SEE IT: Horrifying Crash at Notorious Queens Intersection Puts City DOT on Notice — Again
4:51 PM EST on February 15, 2022
A man was run over — twice — by two reckless drivers at a dangerous Queens intersection on Saturday night, first by a car owner who clipped him in a crosswalk and then by a second driver who rolled over the wounded man with his massive SUV with both sets of wheels before apparently leaving him for dead.
According to police and a horrifying video later posted to TikTok, the 57-year-old pedestrian was crossing Cypress Avenue from west to east at about 6:35 p.m. when the 40-year-old driver of a white crossover SUV, making the tight left turn from Cooper Avenue, clipped the pedestrian, knocking him to the pavement.
(WARNING: The video below is graphic.)
While the man was stunned and writhing, the 62-year-old driver of a huge assault car drove over the victim, first running over his head with his front left tire and then crushing the man's entire body with his rear wheels.
The man was still breathing when cops found him minutes later. He was taken to Jamaica Hospital. Several local websites, including Queens Crap, report that the man died of his injuries, but police declined to comment.
Here is a sequence of photos of the crash in case you did not watch the video:
The driver of the white car was issued a summons for failure to yield. It is unclear what happened to the driver of the black SUV, which delivered the life-threatening injuries. The NYPD declined to provide further details.
A close review of the video suggests that the driver of the black SUV did not see the pedestrian get knocked down because he was looking forward as he watched oncoming traffic from Cooper Avenue and waited make his left turn onto Cypress. When he made the left turn, he took the turn sharply to avoid a car that had made a right turn from Cooper onto Cypress. A driver of an SUV that large would not likely have seen the man in the roadway unless he was specifically looking for him. (Drivers of large SUVs are responsible for an increasingly large share of injury-causing crashes, Streetsblog has reported.)
The intersection of Cooper and Cypress avenues, near the border of Glendale, Queens and Ridgewood and Bushwick in Brooklyn, is a known danger zone for pedestrians. In the eight years of the de Blasio administration, there were 153 reported crashes at that one intersection, injuring seven cyclists, 10 pedestrians and 56 motorists, according to city stats. The crashes seem to be frequently caused by car drivers making left turns from Cooper onto Cypress, thanks to two-way traffic, and a sharp-angled turn.
The design of the intersection has not been changed since 2007, when Google Street View started capturing the city. The roadway was repaved last year, but still had no redesign.
During the same time period — the Vision Zero years, 2014 to 2021 — there were 536 reported crashes on just the four-block stretch of Cypress Avenue between the Jackie Robinson Parkway exit ramp and Cooper Avenue, injuring 11 cyclists, 14 pedestrian and 195 motorists. The dangers of Cypress Avenue are certainly known to DOT. In 2019, the full length of Cypress from the parkway to Johnson Avenue in Bushwick was mentioned in the agency's "Pedestrian Safety Action Plan," thanks to a 33-percent increase in people killed or seriously injured along that stretch (comparing 2009-13 vs. 2012-16).
And in the 11-block stretch of Cooper Avenue between the L train tracks and Cypress Hills Street, there were 46 reported crashes last year, injuring two cyclists, two pedestrians and 19 motorists, according to city stats.
Another pedestrian was badly injured at the intersection of Cypress and Cooper avenues in February, 2021, when a driver making a left turn as he raced to work slammed into him as the pedestrian crossed Cypress Avenue with his dog (the driver claimed the sun was in his eyes). The man was badly injured, suffering fractures to his knee and hip, and required four months to recover, his partner told Streetsblog. The dog suffered organ damage.
"The intersection is a known problem," said the victim's partner, Caroline Shadood. "I'm really traumatized by what happened in the video from Saturday night. How the fuck isn't anyone talking about this? The intersection is not only badly designed, but it's basically an off-ramp from the Jackie Robinson Parkway, and it's sandwiched by car dealerships and a gas station. It's a big car-culture hub, yet there are lots of pedestrians because Highland Park is nearby."
She said her partner received an insurance settlement that does not begin to cover the extent of injuries to both body and mind that will trouble him the rest of his life.
"Walking or biking in this area is like showing up to a gunfight with a baseball bat," she said.
Shadood has made multiple requests via the DOT website for safety improvements, such as adding a leading pedestrian interval, but virtually all have been turned down. But several months ago, the DOT finally marked another person's service request — for general safety improvements at the intersection — as "added for consideration."
The intersection in question is in the southwest corner of the Council district represented by Bob Holden, whose district has roughly six reported crashes per day. Last year, 65 cyclists, 116 pedestrians and 820 motorists were injured and three pedestrians and three drivers were killed.
In May, 2021, Holden asked DOT and the NYPD to do a "walk-through" of the Cooper Avenue with him so he could demonstrate first hand the danger of the area, including the intersection where Saturday's horrific crash occurred.
"Nothing has happened since," said Kevin Ryan, the council member's comms director. "We know there was Covid, but DOT takes a really long time to do anything even under the best of circumstances.
"The Councilman is frustrated by the usual pace at which the DOT preforms its studies and other safety enhancements," Ryan added. "There are so many crashes at this spot, so it’s not debatable that something needs to be done. What more evidence do we need?"
Laura Shepard, the Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives, pointed out that Mayor Adams and DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez promised on Jan. 19 to make safety improvements to 1,000 intersections by the end of this year, an ambitious pace.
“We are outraged by another senseless act of traffic violence on our streets," said Shepard. "Crossing the street should not be a life-or-death endeavor, yet the intersection of Cooper and Cypress avenues has a history of crashes that have injured and traumatized area residents for years.”
Repeated crashes at a given intersection or along a stretch of road raise the question of the city's culpability. In late 2016, the state's highest court ruled that cities can be held liable for failing to redesign streets with a history of traffic injuries and reckless driving.
But it's not that simple. The case, Turturro v. City of New York, involved a 2004 crash involving a speeding driver who killed 12-year-old Anthony Turturro on Gerritsen Avenue. The Court of Appeals ruled that the city could be partly held liable for the crash because it had been repeatedly warned about speeding on that avenue and had not taken specific actions to slow drivers (the roadway has since been redesigned).
Could Turturro be applied to Cypress and Cooper avenues? It's a tough fight, said lawyer Steve Vaccaro, who knows the intersection well because he represented the man who was hit there in February.
"Turturro has at least two pieces to it," Vaccaro said. "First, there has to be well-documented traffic danger resulting in collisions that is unambiguously linked to a specific type or types of driving misconduct. In Turturro, that was speeding. Second, the city has to make a specific response to the danger that can be shown is not rationally related to reducing the danger [but] the irrational response of the city to the speeding danger at the specific location was to add a traffic light — a measure which, if anything, speeds up rather than slowing down or calming traffic."
But getting a Turturro-like settlement is rare because most typically, the city fails to make any specific change to a specific problem at a specific location, choosing instead to merely neglect the danger, Vaccaro added.
"When the city simply neglects the danger, it is guilty of a generalized negligent failure to keep the roads safe as against dangerous driving misconduct, and courts view such a generalized failure as the kind of government failure that should be addressed by electing a government officials that will place a higher priority on street safety, rather than a failure that can be addressed through a lawsuit," Vaccaro added.
So as far as the corner of Cypress and Cooper avenues go, advocates must continue to force the city to respond to the danger there.
The Department of Transportation did not comment for this story. We will update the story if we hear back.
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