Marlene Baharlias, 77, Killed by Motorist, Blamed by NYPD and the Post

A senior was killed Tuesday in Sheepshead Bay by a driver who witnesses say backed onto a sidewalk — contrary to anonymous NYPD sources who told the Post the victim was jaywalking. No charges were filed.

Marlene Baharlias, 77, was walking home from the doctor with her husband when the driver of a Mercedes SUV backed onto the curb in front of 2060 E. 19th Street, according to witnesses who spoke with News 12 and Brooklyn Daily.

Photo: New York Post
Photo: New York Post

“She was walking on the sidewalk with her husband, the poor woman,” said Shlomo Hava, a neighbor who saw the accident unfold.

Hava said he wanted to help, but seeing her injuries, he knew there was little he could do.

“All her face was smashed — I was shocked,” he said.

Baharlias was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital.

In a five-sentence story, Post reporter Dana Sauchelli blamed Baharlias for her own death, citing police sources who said she “was jaywalking when she stepped off an East 19th street curb mid-block.” The Post is the only media outlet we found that claimed Baharlias was attempting to cross the street outside a crosswalk. The story was accompanied by a photo of the SUV parked almost perpendicular to the sidewalk, with the back end over the curb, and the description embedded with the photo said the victim “was run over by SUV on the sidewalk.” Regardless, for all Post readers know, Baharlias put herself in harm’s way.

In the immediate aftermath of traffic crashes, anonymous NYPD sources are notorious for leaking information that assigns responsibility to deceased pedestrians and cyclists. When Allision Liao was killed last October, police told the media the 3-year-old “broke free from her grandmother while they were crossing the street.” To the contrary, video of the crash revealed Allison was holding her grandmother’s hand when Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha drove into both of them in a Queens crosswalk. Pedestrian Seth Kahn and cyclists Mathieu Lefevre and Rasha Shamoon are also among those who in recent years were initially blamed by NYPD for the crashes that killed them and were later exonerated, either after further investigation or in civil court.

Data consistently show drivers are usually at fault in crashes that hurt and kill NYC pedestrians. NYC DOT’s landmark 2010 pedestrian safety study found that motorist behavior was the main factor in 78.5 percent of serious pedestrian injuries and fatalities. A 2012 Transportation Alternatives report found that, according to data from the state DOT, 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes between 1995 and 2009 were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws. And NYC DOT data from 2011 revealed that half of pedestrians killed in city crosswalks were crossing with the signal.

Meanwhile, Brooklyn Daily reported that motorists picking up kids from a school close to where Baharlias was hit pose a danger to pedestrians.

Locals said the end of the school day may have contributed to the fatal accident. Parents jockey for the position when picking up their kids, sometimes double- or triple- parking, one neighbor said.

“If you see a spot, its like a race to see who can get that spot,” said William Perry, who lives on the block. “Its just an accident waiting to happen.”

Aside: The Post often shares content with Community Newspaper Group publications, including Brooklyn Daily and the Brooklyn Paper, which like the Post are owned (for now) by News Corp.

Multiple outlets, including the Post, reported that no charges were filed against the driver. When we called the NYPD public information office to confirm, and to clear up conflicting accounts on how Marlene Baharlias died, a spokesperson said he had no details on the crash and directed us to email the department.

This fatal crash occurred in the 61st Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain John M. Chell, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 61st Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month at 3093 Ocean Ave. Call 718-627-6847 for information.

The City Council district where Marlene Baharlias was killed is represented by Chaim Deutsch. To encourage Deutsch to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7360,, or @ChaimDeutsch.

  • Reader

    Even Sheepshead Bites, which is about as pro-driving a blog as one can possibly encounter, had details that would have corrected the Post before they went to print.

  • SteveVaccaro

    Great reporting Brad. IMO, a key reason Vision Zero wasn’t launched 10 years ago is false blame-victim reports by irresponsible media rushing to “lead with bleeding,” aided by loose-lipped cops who pathologically dole out misinformation anonymously and NYPD brass who refuse to discipline them for it.

  • Eric McClure

    How freaking infuriating is this?

    When Allision Liao was killed last October, police told the media the 4 year old “broke free from her grandmother while they were crossing the street.” To the contrary, video of the crash revealed Allison was holding her grandmother’s hand when Ahmad Abu-Zayedeha drove into both of them in a Queens crosswalk.

