84-Year-Old Jaywalker Could Get Jail While Deadly Drivers Get Off Scot-Free

Kang Wong, the 84-year-old pedestrian left bloodied during last weekend’s NYPD jaywalking crackdown, was arrested and charged by police. If convicted, Wong could get a jail term for an incident that stemmed from crossing the street without a walk signal. At the same time, the drivers who killed three pedestrians in the 24th precinct in the last two weeks face no criminal charges.

Kang Wong could get a year in jail for a jaywalking stop that resulted in his arrest. With nine pedestrians and a cyclist killed in 2014, no motorists were charged by NYPD or city DAs for taking a life. Photo: New York Post
Kang Wong could get a year in jail for a jaywalking stop that resulted in his arrest. With nine pedestrians and a cyclist killed in 2014, no motorists were charged by NYPD or city DAs with homicide or assault. Photo: Post

Wong was one of 18 pedestrians ticketed by the precinct over the weekend, according to WCBS. Five motorists were also summonsed for unknown violations. To put that in perspective, the 24th precinct ticketed 58 drivers for speeding in 2013. So precinct officers issued a third as many summonses to pedestrians in one weekend as they did to speeding motorists in all of 2013.

Mayor de Blasio said ticketing pedestrians is not part of his Vision Zero strategy, but he endorsed the 24th precinct’s approach. Said de Blasio on Monday: “There is no larger policy in terms of jaywalking and ticketing and jaywalking. That’s not part of our plan. But it is something a local precinct commander can act on, if they perceive there to be a real danger.”

“The [24th] precinct commander is doing exactly what we want our precinct commanders to do,” de Blasio told WCBS.

Kang Wong was charged with obstruction of government administration, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct, according to reports. The first two charges are class A misdemeanors — more severe than a first-time DWI charge. Obstruction of government administration carries a sentence of up to a year in jail. While Wong is looking at jail time, the Times reported Sunday that unnamed prosecutors blamed vehicular crimes statutes and the courts for their failure to charge drivers who killed three pedestrians and a cyclist last weekend.

In each case, detectives from the Police Department’s collision investigation squad examined the scenes. Commissioner William J. Bratton said last week he would expand investigations of serious crashes, an effort that began last year. But such cases remain difficult to bring, prosecutors say, and have grown more so in recent years as the state Court of Appeals has limited the ability to make serious charges stick against drivers.

Of the 10 crashes that have killed pedestrians and cyclists in 2014, no drivers were charged with homicide or assault. It is true that judges and juries tend to side with those who commit vehicular crimes, but prosecutors who are complaining to the press about the difficulty of securing convictions against motorists should also be making their case to Albany legislators, who have the power to change laws.

To seriously reduce traffic injuries and deaths, the mayor’s office, NYPD, and city district attorneys must be in sync. With 10 people dead, no motorists held accountable, and a pedestrian jailed, what New Yorkers have seen so far in 2014 is closer to chaos.

  • J

    And DeBlasio quickly replicates Bloomberg, asserting a total lack of control of his police force.

  • bronislav_malinowski

    This is unbelievable, but yet entirely. BdB – new democrat, loser to the end.

  • Sidewalk Nibblers on the UWS! From 2006!!!! 9 feet of sidewalk removed.

  • Voter

    “But it is something a local precinct commander can act on, if they perceive there to be a real danger.”

    See, that’s the problem right there. Safety is not only about perception, but about data. What is killing people? While people may *feel* that jaywalking is dangerous to other road users, we have some pretty hard data — and I’m not talking about Bratton’s unsourced stats — about what causes traffic fatalities.

    What if a local precinct commander’s *perception* was that slingshots were a threat to life and limb in a neighborhood that was actually terrorized by illegal handguns? If he ordered a crackdown on little Dennis the Menaces with slingshots, the mayor would call Bratton to have the commander reassigned for such an embarrassing waste of resources, and rightfully so. I’m sure you could make a “broken windows” case for targeting slingshots before semi-automatic weapons, but I doubt that excuse would fly for too long.

