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.
“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.”
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, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @ChaimDeutsch.