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East Harlem

On Traffic Justice, Stringer Lets Ray Kelly and Cy Vance Off the Hook

After the driver who killed six year-old Amar Diarrassouba on Thursday was let off with two summonses, for failure to yield to a pedestrian and not exercising due care, NYPD says its Accident Investigation Squad has concluded its investigation. Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance refuses to comment.

Assembly Member Robert J. Rodriguez, Borough President Scott Stringer and Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito announce Stringer's letter to DOT. Photo: Stephen Miller

This afternoon, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was joined by other elected officials and approximately a dozen community leaders on the sidewalk in front of Diarrassouba's school, P.S. 155 in East Harlem, to show their outrage.

"We mourn, but we also are angry," Stringer said. "We should never be standing at a press conference like this again demanding action."

But instead of demanding action from the NYPD and the DA, Stringer announced that he is sending a letter to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "This is a shot across the bow to the Department of Transportation to take meaningful action," Stringer said.

It's a strange tactic, given that DOT is expected to continue its implementation of protected bike lanes and pedestrian refuges in East Harlem this year -- a project that was, for a time, obstructed by Stringer appointees to Community Board 11.

Citing the significant safety gains of DOT's Safe Routes to Schools program, Stringer's letter calls for some worthy improvements, including bringing more Leading Pedestrian Interval signals to East Harlem (currently the neighborhood only has two, while there are 143 in the rest of Manhattan) and installing reduced-speed school zone signs at P.S. 155, which currently has none. But by focusing his critique solely on DOT, Stringer is letting law enforcement off the hook.

"We're certainly going to defer to the police and the district attorney on these issues," said Stringer, who is not sending a letter to the DA or NYPD. His specific policy recommendations to DOT, meanwhile, indicate that he has no problem telling less powerful agencies what to do.

Stringer's letter doesn't mention the street safety project that will bring bike lanes and pedestrian islands to First Avenue and has already redesigned a stretch of Second Avenue just west of P.S. 155. It also doesn't mention that two of Stringer's community board appointments, Erik Mayor and Frank Brija, delayed the project by claiming it would make asthma rates worse. In the end, the full community board voted to support the traffic calming plan not once but twice.

Stringer and Assembly Member Robert Rodriguez both noted that the truck driver was on East 117th Street, a narrow residential street, and Stringer did call for an investigation into why the driver was not using a truck route. Some P.S. 155 parents have cited East River Plaza, the big-box retail development two blocks east of the school, as a source of increased truck traffic in the neighborhood. It is physically impossible to access or disembark from East River Plaza using designated truck routes.

Meanwhile, Mark-Viverito questioned how NYPD determines where to station crossing guards. "What is it based on, whatever community screams loudest?" she asked, urging police to work with DOT so traffic safety data drives decision-making about crossing guards.

After the press conference, Mark-Viverito told Streetsblog that she is sending separate letters to DOT and NYPD about Diarrassouba's death. We have a request in for copies of those letters.

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