    So where are the numbers, Bill? You’re not the Public Advocate anymore; you can demand things and people have to respond.

  • Reason

    Mr Wong is the face of “Vision Zero”.

    And NYC ain’t very happy with it. Twas a silly idea anyway, that’s why deAsio never campaigned on it

  • Bolwerk

    Look at that man’s face. This is tinpot third world dictatorship policing. This is exactly why there was a groundswell of support for getting rid of Ray Kelly. And instead of it stopping, it just expands from attacking black men to attacking the elderly.

    No matter how belligerent this guy got, he wasn’t a threat to five meathead cops. And he wasn’t belligerent, he was scared.

  • It could have been Mark Walker.

  • Robert Wright

    I posted yesterday a link to the letter I’ve sent Bill Bratton about his false claim that pedestrians hurl themselves in front of drivers, which seems to lie behind some of this. I’ve sent versions of the same letter to Bill de Blasio and Polly Trottenberg. In the letter, I ask them where they got the idea pedestrians were the cause of most car/pedestrian crashes when all the data point towards motorist negligence as the main cause. I’ll make it known if I get a meaningful response from anyone: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/01/a-new-commissioner-some-dodgy.html

  • Voter

    It was listed on his campaign website and included in his StreetsPAC questionnaire response.

    http://www.billdeblasio.com/issues/transportation

  • MatthewEH

    Let’s not get carried away here. It stands to reason that crossing against the light, or midblock, with other moving traffic nearby adds chaos to the system. That multiplied out over many iterations, with different individuals being more- and others less-risk-averse, it would cause some number of pedestrian injuries and deaths that otherwise wouldn’t have happened.

    I would like to see actual, unbiased numbers on this, of course.

    As someone local to this intersection, the proportion of pedestrians who will cross 96th street in spite of a red hand when, in fact, it’s traffic turning left from Broadway that has the right-of-way is actually kind of astonishing. I sympathize, but still, astonishing. It kinda suggests to me that a different traffic engineering solution is in order more than anything else, though. In the moment, though, it’s clearly a tsuris to drivers or the occasional cyclist simply trying to negotiate the intersection reasonably and appropriately.

  • Joe R.

    The engineering solution in cases of heavy vehicular traffic and heavy pedestrian traffic is grade separation. Maybe there should be a flyover for left-turning traffic? The sad fact is the city has lots of intersections like this. If we implemented some sort of grade separation at the ones which really needed it for safety reasons we would be looking at a huge amount of money. The saner alternative is to start doing what we probably should have done 4 decades ago-severely restrict motor vehicle traffic in the parts of the city with heavy pedestrian/cyclist traffic. That probably includes all of Manhattan, along with large swaths of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

    Our intersections don’t work because they can’t work. You just can’t time slice via traffic signals when there’s so much pedestrian and vehicular traffic. The end result is inordinate delays for all modes, which in turn results in everyone disregarding the rules. Remember you can only get people to follow rules to a certain extent. If those rules either largely don’t make sense (i.e. waiting for lights even at empty intersections) or are overly burdensome (i.e. red lights doubling or tripling walking/cycling times) then they’ll be disregarded as often as they can be.

  • Brad Aaron

    Reason/Skeptic/Nyc cycler has posted a similar nonsensical comment before using a different handle. S/he is trolling.

  • MatthewEH

    Hey, in my book severely restricting vehicle traffic counts as a traffic engineering solution. 🙂

    At any rate, I think we’re on the same page here.

  • gneiss

    Grade separation is a ridiculous solution in a city. There are many negative externalities that you aren’t even beginning to bring to the table which goes way beyond “efficient” movement of car traffic.

    The more sensible approach is to limit the less space efficient traffic and promote the more space efficient. In other words, deprioritize the use of private single user automobiles and increase priority of walking, transit, and bicycles. There is absolutely no reason why we should try and shoehorn more cars into a space that was never designed for them in the first place.