  • Joe R.

    I feel there are two other reasons. One, Vision Zero will by necessity mean a serious enforcement campaign against activities which result in injury/death, such as failure to yield. It will also mean serious enforcement against double parking which is another major cause of dangerous driving. Although drivers are a minority in NYC, they have enough clout to oppose any major continued enforcement initiatives. At best, you’ll be lucky to get occasional crackdowns, followed by long periods of relative non-enforcement.

    Second, and in my opinion much more importantly, I feel Vision Zero hasn’t a chance of succeeding unless we radically reduce traffic levels. When you have this many vehicles sharing the streets with this many pedestrians, sh*t happens no matter how much enforcement there is. I strongly feel we need to reduce levels of motor traffic in NYC by at least 75%, perhaps even by 90%, to have any hope of reaching zero traffic fatalities. I also feel this is viable, both politically and technically, but it will require politicians to take on the AAA and other auto lobbyists. This is something they have been unwilling to do so far. The supermajority in NYC who don’t drive regularly would be supportive any measures to drastically reduce traffic volumes. Besides lowering deaths/injuries, it would make the city a much more pleasant place to live if we had only necessary motor vehicles on the streets. Car-free downtowns are starting to become major fixtures overseas. They should in the US as well.

  • Kevin Love

    The lawlessness of the police is as profoundly disturbing as the failure of the police brass to insist that police obey the law.

  • Seereous

    I agree that we need to reduce the levels of motor traffic considerably but I am not as sanguine as you are as to politicians taking action. They are not going to; there is no political will. Even Jerry Nadler, who is considered a true transportation advocate, and Sen. Schumer, who made campaign promises to do so, have failed to take action to change the one way toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, which brings so much more unnecessary traffic congestion into Brooklyn and Manhattan. Look at what Governor Cuomo just did: reducing the same tolls so that more cars and trucks will make round trips into more congested areas.

  • Kevin Love

    Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, where people care about human life…

    Here is an example of a similar death. Only this time the senior citizen really was jaywalking. Doesn’t matter, the driver was prosecuted. And acquitted, but don’t you wish New York prosecuters said things like this to the judge:

    Crown attorney Lidia Narozniak argued the intersection of Governor’s and Overfield is a busy pedestrian area…

    “It’s an area where pedestrians can be expected,” Narozniak said. “The claim, ‘I didn’t see her’ is proof of a lack of due care and attention and reason for conviction.”

  • Joe R.

    I actually agree with you that in the short term reducing traffic levels is a nonstarter. In the long run though I think it might be possible. We just have to start making people aware that they shouldn’t be forced to deal with myriad problems just so a minority in cars can have their convenience. Just as we banned smoking in most public places because people finally realized they shouldn’t have to deal with second hand smoke, we can drastically reduce motor traffic. It may not happen in this administration, but I think sometime within the next decade we’ll take major initiatives to remove private autos from large swaths of NYC.

  • Aunt Bike

    There’s a popular belief among drivers that pedestrians are responsible for most if not all of pedestrian deaths. Our Police Commissioner seems to feel the same way, judging from remarks he made as recently as February.

  • Aunt Bike

    One cannot underestimate the political pressure exerted by Staten Island’s elected officials on the VZ tolls.

    Former Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro also had an inordinate amount of influence in City Hall, and used it to keep Staten Island from enjoying many of the traffic safety improvements the Bloomberg administration brought to the rest of NYC. Brooklyn’s Borough President couldn’t get the Prospect Park bike lane removed despite trying for years, Molinaro had a bike lane removed in a matter of months, all because 11 Staten Island drivers got ticketed for driving in it.

    A driver trying to drive in that bike lane actually assaulted a cyclist that was in it. Never a word from a single Staten Island politician was uttered about that.

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Witness: Crash That Killed Marlene Baharlias Likely Caught on Video

A man who says he saw the Tuesday crash that killed Marlene Baharlias echoes the story told by others: The driver backed into the senior on a Sheepshead Bay sidewalk. The witness believes a security camera in his building recorded the crash, but NYPD does not share details of crash investigations unless compelled by freedom of information requests. […]