Garbage Truck Driver Admits to Causing Crash That Killed Cyclist Hoyt Jacobs

The truck driver who killed cyclist Hoyt Jacobs in Long Island City last year admitted to causing the crash and pled guilty to violating the victim’s right of way.

Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.
Hoyt Jacobs was cycling lawfully when he was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver who failed to signal a right turn.

Jacobs was riding north on Vernon Boulevard at around 7:15 p.m. last January 17 when Frank Alibrandi, also northbound, hit him with a Mack truck while turning right onto 41st Avenue, according to the NYPD crash report [PDF].

Jacobs was killed on a segment of Vernon Boulevard where DOT elected to install sharrows rather than a bike lane in order to preserve curbside parking. If DOT had installed a continuous two-way protected bike lane on Vernon Boulevard, Hoyt Jacobs might still be alive.

The crash report says Jacobs was dragged by the truck for 25 feet, and that Alibrandi kept driving for another 237 feet before stopping. Jacobs, a writer who worked as a tutor at New York City College of Technology, died at the scene. He was 36.

NYPD and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown charged Alibrandi under Section 19-190, also known as the Right of Way Law. In addition, Alibrandi was summonsed for careless driving and failing to signal.

The truck Alibrandi was driving was owned by Manhattan Demolition, a private sanitation company. Private trash haulers kill more pedestrians per mile than any other type of vehicle in NYC, according to “Killed by Automobile,” a landmark 1999 analysis of crash data produced by Charles Komanoff [PDF].

Last month Alibrandi acknowledged in court that he did not signal before turning, and that he struck Jacobs, who was following traffic rules at the time of the collision, according to Steve Vaccaro, the attorney for Jacobs’s family. Alibrandi also admitted to failing to use due care, and entered a conditional guilty plea to the Right of Way Law violation.

Under the terms of the plea, if he pays fines totaling around $1,000 and completes a driver safety course, the misdemeanor Right of Way Law charge will be vacated and Alibrandi will be allowed to plead to a Section 19-190 traffic infraction.

Vaccaro said the DA’s office negotiated the plea agreement in consultation with Jacobs’s family after the judge indicated she might be inclined to dismiss the case.

Because of the misdemeanor provision of Section 19-190, Vaccaro said, the DA’s office was able to pursue all charges, including the traffic infractions, “as a package in criminal court.” Otherwise it would have been up to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which has let drivers off the hook for fatal failure to yield collisions, to penalize Alibrandi.

Vaccaro credited Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Bettis for pursuing the case.

“Had there not been the unclassified misdemeanor charge under the Right of Way Law, none of this would have happened,” said Vaccaro. “There would not have been an admission of guilt to the traffic violations.”

The outcome of the criminal case should be a factor in civil court proceedings and at Alibrandi’s DMV hearing, which will determine whether his driving privileges will be affected. Vaccaro said Alibrandi’s license was suspended for a time, but it’s unknown if he is currently permitted to drive.

Alibrandi’s next court appearance is scheduled for September.

  • “Jacobs was killed on a segment of Vernon Boulevard where DOT elected to install sharrows rather than a bike lane in order to preserve curbside parking.”

    Gotta preserve that parking. Heaven forbid we do something that makes it slightly less convenient for an individual to park for free on shared city streets.

  • ben Kintisch

    In Copenhagen whenever there is a deadly crash the city comes in with engineers and makes the dangerous spot safer. I’d like to see Reynoso or one of our other Safe Streets allies advance a city law of that nature.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Good I guess but they really need to finish the protected lane on Vernon and some truck regulations would be nice too (requiring cabover layout and side guards).

  • notsurprised

    Apart from being constantly blocked by cars, trucks, and tractor-trailers, the “protected” bike lane on Vernon diverts cyclists into riverside parks at least twice in order to preserve parking. It’s clear that DOT has no respect for bikes as a form of transport and lacks the spine to protect people’s lives over parking.

  • c2check

    This section of Vernon is absolutely infuriating to me.
    The first time I rode it I had never been so confused in my life.
    I still don’t understand what’s going on there.

  • anon

    Another wise lesson from the judiciary in NYC: Vaccaro said the DA’s office negotiated the plea agreement in
    consultation with Jacobs’s family after the judge indicated she might be
    inclined to dismiss the case.

    I will bet that this judge drives to and from work and views people on bikes as a pain.

    Why not a manslaughter charge?

    Also, as we know, the private sanitation trucks are the worst. I see them blowing through red lights all the time without even slowing down.