  • Joe R.

    Totally agree, and I’ve said limiting motor vehicle traffic in a space which was never meant for it is indeed the saner solution. I mentioned grade separation as a red herring. If the city really insists that large volumes of motor vehicles must move through it, then the only way this can be done without delaying/killing other users is via expensive grade separation.

    I won’t say grade separation is always a ridiculous solution in a city. There would be no efficient way to run trains through a city without grade separation, for example. I do think grade separation in a city is an awful solution if the goal of using it is to increase the throughput of motor vehicles.

  • Kevin Love

    It could have been me. Oh wait… it has been me.

    Yes, I have been harassed and assaulted by violent, bullying out-of-control police on a power trip. Violently assaulted because violent bullying was fun for them and fed their sick egos.

    Violently assaulted because they knew that they could get away with their violent bigotry and discrimination against cyclists. Because they knew that police committing violent assault vs. cyclists today is just like police committing violent assault vs. black people used to be in Jim Crow Alabama.

  • Kevin Love

    The engineering solution is a car-free island of Manhattan.

  • Mark Walker

    My roommate was ticketed for jaywalking at 98th and West End a few months ago. Like Mr. Wong, he is Asian and English is not his first language. He felt intimidated, so I accompanied him to court for moral support. Cop didn’t show up, of course. Charge dismissed.

  • qrt145

    That’s interesting; jaywalking tickets were already being given during the Bloomberg administration. Some of the coverage I’ve read makes it sound as if this were the first jaywalking ticket since Giuliani!

  • ocschwar

    I spent my high school years in an area run by two street gangs. The Latin Kings and the Disciples.

    Neither of those would assault an 84 year old man like that.

    NYPD take note.

  • Dan Berkman

    So the streets are so dangerous that we have to make sure nobody jaywalks but they’re not so dangerous that we need to change the way people drive? Funny how that works.

    It’s infuriating that the goal of the NYPD seems to be to make it easier for drivers to pay less attention as they navigate crowded city streets.

  • Andrew

    Bravo.

    If a lot of pedestrians cross against the light at a particular intersection, is there perhaps a reason why? Let’s take a closer look at this intersection.

    The elephant in the room is the entrance to a major subway station in the middle of the street. Very large numbers of pedestrians cross here, most to get to and from the subway rather than to simply cross the street. Yet, despite that, the traffic signals are engineered to maximize the flow of motor vehicle traffic, with crosswalks and pedestrian signals put in almost as an afterthought, just in case a pedestrian might happen to show up. Pedestrian phases are short, and, unless this has been corrected recently, pedestrians don’t even get a walk signal between the median and the west side of Broadway when the north-to-west left turn arrow is on, even though there’s no conflict between the two and there’s no reason for pedestrians not to cross then. So, not only are pedestrians delayed due to the prioritization of motor vehicle traffic, some of that delay is completely unnecessary even given that priority.

    Furthermore, this is the northernmost exit of three from the subway station. Most people exiting the subway here need to go north. But there’s no crosswalk directly to the north, and now there’s a big electronic sign and a bunch of fences and possibly a police officer making sure that pedestrians don’t go north. No, if you need to go north, first you have to wait for the light to go east or west, and only then (after waiting for the light again) can you cross to the north. This is a really easy problem to solve: retime the signals so that the two left turn arrows (north-to-west and south-to-east) are illuminated in unison, and when they go red, the north-south through signals turn green. At that point, there is no reason not to cross directly to the median on the north side of Broadway. There are no conflicts from turning traffic. If anything, crossing to the median is safer than crossing on the east or west side of Broadway, where there are conflicts from traffic turning right.

    I think much of the reason there’s so much crossing against the light here is that it’s plainly obvious to everybody waiting to cross the street here that they’re being delayed unnecessarily. The only catch is that it’s not plainly obvious exactly which walking movements are safe and which are not.

