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Ben Kallos

Drivers Have Killed Seven People in Bike-Obsessed 19th Precinct in 2016

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19th Precinct CO Deputy Inspector Clint McPherson and City Council Member Ben Kallos

Blanca Pagan, the senior who was struck last Friday by a driver who failed to yield, was at least the seventh pedestrian killed by a motorist this year in the 19th Precinct, on the Upper East Side. Deputy Inspector Clint McPherson, the precinct's commanding officer, has prioritized ticketing people on bikes, with encouragement from local City Council members Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick.

Pagan, 73, was in the crosswalk at York Avenue and E. 89th Street at around 3 p.m. when Pjerin Gjerji hit her with a Chevrolet van while turning right from York onto 89th, NYPD told Gothamist. Police charged Gjerji, 48, with failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.

Pagan, who lived nearby, was a retired nurse who came to NYC from Puerto Rico when she was a child, the Daily News reported. She died less than three weeks after a motorist struck and killed Lee Strong while backing into a crosswalk at Third Avenue and E. 71st Street, also in the 19th Precinct.

City crash data show the 19th Precinct has a high rate of traffic injuries compared to other precincts. Motorists have killed at least 13 people walking in the 19th Precinct in the last 24 months, according to data compiled by Streetsblog.

The crash that killed Blanca Pagan occurred in Kallos's City Council district. To hear McPherson and Kallos tell it, cyclists are the 19th Precinct's most pressing traffic hazard.

McPherson was named the precinct CO this year after his predecessor, Deputy Inspector James M. Grant, was identified as a target of an NYPD corruption investigation. “From what I understand, bikes are a big problem,” McPherson said at a precinct community council meeting, not long after taking over for Grant -- who himself concentrated on bike crackdowns as motorists killed people in crosswalks.

“One of the top complaints I get in the district is about bikes,” Kallos told Our Town after a bike ticket blitz earlier this year, which according to Our Town was conducted in collaboration with Kallos and Garodnick.

A data analysis by Transportation Alternatives last spring showed the 19th Precinct issued many more criminal court summonses for sidewalk riding than other Manhattan commands. TA found that the typical ratio for precincts citywide is close to one criminal summons to one moving violation for sidewalk riding, while the 19th Precinct had a ratio of around eight criminal summonses to one moving violation.

A moving violation can be resolved online or through the mail, while a criminal summons for sidewalk riding requires a court appearance. Failure to appear in court can result in a warrant that leads to jail time and barriers to employment.

Under McPherson, the 19th Precinct is lightening up on drivers who put lives at risk. The precinct ticketed an average of around three drivers a day for failing to yield to pedestrians in 2015, according to NYPD summons data. As of August that figure had dropped to approximately one failure to yield summons a day this year.

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