Cops Blame Pedestrian Victim of Brooklyn Crash

Photo: Dave Colon
Photo: Dave Colon

The NYPD called out a pedestrian for walking outside of a crosswalk when he was struck and killed by a Brooklyn driver last week — except there’s one problem with that victim-blaming narrative: there’s no crosswalk at the dangerous intersection in question.

According to police, Phillip Simone was crossing Avenue V to get to Ford Street in Brooklyn at around 7 p.m. last Thursday when a driver of a new SUV, who was heading eastbound on the avenue, slammed into him. Police said the driver “struck the pedestrian crossing the avenue outside the crosswalk.”

The detail is crucial because there is no crosswalk at Ford Street and Avenue V. The driver remained on the scene. Simone, who lived in the Nostrand Houses across the street from the crash site, was taken to Coney Island Hospital, where he died the next day, police said Sunday night.

Streetsblog called the NYPD on Monday for more information — such as the driver’s speed, or whether he was distracted by his phone or loud music — but a spokeswoman said such information was not available because the investigation is ongoing.

But she confirmed that the driver was not charged.

It is very difficult to hold drivers accountable for killing people with their cars, partly because prosecutors are reluctant to bring charges unless there is clear evidence that the driver knew he was driving recklessly, which is difficult to prove. A state lawmaker is hoping to change the state’s vehicular code to allow prosecutors to charge drivers who are driving aggressively. The proposal by Assembly Member Dan Quart seeks to eliminate the notion that a driver must exhibit reckless intent before he or she can be charged, as Streetsblog reported.

The city did make changes to Avenue V last year, but did not add crosswalks at Ford Street, where Phillip Simone died. Photo: DOT
The city did make changes to Avenue V last year, but did not add crosswalks at Ford Street, where Phillip Simone died. Photo: DOT

The city Department of Transportation did convert Avenue V from a four-lane speedway into a two-lane road with turning bays and pedestrian refuge islands last year (graphic right and PDF here) — and business owners said the roadway is safer now.

But the redesign did not add crosswalks or refuges on Avenue V at Ford Street or at Coyle Street — streets on either side of the commercial strip to which Simone was apparently headed. Between 2012 and 2016, a pedestrian died at each of intersections, according to city data — the only deaths on Avenue V in the entire area.

The owner of a pharmacy on the block said Simone’s death was “sad,” but added that Simone should be blamed for not walking several blocks out of his way to cross at the existing crosswalk at Batchelder Street (left in photo above).

One thing is clear: The city improvements have drastically improved safety on the strip of Avenue V between Nostrand Avenue and Brigham Street. From January through August 2017 — before the changes — there were 19 crashes, with injuries to three pedestrians and one driver. During the same period this year — after the changes — there have been just four crashes with injuries to two pedestrians.

Here is how the intersection looked before the city made the improvements:

This intersection in Sheepshead Bay has been dramatically improved, but it still does not have a crosswalk. Photo: Google
This intersection in Sheepshead Bay has been dramatically improved, but it still does not have a crosswalk. Photo: Google

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