    So, rather than throwing jaywalkers in jail, how about we make some simple changes here that treat pedestrians as more than an afterthought? Allow the crossing to the west while northbound traffic is turning left, since there’s no conflict then. And put in a crosswalk directly to the north, with pedestrian signals clearly indicating when it’s safe to cross directly to the north. Doing so would help pedestrians tremendously without hurting motorists at all (the new signals might not be quite as well optimized, but on the other hand, drivers turning right wouldn’t have to wait for as many pedestrians to cross north-south, since a lot of pedestrians will be crossing in the middle).

    That, of course, is the bare minimum. Given the pedestrian volumes here, a very strong argument could be made (and has been made) for taking away a few motor vehicle lanes and giving pedestrians more space. How about knocking out a lane in each direction and restoring the old, wide sidewalks?

  • Moonbat

    As one of the formerly-ten-now-reported-to-be-eighteen recipients of jaywalking tickets on Sunday, I will say it was chaotic an not totally clear what the cops were doing. Some people got warnings, some got tickets; my attention was directed to a warning sign behind me (for the eyes in the back of my head?) I was summonsed about 30 minutes before Mr. Wong and did not see the beating. I wish him well and hope he’s doing okay.
    I was local to this neighborhood for two dozen years. MatthewEH and Joe R – there was a police car blocking the left-turn lanes on Sunday, so that part of the chaos at least was eliminated.

    For the record, this is what the NYS law has to say about jaywalking:
    § 1152. Crossing at other than crosswalks. (a) Every pedestrian
    crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or
    within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of
    way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
    (b) Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian
    tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the
    right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
    (c) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless
    authorized by official traffic-control devices; and, when authorized to
    cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the
    official traffic-control devices pertaining to such crossing movements.

    It’s crazy to read in the papers (I don’t know where to find an official source) that my fine could be up to $250. The the back of the summons indicates that the fines for running a red light, talking or texting while driving, or failure to wear a seat belt are listed at $138. (No, jaywalking is not listed.) Driving 30 mph over the speed limit is “only” $203. Who sets these fines?

    Even crazier – most of the drivers who actually killed/injured people are not being charged at all. If this whole thing starts a thoughtful study and comprehensive conversation about street safety, I’m all for it. So far there seems to just be a lot of bloviating.

  • valar84

    I don’t see this as particularly viable, sorry. For example, without motor vehicles, how could stores get their goods delivered, or deliver goods to people like furniture?

    I think the main issue is that streets are too wide. As simple as that. Wide streets are unsafe streets because it takes longer for pedestrians to cross and they incite car drivers to go faster.

    Here’s what could be done: on arterials, widen sidewalks to 10 feet or more, maybe include bike paths on them (better that cyclists be around pedestrians than cars). Reduce travel lanes down to 10 feet, eliminate on-street parking or build curb extensions up to the nearest travel lane every 500 feet or so, and with the space saved, either build a large median stripe with trees on it or build tree buffers between the sidewalks and the streets.

    On small residential streets, don’t separate users on the street, put them together. The obsession with separating users is all about getting pedestrians and cyclists out of the way of cars so they can go faster. Build small lawns on either side of the street or fence them off, giving them to the property owners on either side, and leave only about 16-20 feet to the street itself. Have the street be used by pedestrians, cyclists and cars in both directions. The extreme narrowness of the street and the fact that all users will be on it will force card drivers to slow down, as they’re only one user among many, and not the only ones that matter.

    Go check the side streets of Tokyo to see how such narrow streets work. They really do, people feel perfectly safe on them, I know, I walked on them frequently when I went there on vacation. And Japanese roads are much safer than American ones.

  • EileenM57

    Moonbat, Were you ticketed because you (allegedly) crossed mid-block? This statute only seems to cover crossings that aren’t at intersections. Is there a separate provision that addresses intersection crossings? (From the news accounts, it sounds like Mr. Wong was cited for (allegedly) crossing against the light at an intersection.)

