Brooklyn Electeds Pay Tribute to Edwin Ajacalon and Call on Albany to Prevent Deadly Speeding
At a vigil last night, elected officials and street safety advocates paid tribute to Edwin Ajacalon, the 14-year-old from Guatemala who was killed by a teenage driver in Brooklyn Saturday night. Calling Ajacalon an “all-American boy” and “a vital thread in the beautiful tapestry that is New York City,” they pressed for street safety improvements and a culture change among drivers after yet another death of a cyclist, the 20th in 2017.
Ajacalon worked as a delivery cyclist and sent money to support his family in Guatemala. His uncle, Eduardo Vicente, told the Daily News that Edwin had dreams of building a house for his parents. Facing the crowd on the corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue last night, Vicente broke down before he could speak. A family friend asked for help to get Edwin’s body back to San José Chacayá.
Borough President Eric Adams called Ajacalon’s death “a truly tragic moment.” Even if Ajacalon appeared to be crossing the avenue when the driver had the green light, he said, “a mistake should not end in death.” Footage of the crash showed the driver enter the intersection at a high rate of speed.
Beginning what would be a theme for the evening, Adams called on state legislators to authorize more enforcement cameras to deter speeding and reduce traffic deaths and injuries. “Vision Zero is not Vision One, Vision Two, or Vision Three — it’s Vision Zero,” Adams told the crowd. “We want no one losing their life to a vehicle crash.”
State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who represents Sunset Park, blasted drivers who speed and use their mobile devices behind the wheel.
“They call it an accident, but if you willfully drive fast, if you willfully text while driving, if you willfully make a telephone call while driving, then you hit someone and kill them, how can you call it an accident?” Hamilton asked. “You willfully disregard the lives of others because of a person’s selfishness.”
Earlier this year, legislation to significantly expand NYC’s 140-camera automated speed enforcement program was stymied in the State Senate by Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, and Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican.
Calling for the expansion of the speed camera program, Hank Miller of Families for Safe Streets blasted “some in Albany who prioritize speeding over saving lives.”
“They would rather allow speeding drivers to terrorize our neighborhoods and place our children and our families in jeopardy than support common sense safety measures,” Miller told the crowd.
Following the vigil, a ghost bike was brought to a memorial on Fifth Avenue where neighborhood residents had set up prayer candles and a picture of Ajacalon, and the bike was chained to a light pole on the corner of 23rd and Fifth.
Speaking to Streetsblog afterward, Adams said he would like to see more enforcement of speeding to remind drivers that pedestrians come first. Adams said there has to be a culture shift in the way people in cars relate to the world around them, and in the NYPD so that officers are trained to treat reckless driving as a serious threat to public safety.
“You can’t have hundreds of people who are struck each month and not identify we’re at a crisis,” Adams said.