Many Questions Remain Unanswered in Aftermath of Chinatown Deaths

alg_children.jpgDiego Martinez (l) and Hayley Ng. Photos via New York Daily News

Friends and relatives of the two children killed in Chinatown last week are grappling with what happened and why, as the parents of Diego Martinez and Hayley Ng demand that the driver whose carelessness led to their childrens’ deaths face consequences for his actions.

Over the weekend, companions of the fallen preschoolers contributed to a makeshift memorial on East Broadway between Market and Catherine Streets. Said the mother of a girl who considered Hayley her best friend: "We’re trying to sort it out. We’re trying to understand why it happened."

There is no single answer, as last Thursday’s catastrophe has revived fundamental questions of the responsibilities of drivers, traffic engineers, law enforcement personnel and legislators to keep people safe on city streets.

Meanwhile, reports the Daily News, two anguished mothers have questions of their own.

In a tearful reunion Saturday, Wana Wu and May Ng met for the first time since losing their children: Diego, 3, and Hayley, 4.

"Our children were killed and the driver walks away without even a ticket," said Ng, inside her sister’s Manhattan apartment. "How can this be? How can this be allowed?"

Sadly, Wu and Ng are not likely to be satisfied in their quest for justice. As Maureen McCormick, a Brooklyn assistant district attorney known for seeking tough penalties for drivers who kill, told Transportation Alternatives in a revealing 2004 interview, even aggressive prosecutors are often stymied by lax state laws and autocentric judges and juries. Said McCormick:

Because of the way laws are written and interpreted, and because of societal attitudes, it is easier to convict deadly drivers who are drunk or drugged. The average New Yorker has a hard time identifying with a guy who smokes crack or shoots up before getting behind the wheel. But jurors may identify with speeders or red light runners who kill someone.

The average New Yorker used to identify with drunk drivers, too, until a sweeping public awareness campaign made it socially unacceptable — except in Manhattan, where, thanks to DA Robert Morgenthau’s office, killer drivers under the influence still stand a good chance of catching a break.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Victims’ Families and Electeds Urge Paterson to Sign Traffic Safety Law

|
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer pressed for traffic safety legislation. He was joined by, from left, Council Member Margaret Chin, the families of Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Transportation Alternatives director Paul Steely White. Photo: Noah Kazis With the stroke of a pen, Governor David Paterson could make New York’s […]

Council Raises Unattended Idling Fines. Will NYPD Enforce?

|
The City Council on Wednesday approved a bill that could prevent future disasters like last January’s Chinatown tragedy, which claimed the lives of preschoolers Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez. A revised law attaches a stiff fine to the type of carelessness that caused the deaths of two children in Chinatown, but it’s up to NYPD […]

Grieving Chinatown Families to Morgenthau: We’re Not Going Away

|
Relatives of Hayley Ng and Diego Martinez, two preschoolers struck and killed by a van in Chinatown on January 22, continue to demand justice from Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. On WCBS television this week, Hayley’s aunt, Wendy Cheung, reiterated both families’ call for citizens to contact Morgenthau’s office and demand further action in the […]

New Bill Would Strengthen Penalties for Dangerous Driving

|
Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, speaking, with Daniel Squadron and Scott Stringer. To Squadron’s right are Wendy Cheung, Hayley Ng’s aunt, and Jon Adler, representative for the families of Ng and Diego Martinez Legislation prompted by the deaths of two children in Chinatown would mandate a safety course and community service for drivers who seriously injure […]

Careless Driving Amendment Passes Senate, Awaits Action by Assembly

|
A bill targeted at NYPD’s self-imposed ban on penalizing motorists for careless driving has cleared the State Senate, but awaits passage in the Assembly. The bill would amend Hayley and Diego’s Law by explicitly stating that officers may ticket or arrest drivers who harm pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable street users whether or not they […]