No Summonses for DSNY Driver Who Killed Man in Crown Heights Crosswalk

Gedalia Gruntzweig was killed in broad daylight by a city sanitation driver making a right turn at a signalized intersection with crosswalks. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps
Gedalia Gruntzweig was killed in broad daylight by a city sanitation driver making a right turn at a signalized intersection with crosswalks. The red arrow represents the movement of the driver and the white arrow the movement of the victim, according to reports and photos from the scene. Image: Google Maps

A pedestrian crossing with the right of way was struck and killed in Crown Heights Sunday by a city sanitation worker who was not charged or ticketed by NYPD.

Gedalia Gruntzweig, 25, was walking with friends when, at approximately 9:08 a.m., he was hit at the corner of Carroll Street and Kingston Avenue. Published reports say Gruntzweig was in the crosswalk when the driver of a city sanitation hauler, identified by the Daily News as Marlon Martinez, hit him while turning right.

From the Post:

Security camera footage from a nearby store showed that the sanitation truck had the green light when it turned right from Kingston onto Carroll, said a resident who lives in the building and saw the footage, which was turned over to police.

But Gruntzweig and his friend also had the “walk signal” when they stepped into the crosswalk on Carroll, law-enforcement sources said.

The victim was hit by the front side of the truck, knocked down and run over by its rear wheels, sources said. The driver apparently didn’t see the man before hitting him, sources said.

Gedalia Gruntzweig. Photo via New York Post
Gedalia Gruntzweig. Photo via New York Post

NYPD told Gothamist that Gruntzweig was crossing Carroll Street from south to north, and that two other pedestrians were also injured.

According to reports, Gruntzweig was originally from Ukraine. City Council Member Laurie Cumbo told the Times he was a rabbinical student in New Jersey and was visiting the city for an engagement party.

Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero Action Plan contains a number of goals for the city fleet, including driver training and vehicles with improved visibility and other safety features. Among its near-term targets: “Ensure all City fleet vehicles are equipped with technology that record speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, by the end of 2014.”

A central tenet of Vision Zero is, as the action plan states, “vigorous law enforcement against dangerous driving.” Though reports are consistent that the victim had the right of way in this case, and Martinez reportedly drove a truck into three people in a crosswalk on a neighborhood street, NYPD issued no summonses for careless driving or failure to yield.

Officers from the 71st Precinct, where the crash occurred, wrote 161 speeding tickets in 2013, and cited 268 drivers for failure to yield to pedestrians last year. In January, the precinct issued 14 speeding tickets and 32 failure to yield summonses. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector George Fitzgibbon, the precinct’s commanding officer, go to the next community council meeting. Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at MS 61, 400 Empire Boulevard. Call 718-735-0527 for information.

To encourage Council Member Cumbo to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-788-7081, M35@council.nyc.gov or @cmlauriecumbo.

  • Matt F

    “Ensure all City fleet vehicles are equipped with technology that record speeding and other dangerous driving behaviors, by the end of 2014.”

    ….except squad cars. and fire trucks. and ambulances. and buses. and what the hell garbage trucks too.

  • Vernon6

    Pretty surreal to live in a city where manslaughter is completely legal.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    There is a word for people who are above the law.and there is no room for them in NYC or America.

  • Matt F

    george zimmerman agrees.

  • TomG

    You are not safe in the crosswalks, you are not safe on the sidewalks. Hide in your 5th floor living rooms, telecommute, and order in. For God’s sake, don’t go outside! Anyone with a motorized vehicle is allowed to mow you down with impunity.

  • 1ifbyrain2ifbytrain

    My wife and I had to jump back yesterday afternoon in Brooklyn (as we crossed with the WALK signal) to avoid a driver making a fast, sweeping turn into the crosswalk. Again, let’s make all drivers come to a complete stop before turning. Of course we’d have to enforce this and other moving violations in order to ensure compliance.

