in EVERY community.

    If you are on a Community Board and you care more about one parking space instead of making a safer intersection or maintaining fast moving traffic and not using traffic calming or bike lanes or slower speeds – you are essentially against children, seniors, moms, grandfathers, cyclists, pedestrians, nice neighborhoods, families, good business, etc etc. So think about that during your next vote.

  • Gggrrrrrr

    Why are two co-chairs of a community board sub-committee allowed to continue for decades? Why no term limits? Who can replace them?

    It is ironic that the elected officials who appoint community board members are term limited, and community board members apparently get lifetime appointments.

  • Sean Kelliher

    If Bill deBlasio needs to gather steam for “Vision Zero,” he should eliminate parking placards. Let city workers, pols, and their friends walk around a little. Let them see what the rest of us endure.

  • wolftimber

    ““The fact that people can drive into people and kill them and get away
    with a traffic violation, which I understand is commonplace, is utterly
    appalling,” said Barron Lerner,”

    There is practially NO way to determine if someone was hit during a green light or a red light, you can’t criminalize drivers by assuming the light was green or red or whatever if there’s no photo or video PROOF.

    You can’t criminalize drivers either for idiots who cross against the lights, J- walk, dart between cars, or walk on streets at night in black or dark clothing and are practically invisible as a result.
    It takes TWO to tango here and pedestrians who are hit by a car in the street typically share a 50% BLAME.
    Had this man and kid LOOKED both ways and LOOKED towards traffic they would have seen HEADLIGHTS coming at them a block away- plenty of time to determine the approx speed the car is going and whether they could walk across or get out of the way in time.
    Dad should be charged with child endangerment the same as he would have been if he left a 9 year old alone for a half hour while he went to the store and the kid burned himself or something and an ambulance came.
    DAD did not look both ways, DAD also did not look towards the traffic when crossing, let’s stop blaming the driver 100% for an accident that was 50% the pedestrian’s fault.
    It doesn’t matter if they had a green light or right of way- they didnt LOOK for traffic and blundered right into the path of this moving vehicle.
    The driver also didn’t see them, he’s 50% to blame too.

  • wolftimber

    Pedestrians need to LOOK where they are walking.

  • klfnd

    Wolftimber – it does not take 2 to tango, when the car FAILS TO YIELD in an marked intersection. Are you forgetting the law? And who are you to know what happened? Do you have the video? The arrogance of your statements is appalling.

  • In all my years commenting on Streetsblog – and that’s many. many years – even when I have disagreed with someone I have tried to do it respectfully and in a way to encourage a healthy dialogue. But you are a moron.

  • fafacious

    Do you know anything about any of the recent traffic violence? Children walking with parents, in the crosswalk, with the light – that is the standard description. You place the blame on the children and the parents?

  • You should try stepping out from behind your cloak of anonymity and present your thesis to the parents who have lost children in the past few months. See how that goes.

    And in the case of children who were killed on the sidewalk, please tell us… what percentage of the blame do their parents share?

  • Andrew

    http://goo.gl/maps/ykDZH

    See those seven people crossing the street? That’s where Cooper Stock was killed on Friday night, by a taxi driver making a left turn.

    Notice that they are crossing with the pedestrian signal. Notice also that westbound traffic has a green light.

    In other words, Cooper Stock and his father were crossing with the light, and the taxi driver also had the light – but the taxi driver was in such a rush that he couldn’t be bothered to yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, so he killed one of them.

    (Or, conversely, if you claim that Cooper Stock and his father were crossing against the light, then the taxi driver also ran the red light.)

    At many times of day, there is a steady stream of traffic making that left turn, since it’s a popular route to the Henry Hudson Parkway. Any pedestrian crossing with the light has to depend on drivers yielding. Waiting for a natural gap in traffic means waiting hours. It’s not an option.

    I see you’re no smarter here than you were over on Gothamist.

  • Andrew
  • Jimbo853okg

    That means YOU and your CB10 stooges, Inez Dickens!

  • Hsi-Pei

    You don’t make sense.

    You put in quote about how a driver will just get a ticket if they are at fault and your saying it’s a 50/50 responsibility.

    Right now there is no justice to the pedestrian. If a driver is going 3 times the speed limit and kills someone they only get a speeding ticket.

    Is that justice to you?

    So tell me how would you punish a driver if indeed they are at fault?

    Right now if the pedestrian’s is at fault they die!
    If the driver is at fault they get a ticket?

    If you like to take the 50/50 route then how would you recommend splitting death as a responsibility?

  • dporpentine

    They should stop calling it Caps Lock and just go with what it is at this point: the Projection key.

  • JK

    Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer was elected to show leadership on issues like making street safe, and she needs to lead starting now. She needs to get new chairs for the Transportation Committee of CB 7. The committee chairs of that committee, Andrew Albert and Dan Zweig have served for decades, and have been delaying street safety engineering that can safe lives. Enough is enough. Over the last five years there have been dozens of CB 7 meeting at which hundreds of members of the public have called for traffic calming and safety improvements like protected bike lanes, median refuges and corner extensions.

  • Frank Davis

    That’s like saying rape is a woman’s fault. Drivers should be in control of their vehicles at all times. Don’t blame the victim.

  • MatthewEH

    Sorry to be feeding the troll.

    I would agree the slightest bit with wolftimber in one particular situation. In an intersection that’s deserted of other witnesses, and with no security cameras nearby, it may be impossible to prove who had the right of way in the leadup to a ped-auto collision.

    That *so* does not apply to the situation at hand.

    As for his comment on looking for headlights from a block away — does he realize that there’s generally moderate-to-heavy traffic on this block, it’s in a dense, medium-to-high rise residential area, there are people crossing the intersections on foot at all reasonable hours, and the speed limit is (presently) 30 mph? He’s likely never actually been to the intersection in question, of course. The right baseline assumption to make as a pedestrian is, while always to be wary, that drivers will yield to you in the crosswalk, and certainly will not cut you off at speed!

    I used to live around the corner. My daughter’s best preschool friend used to live on one of the adjoining blocks.

  • Guest

    Red herring, comparing apples to oranges doesn’t work, and drivers always being 100% in control 100% of the time is pure fantasy, it’s like hoping that no swimmer EVER drowns because they are supposed to be in control at all times and NEVER just drown in a pond with water only 5 feet deep, but guess what, chit happens you know!
    The pedestrians still have to be in control of where THEY walk, and when they walk into space largely reserved for 2 ton motor vehicles, trains, planes, or golf courses they are OBLIGATED to use common sense and caution, that means looking both ways like mom supposedly taught the kid by the 2nd grade if not sooner just like she or dad taught junior not to stick his finger in a light socket or push paperclips into electrical outlets.
    Guess what, people are human, they screw up, even people who fell off the cliff into the falls and died not long ago by ignoring the safety fence and signs to climb over them to take pictures- some of us were meant to survive childhood without safetycaps, car seats, helmets and some of us were not and they get taken out- survival of the fittest which is nature’s way.

  • Hi everyone. FYI, I just banned this idiot. Sorry I didn’t get around to it sooner.

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Cy Vance: $580 Fine for Driver Who Killed 9-Year-Old Cooper Stock

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In separate stories published yesterday, family members of Marilyn Dershowitz and Cooper Stock, both lost to traffic violence, criticized Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance for his reluctance to file serious charges against motorists who kill people. Vance declined to apply criminal charges against Koffi Komlani, the cab driver who struck 9-year-old Cooper and his father as the two walked hand […]