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CARNAGE: Garbage Truck Driver Kills Cyclist in Borough Park, After Pedestrian is Killed by Drunk Driver in Manhattan

5:18 PM EDT on May 5, 2022

A cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run garbage truck driver in Boro Park on Thursday morning, days after NYU student Raife Milligan (inset) was killed by a drunk driver. Main photo: Julianne Cuba

The driver of a private waste truck hit and killed a cyclist in Borough Park on Thursday morning, and then fled the scene, amid a dizzying spike in fatal crashes this year, and this week, that includes the death of an NYU student on E. Houston Street on Monday.

Police had few details about the latest fatal crash — at least the 75th so far this year — but said that the unidentified driver was heading south on Ninth Avenue, when he or she “hit the cyclist from the back,” near 39th Street — a deadly stretch of roadway outside an MTA facility, where employees routinely and illegally park their cars with work vests on their dash.

Advocates are pleading with city and state officials to make streets safer.

“Paint is not protection. A person walking or biking stands no chance against a 4,000-pound sports car or a 12,000-pound truck," said Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris. "Our streets are in a crisis that will only be stemmed by immediate government action. No New Yorkers should have to fear crossing the street, walking to school, or biking to work. Our leaders must put people first, and scale proven solutions without delay.”

Yet like many times before, police are already absolving the driver, claiming that he or she did not know the truck had hit the victim before fleeing, according to CBS News — repeating a common claim told by drivers that experts have said should actually be treated more like an admission of guilt, rather than an excuse, per civil law.

“Saying, 'I didn’t feel it’ is not an excuse, it’s an admission. You’re obligated to see what’s there to be seen,” personal injury attorney Daniel Flanzig previously told Streetsblog.

Police had not yet released the victim’s name as of Thursday afternoon, but local news site BoroPark24 identified him as Eric Salitsky, a resident of the neighborhood and a “talented architect and designer who loved biking and the outdoors.”

Several hours after the crash, the same cars that should never have been there in the first place were still there — with MTA work vests on their dash — as cops from the local 66th Precinct parked their squad car in a crosswalk as they said they were addressing a motorcyclist who had committed "violations." They refused to say why they were not ticketing the illegally parked cars still at the scene of a fatal crash, referring Streetsblog to the NYPD’s press office.

It’s unclear if the cars played a role in the crash, but the adjacent Ninth Avenue bike lane — an unprotected sharrow shared with cars and trucks flying by — is harrowing as it is.

Ninth Avenue at 39th Street, where a cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run private garbage truck on Thursday morning. Photo: Julianne Cuba
Cars parked on Ninth Avenue at 39th Street, where a cyclist was killed by a hit-and-run private garbage truck on Thursday morning. Photo: Julianne Cuba

Since 2018, there have been 84 total reported crashes on just three blocks of Ninth Avenue between 37th and 41st streets, causing 54 injuries, including to nine cyclists and 11 pedestrians, according to Crash Mapper. And so far this year, there have been 426 total crashes in the 66th Precinct, which covers Borough Park, injuring 30 cyclists, 69 pedestrians and 112 motorists. That's about four crashes per day.

"A cyclist has been killed by a private garbage truck driver in front of an MTA facility, where he was riding in a lane where no cars were supposed to be parked, but which was full of (placarded) vehicles," personal injury attorney Peter Beadle wrote on Twitter. "With cars parked illegally, the street becomes very narrow. A travesty."

And officials have all but thrown up their hands when it comes to combating placard abuse — the widespread misuse of parking permits by city employees, especially cops, in order to leave their cars in front of fire hydrants, in crosswalks, bike lanes, and bus lanes, and even on sidewalks, endangering cyclists and pedestrians.

Borough Park does not have any protected bike lanes. Photo: DOT
Borough Park does not have any protected bike lanes. Photo: DOT

A spokesperson for Council Member Alexa Aviles, who represents the intersection where Salitsky was killed, said the pol is supportive of protected bike lanes, and that the existing sharrows on Ninth Avenue, specifically, could be easily converted into protected bike lanes.

Aviles also plugged the need for the city to finally implement the long-awaited commercial waste zones, which were established by a 2019 law, following a spate of fatal collisions and reckless driving, but delayed thanks to persuasion from the industry — just last week, elected officials and advocates demanded during a rally at City Hall that the Adams Administration move expediently to implement the commercial waste zones.

“We cannot postpone regulating the commercial waste industry any longer, and we need real protected bike infrastructure without delay,” Aviles posted to Twitter.

Thursday’s fatal crash is the second for the rogue industry in as many months. On March 4, the driver of private waste truck Safeway Services Corp struck and killed a man at a notoriously dangerous Brooklyn intersection.

The city’s Business Integrity Commission — which oversees the private carting industry — declined to comment, but said the agency is assisting with the investigation.

Raife Milligan
Raife Milligan

The cyclist's death followed the killing of an Indiana man on early Monday morning by a drunk driver on East Houston Street, cops said.

According to police, Raife Milligan, 21 of Jasper, Indiana, was crossing Houston at First Avenue at around 2:45 a.m. on Monday when he was struck by the 49-year-old driver of a Chevy Camaro muscle car that was also on Houston. The Camaro driver, whom police identified as Michael Deguzman of Queens, then struck another car. All the people in the various cars were fine, but Milligan was taken to Bellevue with severe head trauma.

Milligan, an NYU student studying biochemistry, died on Tuesday, cops said. Deguzman was charged with drunk driving.

Within hours, there was an outpouring of grief from Jasper, population 15,000.

"Raife loved life to the fullest [and was] always thinking of others first," Donna Begel posted in a fundraiser page to lift the financial burden on his family to travel back and forth to New York.

She described him as a volleyball player and video streamer on a new Twitch channel, raife_tv. He also did delivered food to the elderly.

"He had a profound love for the Beatles and has acquired quite the collection of vinyl records," she added. "He loved his family with all his heart, especially his twin, Reece, as well as his sister, Ryanne and brother Reid. Raife was one in a million — brilliant beyond his years. Saying he will be missed is an understatement. ... We will live on through his memory holding him deep in our hearts forever. Legends never die!"

Some friends were more bitter.

"Always sad to see a young person filled with promise who'll contribute to society be lost to us by someone who has nothing to contribute to society," posted Stephen To.

Thursday's crash also followed the killing of Alissa Kolenovic, a Bronx 16-year-old by a truck driver as she walked to school. In that case, the driver was hit with a failure-to-yield charge, police said on Thursday.

Already-outdated numbers show a public health crisis. Chart: DOT
Already-outdated numbers show a public health crisis. Chart: DOT

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