  • Bolwerk

    Obviously not politically viable, but “car-free” implies no cars operated for personal reasons. No reason why trucks or vans can’t continue to deliver goods.

  • § Disorderly conduct (discon) is sort of a catchall bullshit charge, and is used either when 1) the police don’t have anything real and want to write a ticket, or 2) they want to add another charge. Obstructing governmental administration (OGA) is a misdemeanor bullshit charge, a more severe version of discon, used to escalate a citation to an arrest.

  • Mutton

    Also as a reminder the rebuild of this subway stop removed the entrances on the East and West sides of Broadway.

  • Andrew

    Because the sidewalks were narrowed!

  • KillMoto

    It takes ZERO VISION to beat-down a man for crossing the street.

  • Bolwerk

    “Resisting arrest” is another one they like; it likely means he put his arms up to protect his head while they were beating him or something like that.

    That he was stuck with this charge is how you know de Blasio was almost certainly lying (or is at least dangerously naive to believe the police) when he said the guy fell.

  • JamesR

    Dude, just stop. Don’t even go there. It is not the same and to suggest that it is is tasteless and clueless.

  • Jimbo853okg

    Thank you for talking sensibly. It’s one thing to make personal car use expensive in crowded urban areas — that makes perfect sense and is long overdue. But I’m against “banning” their use in this country because it’s both impractical and discriminatory.

  • Jimbo853okg

    Agreed. Just stop right there, Kevin. We have to quit acting like freakin’ martyrs. The impact of a few out-of-control cops with little egos on a few people can never compare to the years of injustice black people endured under Jim Crow laws.

  • Kevin Love

    I venture to predict that if you should be viciously and violently assaulted just for being who you are then you may have a slightly different opinion.

    Especially if the violent, dangerous criminals committing the assault know full well that they will get away with it. Get away with it because the police don’t really regard you as a real human being with real human rights.

    I am enraged with being regarded as a legitimate target for violent bullying, abuse and assault by police in order to fulfill some sick psychological need to exercise violent power over others.

    Those are exactly the same root causes of so many other human rights abuses. As a victim, I can only say that this is totally unacceptable and must stop.

    I am a real human being. I have zero tolerance of being the victim of violence. It is not OK to violently assault me just because of who I am. This vicious and violent form of bigotry and discrimination must be stamped out wherever it rears its ugly head.

  • “Cars” =/= “all vehicles”. The majority of traffic in NYC is private motor vehicles with single occupants, mostly from outside the city. Get rid of those and most if not all the congestion is gone leaving room for trucks, busses, bicycles and pedestrians. Make transit the only legal way to enter the city and people will find a way to use transit, make bicycles the only legal SOV and people will ride a bike or use transit. Both of those are choices with low lethality compared to SOV private motor vehicles. Cars have killed 11 people in NYC since Jan 1st, well 10 if you don’t count the guy who got hit back in June and didn’t die until last week. That’s an average of a fatality every 2 days.

  • chelmer

    i guess “Giuliani time” as the cop shouted as he ruptured a victim’s anus with a broomstick never arrived. “De Blasio time!” however, seems to have landed safely. Safety safety safety!

  • Kevin Lin

    new york city cops should need some or training
    beating down an 84 year old, what if he had heart conditions or other conditions.
    i think De Blasio is not ready to be a mayor yet, failing to keep crime low, failing to plow snow in some streets

  • Jimbo853okg

    This forum is for those who’d rather fight traffic injustice than be victims. I’m sorry for whatever you’ve been through, but the real heroes of oppression stick up for themselves. This is 2014, and you have a community to back you up.

  • Mike

    Time to beat down some NYPD cops …

  • Jonathan Werdenberg

    The pedestrians that were killed were most likely jaywalking

  • Vooch

    City streets Are for People Not Hulking Death machines

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