  • Albert

    “the sanitation truck had the green light…But Gruntzweig and his friend also had the “walk signal”

    A perfect example of why traffic signals and crosswalks should be treated by careful pedestrians as nothing more than suggestions. The safest time or place to cross a given street may very well actually be during the Don’t Walk phase and as far as possible from a crosswalk.

    To the extent that a pedestrian pays attention to a Walk signal rather than to the actual behavior of vehicles, these signals can be downright dangerous. Just their presence is a distraction.

  • Reader

    It’s an interesting phrasing by the Post, which suggests that both things (the driver having the green and the pedestrians having the walk) are equal. Not surprisingly, that leads to the bigger player winning every time.

    If it was an actual newspaper, The Post could do some service journalism and explain the concepts of right of way and failure to yield.

  • Andrew

    I suspect that many drivers have no idea that, at locations where the green signal and the walk signal are concurrent (i.e., most signalized intersections in this city), they are actually obligated by law to yield to pedestrians. To the extent they think about it at all, they probably think of it as a courtesy.

    Perhaps a bit of enforcement would be educational.

  • mattkime

    I can’t disagree that pedestrians should be careful but if this idea underlies how we build our cities and judge our driving then its open season on the weak and inattentive.

  • Andrew

    Community activist Geoffrey Davis said he was briefed by police about the accident and watched surveillance video of it.

    “Two young men were standing on a corner talking,” he explained. “A few people were walking up. One with a child was walking behind them. As they were talking, the truck was coming up very slowly and making a right turn, and they just stepped right in the street as the truck was making the right turn, and it hit them.

    “Everything was moving slow, so the truck wasn’t speeding. It was tragic.”

    http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2014/02/23/nyc-sanitation-truck-strikes-kills-college-student-in-brooklyn/

    Paints quite a different picture.

  • A

    why don’t we start aiming our cars at the police officers who refuse to enforce driving laws and ettiquette? You can be forgiven if they all look alike in their uniforms.

  • Carl S.

    I think a lot of the incidents with turning cars striking pedestrians has to do with the blind spot created by the pillars that separate the front and side windows. The only thing I can think of that would help this would be the federal government limiting the thickness of these pillars or the local governments staggering the green lights so pedestrians and turning cars don’t both get a green light at the same time.

  • Aunt Bike

    It should be noted that if the truck had a green light, then it follows that the victim to his right had a walk signal, thus the driver should have yielded. The NY Post paints yet another picture, and it’s not one that makes the truck driver look so innocent.

    http://nypost.com/2014/02/23/man-studying-to-be-rabbi-killed-by-city-garbage-truck/

    I think the worst way to figure out what actually happened at an accident scene (or just about anywhere) is to read the preliminary reports. I’ll wait to see what comes out as I follow the story.

  • Aunt Bike

    From first hand observations at intersections, I suspect many drivers are unaware that they are supposed to yield in that circumstance. The high number of people hit by cars in crosswalks with the signal reenforces that suspicion.

    I think pedestrians confidently crossing in the crosswalk with the walk signal is what leads to a lot of those driver anecdotes about pedestrians who walk in front of them without looking.

  • vidro3

    Yeah, there is definitely an instant in a turn where you lose sight of pedestrians due to the pillar. With a larger truck probably a larger blind spot. Was the truck stopped at a red light prior to turning?

  • anon

    They don’t leave their cars very often.

  • anon

    Sometimes when drivers try to homicide me in the crosswalk I’ll bang on their windows as they pass. Occasionally they’ll stop and ask why I touched their car. I yell at them and say they have to yield to pedestrians. Most common retort: ‘I had my turning signal on’

  • anon

    You forgot all the bigwigs, the agency and department heads, the deputy mayors, the councilmen, who use city provided cars.

  • Rabi Abonour

    I’m not saying this is a bad idea, but it’s really pathetic that we need to legislate something like that, when the much simpler solution would be for people to take corners at reasonable speeds regardless of whether or not they see someone in the crosswalk.

  • Maya

    Dear Brad,

    Great piece, but please remember it’s “Ukraine,” not “the Ukraine.”

  • qrt145

    I’m surprised that’s the most common report, with so many drivers not even using their turn signals!

