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Eric Gonzalez and Bill de Blasio Give Action Carting the Go-Ahead to Keep Killing People

Franklin and Noble streets in Brooklyn, where an Action Carting driver killed Neftaly Ramirez and fled the scene. The red arrow indicates the direction of the driver and the white arrow indicates the path of the victim, according to reports. Image: Google Maps

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez will file no charges against the Action Carting driver who ran over and killed cyclist Neftaly Ramirez and left the scene.

The Brooklyn Paper reports that Gonzalez decided against pursuing a case last week, six months after Ramirez, 27, was killed at Franklin and Noble streets in Greenpoint by an unidentified trash truck driver making a right turn.

“Following an exhaustive reinvestigation that included interviews with all of the witnesses, a review of surveillance footage, and a consultation with an accident-reconstruction expert, we determined that we could not sustain criminal charges,” Gonzalez spokesperson Oren Yaniv told the Brooklyn Paper. “We conveyed these findings to the victim’s family and expressed our deepest sympathies for their loss.”

To convict a motorist for hit-and-run in New York, prosecutors must prove he knew or had reason to know a collision occurred. Gonzalez, who assumed office after the death of Ken Thompson and was elected last fall to his first full term as DA, presents himself as an advocate for reforming state code that favors drivers who flee after a serious crash. But he has been criticized by victims' families for lenient plea deals for hit-and-run drivers who kill people.

Neftaly Ramirez and Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez
Neftaly Ramirez and Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez
Neftaly Ramirez and Brooklyn DA Eric Gonzalez

If the Ramirez crash occurred as described by NYPD -- a right hook at a signalized intersection, similar to the hit-and-run collision that killed Brooklyn cyclist Mathieu Lefevre in 2011 -- it's likely the victim had the right of way. It's unknown if Gonzalez considered charges other than leaving the scene. (I asked Yaniv if, since no charges were filed, prosecutors found that Ramirez did not have the right of way. He responded -- incorrectly -- that the Right of Way Law only applies to pedestrians.)

Before investigators knew who the driver was, NYPD offered him a preemptive defense, telling the press it was possible he "didn't realize" he ran over a man on a bicycle -- the same reason police later gave for declining to bring charges. NYPD and Gonzalez have shielded the driver's identity, and according to the Brooklyn Paper have rebuffed requests to release the crash investigation report and other evidence.

Streetsblog is in the process of filing freedom of information requests with NYPD and Gonzalez's office for records pertaining to the investigation.

A recent ProPublica report on horrendous working conditions in NYC's commercial trash hauling revealed that industry drivers killed seven people in NYC in 2017 -- and that executives believe victims are responsible for the carnage. Action Carting drivers have killed five people on NYC streets since 2008, yet the company continues to hold tens of millions of dollars in city contracts.

Private trash haulers are among the most dangerous vehicle operators in NYC. The de Blasio administration is working on industry reforms that would reduce the number of miles per collection route. But until those measures take effect, Action Carting and other companies continue to endanger people who walk and bike.

No one will be held accountable for the violent hit-and-run death of Neftaly Ramirez. De Blasio spokesperson Eric Phillips told the Brooklyn Paper City Hall had no qualms with the way the case was handled, and said nothing about penalizing Action Carting for its record of killing people on city streets.

Correction: An earlier version of this post erroneously stated that Action Carting drivers killed seven people in NYC. The post has been amended to reflect that industry-wide, commercial waste carting drivers killed seven people in NYC, and that Action Carting drivers have killed five people since 2008.

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