Driver “Flying” Through Harlem School Zone Kills Child — Tabs Blame Victim

The car involved in the collision that killed Ervi Secundino had extensive damage to the hood and grille, indicating the crash likely occurred at a high rate of speed. Witnesses said the driver was “flying” through a school zone at dismissal time. Image: WNBC
The car involved in the collision that killed Ervi Secundino had extensive damage to the hood and grille, indicating the crash likely occurred at a high rate of speed. Witnesses said the driver was “flying” through a school zone at dismissal time. Image: WNBC

A driver operating a TLC-licensed vehicle killed a 12-year-old boy outside a school in Harlem Wednesday.

The crash occurred in the 32nd Precinct, where officers issue an average of between one and two speeding tickets per day.

Ervi Secundino was hit at approximately 3:15 p.m. in front of Frederick Douglass Academy, where he was in the sixth grade, the Times reported. He was crossing Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard at 150th Street, west to east, when the southbound driver struck him and dragged him for one block, according to NYPD and media reports.

Ervi lived on 145th Street, near the school. He was pronounced dead at Harlem Hospital. Ervi was at least the second child age 14 and under killed by a New York City motorist this year, and the tenth since January 2014, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog.

The driver was a 23-year-old man who lives in Brooklyn, a police spokesperson said. His name was not released by NYPD or the Taxi and Limousine Commission. NYPD had no information on the driver’s speed or who had the right of way, and police had filed no charges as of late this morning. The NYPD spokesperson said the investigation was ongoing.

Images from the scene show the car, a Toyota livery cab, with extensive damage to the hood and grille, indicating the driver was likely exceeding the 25 miles per hour speed limit. While the Post and the Daily News blamed the child for being in the street, WNBC spoke with witnesses who said the driver was speeding.

The school zone on southbound Adam Clay Powell Jr. Boulevard at 150th Street, where the unidentified driver hit Ervi Secundino and dragged him for one block. Image: Google Maps
The school zone on southbound Adam Clay Powell Jr. Boulevard at 150th Street, where the unidentified driver hit Ervi Secundino and dragged him for one block. Image: Google Maps

“[T]he cab has a big dent in the hood,” said WNBC reporter Ida Siegal. “Witnesses say the driver was flying down the street when Ervi ran right in front of him.”

“The boy was coming across the street, the car was coming so fast — it hit him, that’s when he flew up in the air and [the car] dragged him all the way here,” said Philis Miles, a crossing guard who witnessed the crash.

“The majority of the time the cars do speed through here,” parent Madeline Hernandez told WNBC. “You understand you have to grab onto your children.”

The WNBC story included video of police driving the cab through the intersection, “performing what appeared to be speed tests,” Siegal said.

“The vehicle was registered to a properly licensed TLC base, but the driver does not appear to have been engaged in for-hire work,” said TLC spokesperson Allan Fromberg. Fromberg told Capital “the vehicle that struck Secundino was affiliated with an Uber base.”

“Based on all preliminary information this was not an Uber driver,” a source with knowledge of the crash, who did not want to be identified, told Streetsblog.

As in other NYPD commands, speed enforcement is clearly not a priority for the 32nd Precinct. Thanks to Albany lawmakers’ strict and arbitrary limits on the use of speed cameras in New York City, DOT is allowed a maximum of just 140 cameras. At last count the agency had deployed only 63 of them. [Update: DOT emailed us to say 93 cameras are now in use.] According to WNYC’s map of speed camera violations, at one point a speed cam was located on this stretch of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, but was moved in January. If speed cameras were deployed in every school zone in the city, it is possible Ervi Secundino would still be alive.

Ervi Secundino was killed in community board district 10, where Council Member Inez Dickens and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer just reappointed board chair and safe streets obstacle Henrietta Lyle.

As for potential charges against the driver, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance declined to comment for this story.

Update: Caroline Samponaro, deputy director for Transportation Alternatives, sent us the following statement:

Speed safety cameras are an essential tool in the Vision Zero toolbox and reinforce the message that speeding on NYC streets is unacceptable. In order to consistently discourage speeding and protect our most vulnerable street users, like 12 year-old children walking on streets near school, NYC needs the authority to install more speed safety cameras than the 140 currently allowed by the State Legislature.

  • Joe R.

    Looks like Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard needs a serious road diet.

  • Reader

    It takes a special kind of tabloid scum to reflexively blame a child for his own death. Thanks, Streetsblog, for continuing to shine a light on these “reporters.”

  • Joe R.

    Plenty of blame to go around here starting with the design of the street, the fact the driver was most likely speeding, and also lack of supervision. Some but not all 12 year olds have enough sense not to run out into the street. The parents or teachers of those who don’t need to keep them under proper supervision.

  • Reader

    And knowing some 12-year-old don’t have common sense, drivers need to slow the hell down. The city needs to also fix the street so that speeding isn’t possible, but if the driver was speeding it’s his fault, not the kid’s.

