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Cy Vance

Businessman Who Protested 1st Ave Safety Fixes: It’s the 9-Year-Old’s Fault

1:01 PM EST on March 1, 2013

NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance are reportedly targeting a crossing guard for her supposed role in the death of 6-year-old Amar Diarrassouba, who was killed by a truck driver in East Harlem Thursday morning. Meanwhile, a local businessman and community board member who waged a campaign against pedestrian refuges and protected bike lanes on First and Second Avenues has publicly pinned the blame on the victim's 9-year-old brother.

Amar Diarrassouba

Robert Carroll was issued summonses for failure to yield and failure to exercise due care, according to the Post. Reports say Carroll was turning right from E. 117th Street onto First Avenue when he hit Amar with a rear tire of the tractor-trailer. Amar and older brother Youssouf were crossing First Avenue east to west, on their way to nearby P.S. 155.

Community Board 11 endorsed protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges on First and Second Avenues from 96th to 125th Streets in September 2011, but rescinded its support two months later, when restaurant owners Frank Brija and Erik Mayor, who are also on the board, organized against the project.

Brija and Mayor, owners of Patsy’s Pizza and Milk Burger, respectively, said businesses were not contacted about the proposal for protected lanes and pedestrian islands, a claim refuted by DOT. They also said the safety measures would make traffic congestion worse and increase asthma rates.

The board ultimately endorsed the plan, which had broad community support, a second time, in March 2012. Construction was supposed to begin last spring, but was pushed back after the board waffled. While it's impossible to know how the First Avenue redesign would have affected this crash, a narrower roadway may have saved Amar's life by forcing Carroll to make a tighter, slower turn.

On Streetsblog and Twitter this morning, attorney Steve Vaccaro noted that, had the project proceeded as planned, the crash that killed Amar Diarrassouba might not have happened. In response, Mayor tweeted: "Steve you are pathetic to place blame on us. The child was being walked by his nine year old brother who did not pay attention."

Erik Mayor, owner of Milk Burger, waged a campaign against safety measures for the intersection where Amar was killed.

Though witnesses said truckers often use it, E. 117th Street is not a truck route. Trucks exceeding 55 feet in length, like the one driven by Carroll, are not allowed on surface streets without a permit.

The truck, owned by Texas-based McLane Company, was registered in Illinois, according to the Daily News. Trucks registered outside New York are exempt from the state’s crossover mirror requirement. The News reported that the truck has the mirrors, which allow truck drivers to see what is directly in front of them, but photos seem to indicate otherwise.

As officers defended Carroll at the scene -- "Apparently he didn’t see them," said NYPD spokesperson Joseph Cavitolo -- crossing guard Flavia Roman was reportedly taken in for questioning. The Post reported yesterday that Vance had decided not to pursue charges against her, but today cited an anonymous source who said he is still "considering" it.

Reports indicate the investigation centers on what time Roman showed up for work, and whether she was really using the bathroom when Robert Carroll drove his truck over Amar Diarrassouba.

In 2012, 3,959 pedestrians and cyclists were wounded in Manhattan, and 41 were killed, according to NYPD. The majority of those crashes were not investigated by police. None of the drivers involved in fatal crashes are known to have been charged by Cy Vance for taking a life.

Clarification: This post originally identified Steve Vaccaro as a volunteer with Transportation Alternatives. The post has been amended to reflect that Vaccaro was not acting on behalf of TA when he confronted Mayor via Twitter.

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