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Traffic Violence Victims’ Families Tell Their Stories at City Hall

The family of Kelly Gordon, killed on York Avenue three weeks ago, joined council members and other victims' families outside City Hall today. Photo: Stephen Miller
The family of Kelly Gordon, killed on York Avenue three weeks ago, joined other victims' families and City Council members outside City Hall today. Photo: Stephen Miller
The family of Kelly Gordon, killed on York Avenue three weeks ago, joined council members and other victims' families outside City Hall today. Photo: Stephen Miller

Before the big City Council hearing on street safety legislation this afternoon, elected officials joined families of traffic violence victims outside City Hall to push for speed camera and speed limit bills in Albany, along with more traffic enforcement and better street designs from the de Blasio administration.

Three weeks ago, 22-year-old Kelly Gordon was struck and killed on York Avenue. She was going to graduate from Boston College in May. Today, her family came to City Hall to tell her story.

"To clear up the record, it was reported in the press that Kelly was jaywalking. She was not. The police report reflects that. Witnesses reflect that. Kelly was not jaywalking," said Gordon's aunt, Lori Centerella. "She was standing just off the curb when a driver sped through the yellow light, struck her, and sent her into the path of another driver."

Both drivers were operating yellow cabs. "These two taxi drivers left that scene with not even a single summons," said her father, Donald Gordon. "For all we know, they could've picked up another passenger a block away."

Centerella was overwhelmed by the number of families at City Hall this afternoon who had also lost loved ones to traffic violence. "When we came here today, we thought we would be the only ones," she said. "Look at all the families that have walked this road before us."

In 1997, Evelyn Cancel's six-year-old son Dante Curry was killed by a driver going 65 mph on a residential street in Mott Haven. The driver did not face any charges and got off with a $60 fine. "From that time, I've been looking for justice and change," Cancel said today at City Hall. "I think it's time for us to do something. Too many children are dying."

"Most of these were not accidents. These tragedies happen because somebody did something wrong," said Council Member Mark Weprin. "What we're doing here today is to try and change the way New Yorkers look at driving, to realize that there is a responsibility that comes with the privilege of driving."

"Driving is a privilege, not a right, and that privilege should be revoked whenever someone loses their life," said Public Advocate Letitia James, who called for more enforcement and better street designs, including plazas and protected bike lanes. "How many more children will we have to lose? I'm tired of attending rallies and funerals and candlelight vigils. It's got to stop and it's got to stop now."

Council Member David Greenfield compared the shift in thinking on traffic violence to the way New York tackled murders and theft. "A lot of people say there's nothing you can do," he said. "Well, that was the mentality of 20 years ago when people said that in New York, people were always going to get killed. And that's just not the case. We lead the way on every other issue in the city of New York. We need to lead the way on this."

Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez invited his City Council colleagues to join him and Families for Safe Streets in Albany on May 6 to speak with state legislators about traffic safety bills.

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