  • niccolomachiavelli

    Has anyone noted how many hours this man had been driving in the last month or so and to what extent fatigue may have played a roll in this horrible death? It occurs to me that with the excessive DS overtime as a function of the repeated snow storms may have worn this man’s attention span to a frazzle.

    Check the OT.

  • Andrew

    I don’t see how the Post story contradicts the CBS story at all. Common sense dictates that a pedestrian doesn’t have the “right of way” if the vehicle is already in the process of turning.before the pedestrian steps off the curb, and both the pedestrian and the truck would have the green light at that point. If what Davis said is true, then this doesn’t sound like a “failure to yield” scenario, the victim’s attention was diverted by talking to his friend. It’s not just drivers who need to minimize distractions while they are traveling.

  • Brad Aaron

    Fixed. Thanks.

  • Matt F

    well it doesn’t help that this guy was let go without any penalty. They are basically saying it’s ok to run people over.

  • The pedestrian probably saw the truck and walked into the street assuming the truck would follow the law and yield to him. The NYPD probably tallies this collision as due to “pedestrian error,” as assuming a motorist will obey the law is an error in NYC.

  • qrt145

    Or maybe one or both parties underestimated the propensity that the rear wheels of trucks have to follow a different trajectory than the front.

  • Reports seem to indicate that (a) the driver knocked the pedestrian down with the front of the truck first, and (b) the driver did not see the pedestrian before the collision. The second fact seems to indicate driver inattention more than anything else, but of course it is a mistake to assume a driver is paying attention while driving, hence pedestrian error.

  • Aunt Bike

    This is late, but the pedestrian has the right of way as soon as he steps into a crosswalk so long as the walk signal is on. The police source cited says the pedestrian did enter the crosswalk with the walk signal. I don’t see any provisions in NYS or city traffic law for a vehicle to have right of way just because they’ve already begun a turn.

    Who said the victim was distracted? No law enforcement source quoted in any report on this that I read said that.

  • afk

    http://ypdcrime.com/vt/article27.htm#t1151

    Article 27 – NY Vehicle and Traffic Law

    1151. Pedestrians` right of way in crosswalks.

    (b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety
    and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is
    impractical for the driver to yield.

    This isn’t to say that was the case here, or that the law shouldn’t be changed to require drivers to stop if a pedestrian is merely approaching a crosswalk, or standing on the curb attempting to cross, even if they haven’t entered the crosswalk, but I thought this was worth noting.

  • Andrew

    That’s simply not correct. If somebody has to stop or slow down to let you go first, then by definition you didn’t yield to him.

    The truck driver saw, or should have seen, the pedestrians approaching the crosswalk, and should have stopped to allow them to cross first. He didn’t, and in proceeding through the crosswalk without waiting for the pedestrians, he failed to yield to them.

    The law requires motorists to yield to pedestrians while turning. The law also requires motorists to exercise due care. The law does not, however, require pedestrians to refrain from talking to friends.

    The pedestrian made the fatal mistake of assuming that the driver would obey the law.

  • joe

    the video clearly showed the kid stepped into the street there was a patch of ice and he slipped under the truck the front tires never ran him over he slipped right under the back ones as the truck passed doing about 3 miles per hour his friends could have not claimed injury because you can see they were on the side walk when it happened. look for the video its been leaked. start giving true stories instead of trying to ruin more people’s lives. its called an accident. the video obviously showed there was no fault. sad situation but the kid stepped onto the street when the truck was halfway thru the crosswalk. impatient and tragic.

  • joe

    Though reports are consistent that the victim had the right of way in this case, and Martinez reportedly drove a truck into three people in a crosswalk on a neighborhood street, NYPD issued no summonses for careless driving or failure to yield…….. this line is completely false and offensive. once the video is out there for the public i believe everyone will know that brad aaron is a desperate writer seeking attention

  • afk

    http://ypdcrime.com/vt/article27.htm#t1151

    Article 27 – NY Vehicle and Traffic Law

    1151. Pedestrians` right of way in crosswalks.

    (b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety
    and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is
    impractical for the driver to yield.