  • Jesse

    From the Post:

    “The driver of the livery cab remained on the scene, according to police. It was not immediately clear if he would be charged with a crime or issued a summons.”

    I think there’s a typo. They probably meant:

    “The driver of the livery cab remained on the scene, according to police. It was not immediately clear if he would not be charged with a crime or issued a summons.”

  • Brad Aaron

    I’d like to see you tell this child’s mother she should have walked him five blocks home from school every day, and it’s partly her fault her child is dead.

  • Joe R.

    Not her fault at all. If I had to blame someone besides the driver, I might blame the school staff for not properly supervising their charges until they’re off school premises. What happens after that isn’t their fault.

    Above all else though blame the city for continuing to have streets like this near schools. It may not be practical to redo every street where drivers go fast, but we can certainly fix those within a few blocks of school zones. Seriously, a simple, inexpensive solution like narrowing the lanes to 8 or 9 feet, then putting bollards between the lanes, would get drivers to slow considerably in that location.

  • AnoNYC

    I wonder what’s the most effective way to “fortify” our schools?

    Should all streets surrounding schools have the most aggressive traffic calming available? I think so. Let’s raise crosswalks, install bollards, speed humps, chicanes, red light and speed cameras.

    Such unnecessary death. These moronic cabbies continue to speed despite still having average daytime speeds below 15 MPH.

    The city also needs to institute congestion pricing already to lower vehivule volumes so we can more aggressively reallocate space to pedestrians, bikes, and mass transportation.

  • ocschwar

    Bollards are nice. They don’t collect data. They don’t draw salaries or pensions. They don’t strangle people for selling loosies.

  • Anon resident

    Assembly Member Farrells office is steps away from this incident. His office continues to be a failure when it comes safe streets.

  • BBnet3000

    What you’re looking at here is the “after”.

  • JudenChino

    Wasn’t ACP one of the streets that the CB nixed a road diet? That’s some serious bump on the Toyota too.

    F’d up that ACP is like a highway in one of the most densely populated communities in the country.

  • Brad Aaron

    OK, but the street isn’t school premises, so I don’t see how school staff or parents are at all to blame here.

  • Brad Aaron

    A point I didn’t bring up in the story is that there are some on the City Council who seem to think crossing guards, like the one who watched helplessly as Ervi Secundino was mortally injured in front of her, are the Vision Zero silver bullet.

    If your priority is crossing guards you are conceding that your transportation system is broken, and you are either unaware of that or unwilling to address it in a meaningful way.

  • Joe R.

    What about preventing them from running off school premises which are adjacent to the street? That seems reasonable to me. I’ll admit I’m nitpicking here, and I mostly blame the driver, but parents and/or others who can’t keep control of children they’re in charge of are a pet peeve of mine. Children often don’t know when they’re doing something dangerous but the adults around them most certainly do. The hard fact is no speed is really safe to drive at if children are going to be darting out into streets because of lack of supervision.

    My parents taught me not to run into streets at a very early age, certainly before I even started going to school. We shouldn’t blame the victim here, but at the same time I hope part of the learning process here is more parents telling their children about the dangers of running into the street, using this unfortunate incident as an example of what happens when you do.

  • Joe R.

    +10000 on the bollards. Speeding past a school zone should result in the very real possibility of vehicle damage and injury/death—for the driver that is.

  • AnoNYC

    12 years old is a bit old to be escorted home by a parent. Especially unlikely in a community like Harlem where this child likely comes from a single parent household where that parent would likely be working.

  • Joe R.

    Remember also a crossing guard can’t simultaneously control many children. If some of them decide to run into the street, there’s literally nothing they can do.

    The more I think about it, the more I feel anything except totally essential motor vehicles just don’t belong in urban areas. Buses, delivery trucks, sanitation trucks, paratransit, emergency vehicles are fine. Anything else isn’t.

  • AnoNYC

    Example 1

  • AnoNYC

    Example 2

  • Brad Aaron

    I think there’s a difference between “kids should be told to not run in the street” and “the child died because the adults in his life failed to teach him to not run in the street.” That’s a line I wouldn’t cross.

  • Joe R.

    Nor could his mother have likely done much to stop a 12-year old hell bent on running into the street anyway. Nevertheless, and I’m not blaming the victim here, there’s nothing wrong with teaching children not to run into streets. No matter how much we slow down motor vehicles, the streets will never be a safe place to run into without looking. Remember buses going walking speed have killed people. We can’t always trust drivers to do what they’re supposed to do. In fact, based on my own experience more often than not we can’t trust them. That means we need to watch out for ourselves. It shouldn’t be politically incorrect to suggest that.

  • Joe R.

    Fair enough because children often don’t pay heed to advice adults give them anyway. As I said, I blame the NYC more than anyone else for failing to seriously address the root cause of traffic violence—namely far too many motor vehicles. Everything else, such as speeding, aggressive driving, failure to yield, can be partially attributed to that. If there weren’t so many vehicles on that street, chances are great a kid could dart out and not be hit 999 times out of 1000. With traffic volumes as high as they are, the chances of not being hit approach zero.

