Chin Calls for Safety Fixes After Driver Injures Three Women on South Street

South Street at Rutgers Slip, before a traffic signal and crosswalks were installed last year. Photo: Google Maps

Update: One of the pedestrians in this crash died from her injuries. She was identified by the Lo-Down as 82-year-old Shu Fan Huang.

A driver seriously injured three women in the crosswalk at South Street at Rutgers Slip in Manhattan yesterday, and one of the victims is facing life-threatening injuries. In response, Council Member Margaret Chin called on DOT to study pedestrian safety along this stretch of South Street, where many residents of Chinatown and the Lower East Side cross beneath the FDR Drive to access the East River Esplanade.

DOT says it is conducting a safety review of the intersection, where it installed a traffic light and crosswalks last year. Meanwhile, NYPD says the women were crossing against the signal and that it does not suspect “any criminality” by the driver.

Yesterday at around 6:50 a.m., the three women were in the crosswalk at Rutgers Slip when a 34-year-old woman driving a Volvo northbound on South Street struck them. Two of the victims, age 60 and 67, were seriously injured, while a third, whom NYPD said is in her 70s, sustained life-threatening injuries. All three were taken to Bellevue Hospital.

It’s not known if the driver was distracted when she struck the three women in the road. She is not facing any charges and did not receive a summons for any traffic violations. The Collision Investigation Squad is investigating. “It appeared the driver had the light,” NYPD’s press office said today. “Nothing here to indicate any criminality.”

DOT installed a traffic signal at the intersection last year and adjusted the pedestrian phase early this year in response to a request from Speaker Sheldon Silver. The agency said it did not receive requests about the intersection between then and yesterday’s crash.

Chin called on DOT to review the intersection and other pedestrian access points to the Esplanade, which was recently renovated. Her office said she reached out to DOT Lower Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez yesterday about improving safety along South Street.

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the department would take a look at pedestrian safety in the area. “DOT is committed to making streets safe for all users,” she said in a statement yesterday. “DOT personnel has been at the crash site since this morning and we will be conducting a safety review at this intersection and the surrounding areas to see what safety improvements can be made. We will continue to work with local leaders and the community on additional improvements.”

Chin isn’t the only Manhattan council member agitating for safety improvements in the wake of a serious pedestrian injury. On Wednesday evening, a pedestrian was struck by the driver of a black Lincoln town car on Amsterdam Avenue between 115th and 116th Streets. Council Member Mark Levine said yesterday that the victim remained in “extremely critical condition” at St. Luke’s Hospital. Levine’s office told Streetsblog today that he will be sending a letter to DOT about the crash later this afternoon.

Update: Levine’s office has released a copy of the letter [PDF].

  • Adrian Bowers

    I don’t see how the argument that the driver had the light works here. The only excuse for hitting a pedestrian is if they literally darted out in front of you and there wasn’t sufficient time for a sufficiently vigilent driver to hit the brake and stop/swerve in time. That seems unlikely to be the case when it’s not one but three 60+ year old women at the same time. They all energetically jumped out in front of a car simultaneously? I cannot fathom a situation where that sounds plausible

  • Daphna

    A green light means proceed if it is safe to do so. A green light does not just mean GO!

    There are signs up on the Hudson River Greenway saying that cyclists must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk. This NY State law seems to apply no matter who has the light and who has the right of way. There are other signs in Riverside Park that say cyclists must yield to pedestrians at all times. I’d like to see motorists held to the same standard – put the same signs up for motorists that are up in Riverside Park or the Hudson River Greenway for cyclists such as: drivers must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk, OR drivers must yield to pedestrians at all times.

  • Charles

    An ethical question that troubles America in 2014: Is it ok to shoot somebody with your gun who you believe looks threatening or may be involved in a petty crime?

    An ethical question that, apparently, does not trouble America in 2014: Is it ok to hit somebody with your car who you believe is in your way when you “have the light”?

  • nycbikecommuter

    Totally agree.

  • If you cycle to Jones Beach you’re treated to a concentrated version of this double standard as you follow a narrow bike sluice across a car parking lot the size of many football fields. In the same space, the same ‘intersections’, dozens of signs tell cyclists to stop and yield to pedestrians (and motorists), while motorists are left to follow their normal practice of momentum intimidation. The weird focus on cyclists causes people walking to their cars to expect cyclists to completely stop instead of riding safely around them (as you do, on a bicycle).

    But the ride is otherwise pretty great, I recommend it.