UPDATE: Two Pedestrians Killed in Manhattan Crosswalks
Updated | Two pedestrians are dead after drivers mowed them both down in the crosswalk on the Upper East and West sides of Manhattan early Monday, according to police, but only one of the drivers was charged despite Mayor Adams’s promise last week that the NYPD would begin a new crackdown on drivers who fail to yield.
The first crash was at the intersection of Third Avenue and 76th Street on the Upper East Side, police say. At around 6:37 a.m. Udeshi Sundeep, 51, was crossing Third Avenue, apparently with the light and in the crosswalk, when the driver of a blue Audi Q5 struck her while making a left turn onto Third Avenue from 76th Street. The 59-year-old driver, Connette Bercik of Oldwick, New Jersey, remained on the scene, according to a spokesperson for the NYPD, and was later charged with failure to yield. Police declined to provide more details.
It was initially unclear if Bercik would be charged, with a police spokesman questioning whether there had been any “wrongdoing.” But hitting someone in the crosswalk is by definition “wrongdoing”: Drivers must yield to pedestrians, per the city’s Administrative Code section 19-190(b), also known as the Right of Way law, although police rarely enforce it, attorneys say.
“In the minds of many the cops, if the turning driver had a green light, that somehow undermines the idea that the pedestrian had the right of way to cross,” said attorney Steve Vaccaro, pointing out that the pedestrian would also have the green light, via a “Walk” signal.
The second fatality took place just before noon on the other side of Manhattan. In that case, the unidentified 45-year-old driver of a white van was turning left onto W. 93rd Street from Amsterdam Avenue when he or she struck a 43-year-old woman also crossing in the intersection. Police later identified the victim as Beatriz Diaz, who lived in Crown Heights.
NYPD spokesman Det. Francis Sammon called the fatal crash the “same situation,” but could not provide any more details. That driver, who remained on the scene, was also not charged; and it’s unclear if the driver had the light. A witness told Streetsblog that the victim was dragged 20 feet down the block from the crosswalk.
Pedestrian Critically Injured After Struck by Vehicle @CitizenApp
The two victims’ deaths — at least the eighth and ninth pedestrians to be killed so far this year — come just days after Mayor Adams, flanked by his NYPD Commissioner and Department of Transportation Commissioner vowed that drivers would be punished if they kill, hurt or merely harass pedestrians by failing to yield.
“Every officer is going to be focused on failure to yield,” NYPD top cop Keechant Sewell told reporters last Wednesday in Brooklyn. “When they see these infractions they will be enforced.”
Monday’s bloodshed also comes after two people were killed by a reckless driver on the Upper East Side just before the new year.
In that case, the driver of a Baldor truck struck and killed 46-year-old Delfino Eduardo Maceda and 37-year-old Taurino Rosendo Morales at the intersection of E. 61st Street and Third Avenue on Dec. 24.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said in a statement to Streetsblog that the city must not only follow through on its promise to hold drivers accountable, but also redesign roadways and intersections to make them safer.
“I am devastated to hear of another heartbreaking set of tragedies in Manhattan today with two pedestrians fatally struck by drivers in Manhattan crosswalks. This simply can’t continue.,” said Levine. “Our intersections have become by far the most dangerous places in the public right of way. We must make them safer by pursuing bold investment and redesign of these dangerous corners, focusing on daylighting and calming measures in our most trafficked intersections, as well as investment in transit and bike infrastructure so that we can reduce the number of cars on our streets and provide more space for people. Each fatality is a tragedy, and we must constantly strive to reach zero deaths on our streets.”
More heartbreaking tragedy in Manhattan today.
This can’t continue. We need urgent action to protect pedestrians, including street redesigns and consistent enforcement. https://t.co/mBE7UzxNzA
— Mark D. Levine (@MarkLevineNYC) January 24, 2022
Story was updated at 10:10 p.m. to reflect the charge in the Upper East Side crash.
Update: The West Side Rag had a detailed story about Diaz’s life here.