  • ahwr

    Buse and trucks, including garbage trucks and snow plows, are more than 8 feet wide, some are more than 9 feet wide. Most city streets are near schools, it isn’t some small fraction of the city’s road miles.

  • Joe R.

    So you get rid of parking, make an 11′ curb lane for buses and trucks only, and get narrower snow plows. Or we could try chicanes as someone else here suggested. Or perhaps roundabouts.

    If the city got serious about reducing traffic volumes high-speed, high volume streets like this largely wouldn’t need to exist. They’re an artifact from the Robert Moses era. I have one right by me running past a grade school where people drive by at 40 to 55 mph all day long.

  • MattyCiii

    Dear NYPD:

    What does the black box in the killer’s car say about his speed?

    Thank you.

  • MattyCiii
  • ahwr

    How do you deal with turns? Trucks and buses can’t turn right from the curb lane to the curb lane. Garbage trucks are the snow plows. You want the city to buy a fleet of pickup trucks for a few days a year?

  • Joe R.

    So allowing truck access means we’re stuck by default with 11′ or wider lanes which encourage speeding?

    I have other answers of course, like maybe bollards that come up before a crosswalk when the light goes red. Also, bollards which come up after being triggered by speed cameras. That latter though presents some issues, like targeting only the vehicle which is speeding, and only doing so if there’s no vehicle behind them which could rear-end them when they crash into the bollard.

    Or maybe a passive system which just fries the electronics in your vehicle when it detects you speeding. Your car would then harmlessly coast to a stop, after which it would be just a really expensive paperweight.

    The general idea though is we need something more than fines to deter antisocial driving behavior. The fact that motorists value their lives and their vehicles gives us a good starting point on what to do. Maybe we don’t even need anything as drastic as bollards. Perhaps something which just scratches the paint will drive home the point.

    There are also more conventional answers like chicanes or roundabouts. I think NYC is placing too much faith in speed cameras instead of infrastructure solutions.

  • ahwr

    My point was your simple little scheme hasn’t been thought through. Your new schemes to use retractable bollards and EM guns (?) to destroy cars don’t seem thought through either.

  • Joe R.

    The present design of most NYC streets doesn’t seem to be thought through all that well, either. Most 12-year olds probably would do better.

    While we’re being whimsical, how about trap doors which quickly open and close, swallowing offending vehicles, and then letting the mole people eat the drivers? 🙂

  • Kevin Love

    Bollards don’t care about anyone’s racial or ethnic origins. Bollards don’t overlook crimes committed by other bollards.

  • Anon resident

    Does Inez Dickens even know that this area is in her district?

  • Oh, wow. That looks nice and makes sense! Can’t speed through that, can you? Also: gardens in the concave portions – US communities should love that.

  • Tyson White

    So i guess Uber drivers are sharing their accounts with non-licensed drivers… Hmmm

  • Mmmmaris

    The comment that the child “darted into traffic” bothers me and I think is wrong. We lay the blame on the child and, you know what, I think that the child looked before crossing the street. The problem is that the child looked for a car going the speed limit, not twice the speed limit.

    When any one of us want to cross the street, we look before going. If we think it’ll take us 15 seconds to cross the street, we look for cars that could hit us. At 30 mph, a car travels 660 feet – about two blocks. We therefore have to look up the block about two blocks to see if the coast is clear.

    A car travelling at 50 mph goes 1,100 feet in 15 seconds; 4+ city blocks.

    Think about it – the child is being blamed for not looking 4+ blocks up the street.

    The fact isn’t that “the child darted into the street.”

    The fact is that “the car came out of nowhere.”

  • Joe R.

    It’s also worth noting children don’t have as good spatial judgement as adults. They just might not realize a vehicle is going 50 mph until it’s too late. Point of fact I see a lot of adults doing that with bikes. They think the bike is going a lot slower than it really is, start to cross, then have an “Oh sh*t!” moment when the bike is nearly on top of them.

    Regarding the speed of the vehicle, why couldn’t the police pull the black box data? That should be SOP in cases like this. Even if the child really did dart into the street without looking, he might well be alive today if the vehicle were going the legal speed limit or less.

  • Brad Aaron
  • Matthias

    That is a horrifying dent. If the child’s body caused that, the driver had to be going at least 50mph. More speed cameras and meaningful police enforcement around schools are needed.

  • JGrant

    So the car belonged to UBER. But the driver was not even licensed ?!?!
    What the hell is wrong with NYC and its Taxi & Limousine commission ??

  • JGrant

    SUE UBER for hiring UNLICENSED driver.
    Then SUE New York City for allowing this madness to happen.

  • qrt145

    I don’t see anything in the article that says that Uber owned the car or that the driver was not licensed. Can you elaborate?

  • Andres Dee

    No one has ever taken out a yellow cab or non-Uber livery cab without proper licensing, right? And no yellow cab or non-Uber livery cab has ever been driven recklessly, right? And no yellow cab or non-Uber livery cab has ever killed or maimed anyone in NYC, right?

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