Cy Vance: Senior’s Crosswalk Death Remains Unsolved After Seven Months

No charges were filed by NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance against the driver who fatally struck 82-year-old Sui Leung in a Manhattan crosswalk last fall. Though Council Member Margaret Chin said the NYPD crash report indicated Leung was walking with the right of way, Vance’s office says the investigation has yet to conclude seven months after the crash.

Cy Vance indicted 190 drivers for vehicular crimes in five years. Will he try for 191? Photo: Manhattan DA

commercial van driver hit Leung as she crossed at the intersection Kenmare and Elizabeth Streets on the afternoon of September 25, 2014. NYPD didn’t release the driver’s identity. The van belonged to Party Rental Ltd. of Teterboro, New Jersey.

Shortly after the crash, NYPD told Streetsblog the driver had a green light. A visit to the intersection revealed there is no exclusive turn phase at Kenmare and Elizabeth, so Leung would have had a walk signal when the driver had a green, and would therefore have had the right of way.

“She had the right of way,” local City Council Member Margaret Chin told Streetsblog last October. Along with council reps Rosie Mendez and Ydanis Rodriguez, Chin sent a letter to NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan urging police to charge the driver under the Right of Way Law, which took effect last August. According to details provided in the police report, Chin said, Leung “unquestionably did nothing wrong.”

Streetsblog contacted Chin’s office last December to check up on the case, and at that time no action had been taken against the driver.

“It looks like no charges were ever filed,” Chin spokesperson Sam Spokony told Streetsblog last week, “and that’s obviously something we’re really unhappy with, as Council Member Chin has communicated to both the Manhattan DA’s office and NYPD.”

“At this stage, the investigation remains open, so we cannot make further comment,” said Vance spokesperson Joan Vollero. Vance’s office usually does not comment on vehicular cases, even when cases are disposed or no charges are filed in the first place.

The investigation into the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock was officially “open” for months after Vance’s office told family members no charges would be filed against the cab driver who killed him.

At a public event last January Vance said he had secured indictments in just 190 vehicular cases, including crashes involving drunk driving, since taking office in 2010. When asked what prevents him from bringing cases against more drivers who injure and kill, Vance said, “Because we do not believe after an investigation that the facts prove a crime.” Vance did not mention the Right of Way Law during his remarks.

The Right of Way Law was intended to give law enforcers a tool to charge drivers for harming people who are following traffic rules, but application of the law is still sporadic. The public is left to guess why NYPD and city district attorneys decline to use the law in crashes like the one that killed Sui Leung.

The Right of Way Law is currently under attack from City Council members and state legislators who want to create exemptions for MTA bus drivers who injure and kill people. “Council Member Chin fully supports the Right of Way Law and believes the authorities need to continue to step up their efforts to enforce it,” Spokony said.

  • tomg63

    It seems like prosecutors shouldn’t be acting as juries. Just charge the driver and see if the charges stick in court. So much hemming and hawing.

  • Motorized vehicle drivers – regardless of the tonnage of the vehicle or classification of their license – must be held accountable for deaths of pedestrians and cyclists. Any responsible driver should be proceeding slowly through an intersection… giving right-of-way to those in crosswalks… and using all side and rear mirrors. If Driving Aware is a goal – make consequences.

  • Bobberooni

    The Right of Way law is being put in danger if it is applied unevenly. So far, they seem to charge MTA bus drivers but very few others.

  • camp6ell

    i have a serious question: in a case like this, if i’m a pedestrian and i start to walk into the crosswalk AFTER the walk signal has started to flash red, but while the vehicular light is still green, who has the right of way?

  • Joe Enoch

    I agree. I would like everyone to be judged equally, but to single out bus drivers, who drive rolling houses through a major city and who are paid to try and keep a schedule — versus other drivers who are just impatient and rude — is a dangerous tone.

  • camp6ell

    anyone? i’m genuinely curious

  • al

    They have to keep an eye on their conviction rate, and not make their party or campaign donors mad.

  • D’BlahZero

    This is the reason Cy is a coward.


Is Manhattan DA Cy Vance Delivering on Traffic Justice?

The 2009 race for Manhattan district attorney presented a rare opportunity for proponents of safer streets. After decades of indifference toward victims of vehicular violence from Robert Morgenthau, advocates succeeded in making traffic justice a prominent campaign issue for his would-be successors. Contenders for the office pledged to take definitive action to reduce the carnage […]