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

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.

  • JK

    God bless these families for working through their heartbreak to try and keep this horror from happening to others. I am grateful to them, and I hope these families have no doubt that their efforts are incredibly powerful and important, and that they are already changing the hearts of councilmembers and legislators who stop the cynical and deadly madness that’s been accepted on our streets for so long. Thank you families. Please keep on going as long as you can. You are the change that we all need.

  • Kevin Love

    In my opinion, it is really, really important for the families of victims to speak out.

    Their witness has the potential to be a very important part of changing New York for the better. The “Stop der Kindermord” campaign was a key part of changing The Netherlands for the better. They changed. We can too.

  • Lou_Lombardo

    This is a very important subject. A matter of lives, deaths, and crippling injuries. As a former New Yorker who has worked for decades on improving auto safety, I offer a recent article for readers to consider. See
    Hopefully helpful.

  • Komanoff

    Hear hear, John. I was at City Hall yesterday supporting a grieving mother from 1997, or I should say 1997-1998-1999 … 2014-forever, Evelyn Cancel, mother of 6-year-old Dante Curry, to whom we at Right Of Way dedicated “Killed By Automobile.” The expressions of solidarity from CM’ers Weprin, Vacca, Dromm, Levin, Greenfield, Levine, Kallos, and of course Rodriguez who curated the press conference and hearing, and Public Advocate James (partial list), went far beyond the perfunctory. Yesterday’s events were a powerful signpost. It’s up to us organizers and advocates to make it a turning point and go on to the next and the next.

  • Jackie McCarrick

    This is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with. People should feel safe when walking, riding bikes or using alternative transportation. My sincere condolences to those families who have lost loved ones, your hardships are terrible but it is your strength that will make a change on this matter.

  • Andres Dee

    It’s all good to focus on drivers who kill. We also need to curb more subtle forms of bad behavior. My pet peeves are drivers who do not yield when turning and drivers 2-3 cars back at an intersection who honk at the motorists who do yield.

    David Greenfield is a potentially useful ally in defusing our mean streets. He represents a dense, compact district, with lots of kids and elderly. He can likely buy into the idea that civilized behavior on the road means fewer ambulance calls and funerals. He might even be convince-able that fewer cars and fewer trips mean a better quality of life for the remaining drivers as well as the neighborhood.

  • 1bestdog

    Everybody needs to speak out because next time it could be one of our loved ones or ourselves.

  • 1bestdog

    I would like to know who is ultimately responsible, who makes the call that all these drivers speeding,”failing to yield” and any negligence and recklessness that results in death are not immediately slapped with manslaughter charges. Who is deciding these killers should either get zero tickets, or a minor traffic ticket? Do the children of politicians and police commissioners have to be victims for them to give a damn?

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