    I gave up commuting by bike. I’m not willing to risk my life to prove a point. I’ll ride again when the City shuts one major cross county avenue to all traffic in each county and dedicates it to bikes. If we had that, there will be hundreds of thousands of people more commuting by bike every day.

  • Joe R.

    For similar reasons I avoid doing recreational rides during the day, except sometimes on weekends if traffic seems light. Not worth dealing with all the aggravating, life-threatening BS which makes riding a chore rather than the joy it should be.

    The more I think about the better my concept of bike highways of some sort is looking. We need major bike trunk routes where we just don’t have to deal with motor vehicles at all. There are just too many motor vehicles and too many really incompetent drivers in this city for most people to be comfortable using a bike daily.

  • Kevin Love

    When I was in the Army, we had a saying,

    “Some things are worth fighting for,
    Some things are worth dying for…”

    At the time I did not realize that car storage places were one of the things the government considered it worth people dying for.

  • HamTech87

    Was DOT responding to a community board member or politician’s request to preserve parking? Time to reach back and let that person(s) know the consequences.

  • Boris

    Whenever a street design doesn’t follow proscribed standards, the engineer or agency responsible can be held liable. The Vernon Blvd bike lane’s design is clearly substandard in a number of places, with all the abrupt ends, diagonal sharrows, etc. Can the city be sued in a case like this?

  • Joe R.

    I think we should only hold the engineer or agency responsible if their original plans weren’t altered by community boards or elected officials. In this case I think the community board bears 100% of the blame for advocating for sharrows instead of a protected bike lane just to preserve parking. It’s disgusting that car storage is more important than people’s lives in this city.

  • Jules1

    “If DOT had installed a continuous two-way protected bike lane on Vernon Boulevard, Hoyt Jacobs might still be alive.”

    The main cause of this incident is irresponsible driving. For cases like this, far more responsibility falls on the NYPD and DMV for failing to get dangerous drivers off the road. Last but not least, the private sanitation industry is under city government jurisdiction, it’s time to start mandating safe driving standards for all private sanitation companies that want to do business in NYC. (http://www.nyc.gov/html/bic/html/trade_waste/trade_waste.shtml)

  • You’re right overall. But place the blame where it belongs. A City agency can do only what the administration allows it to do. (Well, except for the NYPD, which is above the mayor and above the law. But that’s a whole other story.) The DOT does not set policy. Blame a mayor whose interest in safe streets is very low, especially when compared to that of his predecessor. The DOT excelled under Bloomberg only because he gave it the mandate to transform the City and to improve the quality of life of street users.

  • Jeff

    The relevant community board members and politicians, along with motorists who have taken advantage of the free parking, will be invited to attend the funeral and thank the family for the sacrifice of their loved one’s life.

  • Philip Neumann

    A whole lot about Hoyt’s death bothers me, not to mention the response from the DA, DOT, and the surrounding community. All of the legal stuff has been hashed out, but the local pieces have been largely ignored. First, Hoyt’s ghostbike was vandalized days after its installation. Literally three days after it was dedicated, some asshole took the front wheel off of it. Secondly, the parking that the DOT cares so much about keeping, is for the tenants of the housing projects located here. The Republican in me is about to come out, but please tell me, why, when we subsidize their living, are we also subsidizing their parking spots? The F train is two blocks away, the E/N/R/M are another 4 or 5 blocks away. Not to mention the half dozen bus routes through here.

    If they sooo desperately need parking, directly behind these projects is an unmarked road that some city agency has used to store derelict vehicles – couldn’t that be turned into parking for these tenants, so that we can finally get a fully protected bike lane on Vernon?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    The main cause of this incident is irresponsible driving.

    And the main way to prevent it is through design, separating fundamentally incompatible modes.

  • Joe R.

    It bothers me that we even allow tenants in housing projects to own motor vehicles, much less subsidize their parking. If they can afford a motor vehicle, then they can afford to pay more rent equal to whatever their vehicle is costing them. I’m fine with helping people with low incomes for housing and food. However, if they end up with extra money after these subsidies, they should bank it, not buy a car they otherwise couldn’t afford without the help.

  • And maybe also doing something about irresponsible drivers. As much as I support separate, protected bike lanes, at some point a cyclist has to get on the street to navigate an intersection, or get off the protected lane to get to where he’s going.

    Separate, protected bike lanes can’t take everybody door to door everywhere they need to go. A comprehensive plan would address the issues of the two modes of transportation sharing at necessary points.

