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The Killer of a 99-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor was a Recidivist Reckless Driver

1:38 PM EST on February 7, 2022

Holocaust survivor Jack Mikulincer. Photo: Mikulincer family

How the Daily News played the story.
How the Daily News played the story.

Jack Mikulincer survived the Nazi gas chambers only to be killed by a neighbor with a car.

The BMW that ran down and killed the 99-year-old Manhattan Beach resident on Saturday as he used his electric wheelchair to get to a Jewish center had been slapped with 10 school-zone speeding tickets and four red-light tickets since 2016 — including six tickets for speeding in school zones in 2021 alone.

Yet the driver was free to keep driving, thanks to lax city laws to get the worst drivers off the roads. And he or she was not even charged in the death of Mikulincer, though media reports suggest the driver was at fault.

The unidentified driver's six camera-issued speeding tickets in a single year — which makes him or her among the most-reckless drivers in town — is not nearly enough to trigger the city's required driver re-education course, which only kicks in after a car is slapped with 15 camera-issued speeding tickets or five camera-issued red light tickets.

City Comptroller Brad Lander, then a council member who wrote the bill that created the so-called Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, had originally wanted drivers to take the safety course after racking up five speeding tickets, but the de Blasio administration did not think it could administer such a large program, so it watered down the threshold.

In 2021, the BMW that killed Jack Mikulincer racked up five camera-issued speeding tickets, including two on one day. Source: How's My Driving
In 2021, the BMW that killed Jack Mikulincer racked up six camera-issued speeding tickets, including two on one day. Source: How's My Driving

"Could this life have been saved if de Blasio didn't gut the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program?" asked Cory Epstein of Transportation Alternatives.

After a one-year delay last year due to the de Blasio administration not funding the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, the program is finally up and running, though fewer than 100 drivers out of the thousands who meet the "15-or-5" threshold have so far taken the course. At least another 240 people have been notified of their need to take the course, according to the Department of Transportation.

Drivers who fail to take the course run the risk of having their cars towed away by the New York City Sheriff, though that agency is far behind on its own backlog of scofflaw drivers who have racked up more than $350 in unpaid tickets — the threshold for towing, as Streetsblog has reported.

Drivers who take the safety course have to repeat the course if they get another camera-issued ticket within six months — but the program only began in October, and the DOT said it does not yet know if any of the drivers who have completed the course have reoffended.

For his part, Lander said he was heartbroken by the death of Jack Mikulincer, which he described as "preventable."

"We fought to pass the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, and it remains urgent now to [strengthen] the program to combat reckless driving using all the data and intervention tools we have,” he said.

Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Marco Conner DiAquoi was especially angered by the gutting of the program.

"Under the initial Reckless Driver Accountability Act drafted by former Council Member Brad Lander, this vehicle could have been taken off our streets," he said. "However, the former mayor watered-down this proposal ... and this car remained on the roads.

“We need solutions to save lives now," Harris added. "These solutions start on the local level with action by Mayor Adams and the City Council. The Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program must be strengthened.”

John Berman, a member of Families for Safe Streets whose mother, Ellyn Schiff Berman, was killed by the driver of a Brinks truck in 2019, added in a statement: "Jack Mikulincer survived concentration camps during the Holocaust. On Saturday, he could not survive simply trying to cross the street to get to his synagogue. ... Oriental Boulevard is a known death trap, with two pedestrians killed here in recent years. After all of the horrors Jack Mikulincer witnessed in his life, and after losing his wife to injuries sustained in a car crash too, New York City could not keep him alive on our streets. This is devastating.”

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