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Brad Lander

Samuel Cohen Eckstein, 12, Killed by Van Driver on Prospect Park West

12:04 PM EDT on October 9, 2013

Samuel Cohen Eckstein, a 12 year-old boy about to celebrate his bar mitzvah, was killed yesterday at the intersection of Third Street and Prospect Park West in Park Slope. NYPD says the crash investigation is ongoing and as of now there are no arrests or summonses for the driver who ran him over. Although police would not release information about the driver, NYPD said that "preliminary results" show that Cohen Eckstein "ran into the street."

Sammy Cohen Eckstein

The Daily News reports that Cohen Eckstein was bouncing a ball off a monument at the entrance to Prospect Park, across the street from his home, at about 5:15 p.m. yesterday when the ball rolled into the street and he chased after it. NYPD says that Cohen Eckstein suffered trauma to his torso and was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Cohen Eckstein was hit by the driver of a white 2006 Chevrolet van belonging to New Wave Design of Sunnyside, Queens. Photos and reports from the scene indicate the driver was moved to the back seat of an NYPD cruiser after the crash, but he was later released. NYPD would not release the identity of the driver of the van; Streetsblog's calls to New Wave Design have not been picked up and lead to a full voicemail box.

Park Slope Stoop reports that Cohen Eckstein was planning to celebrate his bar mitzvah next month.

Cohen Eckstein's parents, Gary Eckstein and Amy Cohen, spoke at community meetings in support of traffic calming and the protected bike lane on Prospect Park West. "I like to pick up my kids from Hebrew school on my tandem," Eckstein said at a 2011 community board meeting about PPW. "Before it wasn’t safe, but now I can do it."

"The city feels much safer than when we started," Cohen said in a 2008 Los Angeles Times article about bicycling in New York.

Eckstein was also interviewed for a 2008 New York Times article about malfunctioning pedestrian signals. "My kids have been noticing them around Park Slope," he said, noting that some pedestrian signals do not work properly during the walk phase. "Although confusing, it is probably not as dangerous as it could be."

Motor vehicle crashes are the top injury-related killer of New York City children, according to the Department of Health. At least eight children aged 12 and under have been killed by NYC motorists in 2013, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Three of those victims were killed since September 26.

The 78th Precinct, where Cohen Eckstein was killed, issued four speeding tickets and 11 tickets for failure to yield to pedestrians in August, the latest month for which data is available [PDF]. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting, scheduled for the last Tuesday of every month at the precinct house, 65 Sixth Avenue. Call 718-636-6411 for information.

The crash occurred on the border of the City Council districts represented by Steve Levin and Brad Lander. "This is a terrible tragedy and my thoughts and prayers go out to the boy’s family," Levin said in an email.

"Heart broken by incomprehensible loss of Sammy Cohen Eckstein," Lander said on Twitter. "Beautiful kid & family. No words."

To encourage Levin to keep up efforts to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 718-875-5200,, or @StephenLevin33. Contact Lander at 718-499-1090,, or @BradLander.

Speaking at the CityLab conference yesterday, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly suggested that traffic crashes are too "complex" for police to hold reckless drivers accountable. "You’re going to have a lot of traffic," Kelly said. "And you’re going to have accidents."

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