    And anyway, separate and protected is no panacea. Here’s video of a truck driving in a separate, protected bike lane. I think this shows we need to address reckless driving as well.

    https://youtu.be/0WfQeCKYMlk

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Having sharrows at the edge of the lane may well have contributed to this man’s death given that sharrows are supposed to encourage safe lane position for cycling and driving, which can help prevent right hooks. That’s why the MUTDC and NACTO recommend putting them in the center of the lane.

  • KeNYC2030

    Has anyone stood up at a community board meeting since Jacobs’ death and informed them of the fatal result of their decision to prioritize parking over street safety? I think it’s Queens CB1. Maybe Streetsblog should start a tally of street deaths directly traceable to CB parking protection votes.

  • Unfortunately, I think the NACTO standards were updated after Hoyt’s death, and the updates included where to place sharrows

  • how i feel about sharrows

  • JamesR

    I stopped commuting a while back and eventually gave up recreational rides outside of weekend mornings as well. The stress to enjoyment ratio kept getting worse and worse. Maybe it’s just part of getting older, or having been hit by a car and remembering the toll it took (even if all I had was a badly sprained wrist and bent bars). It’s really is a shame, the bike is a win in just about every way conceivable, but motorists ruined the experience one time too many.

    I would probably need to leave town entirely to get the true joy of riding to come back.

  • Jim

    In what way are those parking spaces subsidized? They’re free, always have been. I’m all for getting rid of those parking spots to make way for a dedicated bike line, but to blame the residents of a housing project across the streets, c’mon. You ever think that maybe those spots were saved because people visiting the park would have no where to put their vehicles?

  • Taxes pay for the maintenance of those roadways, including street sweeping, snow/ice removal, not to mention the potential land value that’s been lost to keeping free parking with river-views…

    I live in Astoria, and bike through this area very, very often. The majority of people using that park live across the street from it. The people parking on either side of the park, are typically residents of the housing projects. Go, sit outside there on a summer day, and tell me how many people are driving from miles away to picnic at a park across from the Queensbridge Houses. Even anecdotally, we know that most people will drive in circles until they find a parking spot within 1 block of where they live, rather than park their car quickly and walk 4+ blocks to their destination. You think the tenants here are any different than the rest of us?

    I’m not blaming the residents for Hoyt’s death, but I’m wondering why the DOT or any community board would fight to keep “free” parking in that corridor – 18 months after Hoyt was murdered, and nothing’s been changed here.

    And, yes, I mentioned the vandalism to Hoyt’s bike to make a point about the lack of community respect towards our safety, our lives, our memories. It seems to me that you’re more concerned about some assumed finger-pointing at low-income tenants, than you are the safety of cyclists in this city.

  • new yorker

    Most of the city housing projects including those right near transit have free and/or heavily subsidized parking lots for tenants.

    Its an incredible waste of space and resources.

  • Joe R.

    Exactly. You could build much needed subsidized housing in that space. The city just has its priorities all wrong. Last I checked there isn’t an epidemic of homeless cars but there are plenty of homeless people.

  • redbike

    > Hoyt’s ghostbike was vandalized days after its
    > installation. Literally three days after it was dedicated

    > I mentioned the vandalism to Hoyt’s bike to make a
    > point about the lack of community respect towards
    > our safety, our lives, our memories.

    +1

    Acknowledging these are rhetorical questions: Who vandalized the bike? The NYPD? Queens County DA’s office? The trial judge? DOT? NYCHA? The local community board?

    My point: the high priority given to the convenience of motor vehicle owners and operators compared to the low priority given to “…our safety, our lives, our memories…” doesn’t occur in a void.

  • Philip Neumann

    Precisely. The NYPD is all about “data” and “broken windows.” What about “crushed limbs,” or “internal organ damage” policing? If rolling a joint or drinking a 40 on your stoop is a crime that warrants a pat down, handcuffs, and a possible arrest, why isn’t the NYPD going after those who commit vehicular homicide? Why are communities boards then catering to “their” needs (free parking, petitions against bike lanes/speed limits/red light cameras, etc)? Why is NYCHA and Planning forcing these mandated minimums for on-site parking?

  • neroden

    Good for ADA Suzanne Bettis.

    Bad for the judge, who apparently thinks manslaughter is no big deal. Is there a way to remove these judges? Sure there is…

  • neroden

    NYPD has degenerated into a crime gang, and needs to be shut down with extreme prejudice. But make no mistake: a mayor and city council could shut down NYPD and replace it with a new, honest police department if they cared to. They have the power.

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