Family of Victoria Nicodemus Demands Justice for Victims of Traffic Violence

Standing by his mother and CM Laurie Cumbo, Peter Miller shared memories of his sister and demanded justice for her and other victims of traffic violence. Photo: David Meyer
Peter Miller, far right, shared memories of his sister Victoria Nicodemus and demanded justice for her and other victims of traffic violence. Photo: David Meyer

Before she was killed on December 6 by an unlicensed curb-jumping driver, 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus was making a name for herself as an art curator. Last night, her colleagues at Indiewalls joined with her family, local electeds, and nearly 60 local residents to connect her life’s work with a call for justice for victims of traffic violence.

Marlon Sewell was driving his SUV without a license or insurance when he veered around a parked bus and onto the sidewalk, killing Nicodemus and injuring two others. This was the second time this year Sewell had been caught driving without a valid license — his license had recently been suspended for failing to report for multiple traffic summonses. He received two low-level misdemeanors and has not been charged with homicide.

Last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller emphasized that his sister’s death was not an accident, but the result of a chain of decisions made by Sewell and policymakers. “It was his choice to avoid damage to his car and himself as he swerved — to avoid an inanimate object — onto a sidewalk filled with unprotected pedestrians,” he said. “And it’s the city’s choice not prioritize prosecution of unlicensed and uninsured drivers.”

Her other brother, Hank Miller, demanded action from the city, state legislators, and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. “It is incumbent upon local district attorneys to pursue these types of cases more aggressively,” he said, “and consult with state and city legislators to develop statutes that give prosecutors and law enforcement better tools to combat this epidemic affecting pedestrian safety.”

Nicodemus' colleagues at Indiewalls hope their art installation draws attention to traffic violence and Vision Zero. Photo: David Meyer
Nicodemus’s colleagues at Indiewalls hope their art installation draws attention to traffic violence and Vision Zero. Photo: David Meyer

The installation, which was created by Nicodemus’s colleagues at Indiewalls, is a large two-sided sign surrounded by strings of lights just off the curb at Fulton Street and South Portland Avenue. On one side is a work Nicodemus had been involved in, which Indiewalls CEO Gavi Wolf said represents wisdom and protection. The other side, which faces eastbound traffic on Fulton Street, says “Safe Streets.”

Wolf said he hoped the installation could become permanent — and reclaim that part of the street for pedestrians. “We’d like the installation to inspire change to this actual intersection,” he told the crowd.

“No matter what walk of life you come from, this is every single person’s issue in the city of New York,” Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the district, said about the installation. “I think that art has a power not only of healing, but art has the magic to say what words cannot say.” Cumbo announced that she will host a town hall in January to address Vision Zero and pedestrian safety concerns and that DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg would be in attendance.

Public Advocate Letitia James and Assembly Member Walter Mosley joined Cumbo and Nicodemus’s family in demanding that Sewell be brought to justice. Mosley touted his co-sponsorship of legislation that would make it a Class D felony to commit bodily harm while driving without a license.

When Mosley finished speaking, Nicodemus’s mother Elsa grabbed him and implored him to take action. “Change the laws so that people that are sober that run people over get prosecuted like the drunks. It’s no excuse because you’re sober,” she said. “It’s murder.”

  • Reader

    There was a town hall after Lucian Merrywether was killed on a sidewalk not too far away about two years ago. Nothing changed. All Laurie Cumbo has done for “traffic safety” is to side with the TWU in their attack on the Right of Way Law.

    People have to hold her to account. What design changes will she ask for? How much parking is she willing to re-purpose if it means making an intersection safer? If she can’t offer more than vague platitudes about the healing power of art, then voters need to find someone else to support in 2017.

  • Luke Ohlson

    Turn out to the town hall and say so. Call up your elected officials and say so. These are great questions to be asking and we should demand to see results.

  • jooltman

    I am tired of TA & others allowing do-worse-than-nothing politicians like Cumbo to have faux safe streets photo ops. I know this event was important for the victim’s family & friends, and members of the neighborhood and advocacy community, but people like Cumbo should be expressly disinvited. Advocates have been working with her for years to help her understand how the streets of her district work and what is killing her constituents…to no avail. She is ineffective at best and negligent at worst.

  • Reader

    I absolutely will. People need to put Cumbo on the spot and make her answer for her lack of action.

  • Luke Ohlson

    Great to hear!

  • Brian Howald

    I don’t know much about Councilwoman Cumbo, but your point was made clear last night from the language that she used to describe Ms. Nicodemus’s killing. She described it and similar events as tragic “crashes and/or accidents,” while Public Advocate James and Assemblyman Mosley emphasized that this death was the result of reckless choices, not accidents, and that this violence is criminal.

  • John D

    time to call out the state reps NOT there….Jesse Hamilton(?) and ???

  • Thomas Isidore Noël

    Let’s remember Cumbo’s record from May 2014:

    Council Member Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn voted against the “stunt riding” bill, as she believed it would impose on “motorcycle culture,” and would lead to young people being arrested. The bill was intended to address behavior of dirt bike riders who take over streets, and even sidewalks, in NYC neighborhoods, particularly in Upper Manhattan, every year during warm weather months, and was proposed after a confrontation between motorcyclists and a family in an SUV resulted in serious injuries.

    See
    http://www.streetsblog.org/2014/05/29/city-council-passes-several-bills-to-reduce-reckless-driving/

  • Thomas Isidore Noël

    This is Velmanette Montgomery’s district. Squadron also has a tiny bit of Fort Greene.

  • armyvet00

    Riding dirt bikes is already illegal, this law proposed items that were going to be used to harass the legitimate motorcyclists that stop for cops. The problem is the dirt bikes, quads, and unlicensed riders that don’t stop for cops. If anything we need to track those illegal dirt bikes and quads (drones would be good for this) back to the location where they are stored and seize them, instead of writing new laws that will never be applied to the menace of illegal dirtkbikes (once again, because they do not stop for police).

  • armyvet00

    Driving too fast to control your vehicle isn’t an accident! It is piss poor driving skills and a lack of respect for other people on the road.

  • Joe R.

    Either that or just provide legal places in parks or isolated areas where people can ride these (and store them nearby for a fee).

  • armyvet00

    That would be best, but these guys and gals are not exactly rapping their knuckles on the doors of the elected a who could make that happen, and I’m not sure any property owner would see a $ market for that… But I wholly concur with you!

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