Family of Victoria Nicodemus Demands Justice for Victims of Traffic Violence
Before she was killed on December 6 by an unlicensed curb-jumping driver, 30-year-old Victoria Nicodemus was making a name for herself as an art curator. Last night, her colleagues at Indiewalls joined with her family, local electeds, and nearly 60 local residents to connect her life’s work with a call for justice for victims of traffic violence.
Marlon Sewell was driving his SUV without a license or insurance when he veered around a parked bus and onto the sidewalk, killing Nicodemus and injuring two others. This was the second time this year Sewell had been caught driving without a valid license — his license had recently been suspended for failing to report for multiple traffic summonses. He received two low-level misdemeanors and has not been charged with homicide.
Last night, Nicodemus’s brother Peter Miller emphasized that his sister’s death was not an accident, but the result of a chain of decisions made by Sewell and policymakers. “It was his choice to avoid damage to his car and himself as he swerved — to avoid an inanimate object — onto a sidewalk filled with unprotected pedestrians,” he said. “And it’s the city’s choice not prioritize prosecution of unlicensed and uninsured drivers.”
Her other brother, Hank Miller, demanded action from the city, state legislators, and Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. “It is incumbent upon local district attorneys to pursue these types of cases more aggressively,” he said, “and consult with state and city legislators to develop statutes that give prosecutors and law enforcement better tools to combat this epidemic affecting pedestrian safety.”
The installation, which was created by Nicodemus’s colleagues at Indiewalls, is a large two-sided sign surrounded by strings of lights just off the curb at Fulton Street and South Portland Avenue. On one side is a work Nicodemus had been involved in, which Indiewalls CEO Gavi Wolf said represents wisdom and protection. The other side, which faces eastbound traffic on Fulton Street, says “Safe Streets.”
Wolf said he hoped the installation could become permanent — and reclaim that part of the street for pedestrians. “We’d like the installation to inspire change to this actual intersection,” he told the crowd.
“No matter what walk of life you come from, this is every single person’s issue in the city of New York,” Council Member Laurie Cumbo, who represents the district, said about the installation. “I think that art has a power not only of healing, but art has the magic to say what words cannot say.” Cumbo announced that she will host a town hall in January to address Vision Zero and pedestrian safety concerns and that DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg would be in attendance.
Public Advocate Letitia James and Assembly Member Walter Mosley joined Cumbo and Nicodemus’s family in demanding that Sewell be brought to justice. Mosley touted his co-sponsorship of legislation that would make it a Class D felony to commit bodily harm while driving without a license.
When Mosley finished speaking, Nicodemus’s mother Elsa grabbed him and implored him to take action. “Change the laws so that people that are sober that run people over get prosecuted like the drunks. It’s no excuse because you’re sober,” she said. “It’s murder.”
#SafeCity mural unveiled by @Indiewalls at tonight’s vigil for V Nicodemus @transalt @NYC_SafeStreets @cmlauriecumbo pic.twitter.com/vXe70nN3lm
— Luke Ohlson (@BikeLukeBike) December 23, 2015