Outrage Builds Over Weekend Pedestrian Deaths, Including a Child
Street safety advocates were apoplectic over the weekend when three pedestrians — including a 7-year-old child — were killed in separate crashes, all of which involved city failure to keep the most vulnerable road users safe.
The first crash occurred on Friday night, when 7-year-old Dolma Naadhun was killed by a driver of a massive Ford Explorer at the corner of Newtown Road and 45th Street in Astoria. According to police, the 46-year-old driver, who had been traveling eastbound on Newtown Road, did not fully stop at the stop sign and then struck the girl as she crossed in the intersection, causing severe head trauma.
The driver remained at the scene and was not charged while Dolma was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where she died.
New York State law requires that every intersection “shall be plainly visible and the intersecting streets shall be so laid out and constructed as to give proper visibility to drivers approaching the intersection, but New York City has opted out of it (which it can legally do at its discretion), as Curbed reported.
The intersection where Dolma was killed is one of tens of thousands around the city that are not properly daylighted by the Department of Transportation. A pending City Council bill — which is opposed by DOT — would require 100 intersections to be daylighted every year (with only 15 feet of daylighting). Transportation Alternatives has called for all 39,000 intersections in the city to be daylighted, yet New York City has very few intersections that follow the guidelines of the National Association of City Transportation Officials to allow no parking within 20 to 25 feet of an intersection.
Here is what the corner where Dolma died looked like in 2014 (left) before the city repainted it to allow parking in what used to be a full crosswalk (photo right in 2022):
The same intersection, seen from the other angle, shows that the manner in which the DOT painted the parking space to allow cars to block the ADA ramp:
This type of truncated crosswalk is a common way in which the DOT allows one more parking space at the expense of pedestrians in a way that makes it more difficult for drivers to see walkers:
As a result, a parked car halfway through the crosswalk blocks a driver’s view. Three cyclists and one pedestrian were injured in eight reported crashes at that one intersection from 2019 through 2022, according to city stats.
Excellent daylighting graphic here!!! https://t.co/EmnuBFJFLS
— Streetfilms (1,060+ videos!) (@Streetfilms) February 5, 2023
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family of the second grader at PS85Q.
“Dolma was very outgoing and compassionate, a young girl who would greet every student during morning arrival. She was very bright and loved by many,” wrote school leader Leah Lin. “She was taken from us too soon.”
In 2022, 16 children under age 18 were killed on the streets of New York City, according to the DOT.
“We are outraged and heartbroken after three pedestrians were killed in traffic violence this weekend, including 7-year-old Dolma Naadhum,” said Elizabeth Adams, senior director of Advocacy & Organizing at Transportation Alternatives. “Our city’s children deserve to grow up without the threat of traffic violence, and the City of New York is failing them by ignoring street safety directives that are proven to save lives.”
Dolma’s death also unleashed a torrent of fury online:
This is around the corner from where I live – biked down it earlier today. I can’t tell you the # of times I’ve requested items as basic as stop signs along this stretch, let alone daylighting and crosswalks. Each one: denied.
The system is broken. https://t.co/qo9MBvfNrU
— John Surico (@JohnSurico) February 18, 2023
This is a super dangerous intersection for pedestrians. Stop signs and speed limits are a suggestion in that area. Could actually benefit from a retractable bollard. https://t.co/wRSphz9SKF
— Jonathan Sperling (@JonSperling) February 18, 2023
But the death of Dolma Naadhun was only one of the events from a catastrophic weekend of violence.
According to police, on Friday night, a marked police vehicle speeding to a report of another office needing assistance was traveling westbound on Beach Channel Drive with its lights activated. But the speeding police vehicle soon overtook a Toyota Corolla, driven by a 44-year-old woman. The cops were passing the Corolla on the driver’s side at around Bay 32nd Street when the Corolla driver, according to the NYPD, “failed to observe the [police vehicle] approaching from behind and proceeded to make the left turn into the path of the [police vehicle].”
The resulting crash caused the police vehicle to hit a pedestrian at the intersection. The pedestrian, whose name was not immediately released, but was later identified as home health aide Zabina Gafoor, suffered severe head trauma, and was taken to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where she died. The names of the police officers, who suffered minor injuries, were not released.
That crash also garnered significant online outrage directed at the NYPD and its supporters:
NYPD cops speeding in an SUV while responding to a call about an officer needing assistance crashed at an intersection in Queens & then crashed the SUV into a 52-year-old woman, killing her.
Cops are already trying to avoid responsibility for the crash. https://t.co/Z2JZhMmtgl
— Ash J (@AshAgony) February 19, 2023
We have to re-think blaring sirens & flashing lights on emergency vehicles: Woman on her way home from health aide job died when an NYPD vehicle responding to an emergency call in Queens struck her in a wild crash https://t.co/eKTUC7hK9R
— Julia Vitullo-Martin (@JuliaManhattan) February 19, 2023
Council Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers issued a statement that emphasized her “thoughts and prayers,” but was immediately criticized on Twitter.
As expected, @CMBrooksPowers, the city councilor for Far Rockaway – where this police killing happened & the transportation & infrastructure chair – had nothing but word salad, absolving NYPD and making this a general traffic issue https://t.co/0ZhbPDzY7a
— Eric Adams is a Fascist (@peoplesmedianyc) February 19, 2023
52 year old woman was killed by NYPD in Far Rockaway last night. Cops claim name of woman hasn't been released yet to notify fam.
Names of cops being withheld… for no reason than to shield the cops & maintain NYPD power.
Release the names of the cops https://t.co/8nX1dmYHOZ
— Joo-Hyun Kang ??? (@JooHyun_Kang) February 18, 2023
Another pedestrian was killed on Saturday night after she felt into the roadway because of a pothole and was run over by the driver of a Toyota SUV. According to police, Aracely Courtenay, 50, had stepped “into a depression in the roadway” and fallen onto E. 21st Street. The 58-year-old driver fatally hit her when he made a right turn onto Ditmas Avenue. The driver was not charged.
It is unclear what was wrong with the roadway, but this photo from July 2022 shows a broken curb.
And if that carnage was not enough to cause street safety activists to be outraged, two cops were arrested over the weekend for reckless and/or drunk driving.
According to police, on Saturday, Feb. 18, Officer Jonathan Altamirano, 33, was arrested at the 114th Precinct station house after leaving the scene of a crash earlier in the day at Roosevelt Avenue and 95th Street. Police said that Altamirano struck another person, causing a minor injury, but fled before exchanging information with the victim.
Altamirano is a nine-year veteran of the NYPD and made $111,604 last year, according to See Through NY.
And on Saturday, Officer Nerys Ramirez, 40, was charged with driving while intoxicated and refusing to take a breath test in the 34th Precinct in Upper Manhattan. Like Altamirano, Ramirez’s address was not released, but she made $115,896 last year, according to See Through NY.