Tragedy Times Two: Lev Fruchter Has Now Lost Both Parents to Road Violence
First, Rachel Fruchter was killed by a reckless, uninsurable driver in Prospect Park in 1997. Then, Norman Fruchter was killed last month by a reckless uninsurable driver in Bay Ridge.
Lev Fruchter is living every New Yorker’s nightmare — times two.
On Thursday, he prepared to bury his father, legendary education reformer Norman Fruchter, who died on Jan. 4 from injuries he sustained when a driver — speeding in reverse — backed over him on quiet 68th Street in Bay Ridge on Dec. 22 as he walked to his home on aptly named Bliss Terrace.
Just over 25 years ago, Fruchter and his sister Chenda mourned their mother after she was killed by a reckless driver in Prospect Park — a death that led, in part, to the Vision Zero movement and many changes that have made New York City roadways safer.
But those changes failed to save 85-year-old Norman Fruchter from the reckless, careless driver who backed over him at high speed and then allowed the car to roll forward to strike the senior citizen again, according to a person who has seen a surveillance video of the crash.
Lev Fruchter told Streetsblog that he’s experiencing the same mix of outrage and grief that he felt after this mother was killed. Then, as now, the NYPD did not charge the driver who killed his parent. Nor was either driver prevented from continuing to drive after killing someone.
“God forbid that in this country we should take someone off the road for killing someone,” Fruchter told Streetsblog on Thursday. “In both cases, the drivers weren’t able to get insurance because their driving records were so bad. So they were in the state pool.”
Fruchter was referring to the New York Automobile Insurance Plan, which is a state program set up to provide coverage for drivers whose records are so bad that no insurance company will sell them coverage. Lawyer Steve Vaccaro, who often represents victims of road violence, once called the program, “Socialism for bad drivers.”
“If in this country, instead of saying, ‘Sorry, but your record is so bad, you don’t get to drive,’ they put you into a pool so you can get insurance so you can keep driving,” Lev Fruchter said.
He was convinced the NYPD would not hold the driver responsible for killing his father, just as the driver who killed his mother was let off.
“This guy backed over my dad, racing down the street because he ended up on a one-way street that he didn’t want to be on,” Fruchter said. “It sure sounds like he should face, at least, a traffic violation. Do I think he will? No. The cops and the transportation industrial complex are not going to charge this guy. And he’s going to keep on driving.
“Meanwhile, my inheritance is going to the six-figure hospital bills because these assholes don’t know how to drive,” added Fruchter.
According to cops, Fruchter was crossing 68th Street from Owls Head Park back to his one-block street at around 10:10 p.m. on Dec. 22 when the driver of a Hyundai Elantra who was going in reverse the wrong way on 68th Street struck him, causing head trauma. Fruchter was taken to NYU Langone Hospital, where he died on Jan. 4.
The 42-year-old driver remained on the scene and was not charged.
Every death robs society of a valuable member, but that is especially true in the case of Norman Fruchter, who was a leader for progressive education in New York.
“Norm Fruchter was a giant, a pioneer, and the consummate advocate for equity and fairness,” said Pharoah Cranston, a spokesman for NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, where Fruchter was a senior adviser after a 60-year career in education that included a stint on a community school board in Brooklyn and leading the Ford Foundation’s national dropout prevention program.
He was also a novelist, publishing “Coat Upon a Stick” in 1963 and “Single File” in 1970.
Streetsblog contributor Charles Komanoff was stunned by the news of Norman Fruchter’s death, given how deeply he was involved in bike safety advocacy when Rachel Fruchter was killed in Prospect Park in 1997.
“They were progressive royalty — Norm was a renowned and beloved figure in education scholarship and advocacy and Rachel was a renowned and beloved health researcher and practitioner,” said Komanoff. “Her death became a rallying point for street-safety advocates.”
Komanoff’s eulogy (right) was reprinted by the British cycling journal Bike Culture.
Even years after her death, Rachel Fruchter — an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn and a contributor to the landmark “Our Bodies, Our Selves: A Book By and For Women” — was frequently evoked by street safety advocates as they called for the removal of cars from Prospect Park.
“Dr. Fruchter’s death sparked a vigil in Prospect Park, where speakers angrily juxtaposed her lifetime of good deeds with the multitude of failings by NYPD and the Parks Department — car entitlement that allowed the van to be driven out of bounds and operated negligently,” Komanoff wrote in Streetsblog. “At another vigil a few days later, in City Hall Park, her adult son eloquently expressed his own fury.”
Once again, he’s expressing fury for a death that never should have happened.
“The driver who killed my dad didn’t want to be bothered to go around the block,” said Lev Fruchter. “Asshole couldn’t be bothered.”
In a bizarre twist, on the same day that the NYPD informed the public about Fruchter’s death, it also reported on the hit-and-run killing of another Brooklyn senior, 91-year-old Margie Salter, whose daughter had been killed by a driver in 2012, the family told the Daily News.