Nearly two weeks have passed since a sanitation truck driver struck and killed 21-year-old Noah Goldstein near Columbus Circle and left the scene. The driver has been identified, yet police and Manhattan DA Cy Vance have filed no charges. The truck operator who killed Goldstein is free to keep driving on NYC streets.
NYPD and Vance say an investigation is ongoing but otherwise offered no explanation for the lack of charges when Streetsblog asked for an update on the case today.
Police found Goldstein lying in the crosswalk at Broadway and West 61st Street at around 3:15 a.m. the morning of June 18, a Saturday. The driver was not on the scene when police arrived but was later identified. NYPD confirmed to Streetsblog this morning that the driver works for a private sanitation firm.
At Tuesday night’s 20th Precinct Community Council meeting, Captain Levon Holley said the driver “may not have known that he struck an individual” and that investigators are “not pursuing any criminal charges at this time,” the West Side Rag reported. “Evidence points to it being an accident due to the fact that it was a garbage truck,” he said.
To convict a motorist of leaving the scene of a crash, state law says the prosecution must demonstrate that the driver knew or had reason to know that someone was hit. In this case, Holley was speculating from the perspective of the driver. Instead of bringing charges against the person known to have struck and killed Goldstein and left the scene, NYPD offered him a preemptive defense.
Holley also said that NYPD had acquired video footage of the incident, but that the video skips over the crash itself: “There is video of the incident but — for whatever reason — the camera jumped. So you see Noah crossing the street, and then the next thing you see is he is laid out in the street.”
This morning, NYPD’s press office said a “very active” investigation remains underway. Vance’s office said it looks into all crashes where NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is called to the scene but declined to provide any information about the Goldstein case, saying “we cannot comment on specific investigations.” Until Vance’s office and police investigators show otherwise, the preemptive defense of the driver who killed Noah Goldstein will stand.
Trucks account for a disproportionate share of pedestrian and cyclist deaths in NYC, adjusting for miles driven. And drivers of private sanitation trucks cause more fatalities per mile than other truck drivers, according to a 1999 analysis by Charles Komanoff and Right of Way.
Because private carting firms have contracts all over the city, their drivers cover wider distances and are often in unfamiliar territory. The city is looking into reforming the current system by issuing franchises for single firms to cover specific geographic areas. A study released earlier this month also found that the vehicles used by private trash haulers rack up safety violations due to poor maintenance at a high rate, with their trucks removed from service at a rate more than double the national average.