    If you are talking with someone on the sidewalk and not moving towards the street, does the driver have to wait indefinitely if you don’t move or wave him along? The way these statutes are written it’s not obvious that cars have to yield if a pedestrian is not yet in the crosswalk, even if attempting to do so.

    In fact two sections down it specifies that cars have to yield if a blind person (with a cane or guide dog) is crossing or attempting to cross. Attempting to cross isn’t mentioned for general pedestrians as a time when cars must yield. Is there relevant case law to say whether this applies to general pedestrians as well? Perhaps this is something worth changing.

  • wes

    Perhaps you could link this video?

  • Andrew

    That is referring to the situation “When traffic-control signals are not in place” – i.e., traffic must stop for a pedestrian crossing at an uncontrolled intersection, but the pedestrian shouldn’t step directly in front of approaching traffic.

    It doesn’t refer to turns at all.

    And who started this rumor that yielding only applies to pedestrians already in the crosswalk? When a motorist is required to yield to another motor vehicle, is he only required to yield if the other motor vehicle has already entered the intersection? Of course not!

  • afk

    You may be right.

    http://ypdcrime.com/vt/article24.htm#t1111

    1. Traffic, except pedestrians, facing a steady circular green signal

    may proceed straight through or turn right or left unless a sign at such

    place prohibits either such turn. Such traffic, including when turning

    right or left, shall yield the right of way to other traffic lawfully

    within the intersection or an adjacent crosswalk at the time such signal

    is exhibited.

    And if pedestrians are not yet in the crosswalk?

  • Driver

  • Aunt Bike

    Your post may point out one of the problems with prosecuting people who run down pedestrians in crosswalks. A good driver defence would be to claim the pedestrian did what is described in section “b”, and if the pedestrian is dead, the pedestrian can’t challenge it.

    Years ago in my community, a college Chaplin was hit by a driver making a turn on a green light. This would indicate that the pedestrian had the walk signal. Before the Chaplin died he told first responders that he had been in the crosswalk. The driver, according to the local paper, told the cops “He couldn’t have been in the crosswalk because I didn’t see him there”. The driver didn’t even get a summons for failure to yield…there was witness to contradict her, the pedestrian was dead.

    In some towns I’ve been in in New England, when a pedestrian enters a crosswalk traffic must halt in both directions. I’ve only seen that at crosswalks in the middle of the block, as I recall. I do think it’s worth examining the concept of giving pedestrians more lead time, giving them the walk signal for some seconds before the turning cars get the green to go.

  • wes

    Thanks for the video. But (@joe) how does this prove there was no fault? It doesn’t pan up in time to see if they were crossing or attempting to do so before the truck started turning, in which case the driver would have been required to yield, and by not doing so would be at least partly liable for the incident.

  • ng

    In some towns in New England, as well as elsewhere (especially in Boulder, CO) I’ve seen mid block crosswalks that have actuators, when you press them the pedestrian crossing signs immediately start flashing yellow lights making it clear to drivers that someone is attempting to cross. It is often difficult for drivers to see someone peaking out between parked cars, this eliminates that problem. There is a line some 10 feet before the crosswalk instructing cars where to stop. There is also an audible message to the pedestrian along the lines of ‘cross with care, vehicles may not stop.’ giving pedestrians a way to communicate to drivers their intention to cross the street would be useful in many places around the city.

  • Aunt Bike

    I saw something like that in Salisbury Connecticut but there wasn’t even an actuator…I was astonished when I put my foot in the crosswalk and everything stopped, including a tractor trailer. It was on the main drag through town, and it had considerable traffic, too.

    I visited Hutchenson, Kansas years ago and in the suburbs there were no stop signs on the corners. Drivers just stopped and let you go when they saw you wanted to cross the street. We’ve got a cultural difference here in NYC, if they think you want to cross the street they speed up. It’s going to take some decades to change driver attitudes here, if it’s possible at all.

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