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Road Death Stalks New York City on Passover With Three People Killed by Drivers

File photo: Dave Colon

Two pedestrians and a cyclist were killed in a spate of bloodshed on Wednesday night that included two hit-and-run drivers.

The violence began at around 7:10 a.m. in the dangerous Borough Park section of Brooklyn when Chaim Blum, 23, was killed after two cars slammed into each other and then one of them struck him on the sidewalk of 13th Avenue and 50th Street.

Blum was merely standing on the southeast corner of the intersection when the 27-year-old driver of a Honda minivan, who was driving southbound on 13th Avenue struck the driver of a Toyota minivan that was traveling east on 50th Street. The crash sent the Toyota careening into Blum, causing severe body and head trauma.

He was taken to Maimonides Medical Center, where he died as the neighborhood celebrated the first night of Passover, one of the holiest periods on the Jewish calendar.

Both drivers remained on the scene and neither was initially charged, cops said.

Borough Park is a stunningly dangerous neighborhood for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2022, there were 879 reported crashes in just the small enclave, injuring 101 cyclists and 142 pedestrians, according to city stats. By comparison, adjacent neighborhoods such as Dyker Heights (289 total crashes), Bensonhurst (608 total crashes) and Bay Ridge (452 total crashes) had far fewer crashes and injuries.

Residents of Borough Park have staunchly objected to road infrastructure improvements.

The bloodshed continued roughly 15 minutes later when 62-year-old Oscar Nieves was run down and killed by a hit-and-run driver at the intersection of Third Avenue and E. 122nd Street in Manhattan. Police said Nieves was crossing the super-wide Third Avenue within the crosswalk when a gray SUV slammed into him, causing body and head trauma that proved fatal, suggesting a crash at high speed.

The driver fled, and cops said they are continuing their investigation. Nieves lived mere feet away from the scene of his killing.

Third Avenue is also a notably dangerous place for cyclists and pedestrians. In 2022, there were 70 reported crashes on just the stretch between E. 116th and E. 128th streets. Those crashes injured 42 people, including nine cyclists and 13 pedestrians, according to city stats. By comparison, the same stretch of Madison Avenue just to the west had 43 reported crashes, injuring 28 people, including three cyclists and six pedestrians.

And roughly three hours later, a 64-year-old man on a bicycle was killed by a hit-and-run driver in The Bronx.

According to cops, Hua Pan was passing through the intersection of Pierce Avenue and Williamsbridge Road at around 11:22 p.m. when he was struck by the driver of an unidentified vehicle that was heading north on Williamsbridge Road. Cops said Pan had the green light and that the driver did not remain on the scene. A witness told Freedom News that a police chase may have led to the crash.

Pan suffered severe head trauma and was taken to Jacobi Hospital where he died. He lived mere steps from the scene of his death.

Morris Park tends to be a slightly safer neighborhood judging from crash statistics, but its most dangerous areas are on the four-lane, unredesigned strips of Williamsbridge Road and Eastchester Road. In just the seven-block stretch of Williamsbridge Road between Pelham Parkway and Sackett Avenue, there were 36 crashes last year, injuring three pedestrians.

The crashes on Third Avenue and on 13th Avenue were both in what the city calls "Vision Zero corridors," according to Transportation Alternatives. The group reiterated its call for the state legislature to pass the so-called "Sammy's Law," which would allow the city to set its own speed limits, which would dramatically reduce road deaths and serious injuries, as statistics show that slower-speed crashes cause less damage.

"We know driving at high speeds is a major factor in four out of every five crashes that kill people in cars, and it’s unacceptable that New York City has to defer to Albany on what speeds are appropriate for our streets," said Amy Cohen, co-founder of Families for Safe Streets and the mother of 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, for whom the bill is named. "This dysfunctional relationship is preventing us from saving lives.”

According to a count by TA, 54 people have been killed in crashes so far this year, more than 10 percent above the average during the Vision Zero era. The death count is also more at this point in seven of the last eight years. Nearly two-thirds of deaths this year have been New Yorkers walking or riding bicycles, the group said.

After initial publication of this story, the Department of Transportation sent over the following statement:

We mourn this tragic loss of life across three boroughs last evening and we will continue to redouble our Vision Zero efforts, addressing priority corridors and beyond through safety enhancements such as street design and safety upgrades at intersections. Strengthening laws is another effective tool to combat traffic violence, and that is why we are working with our partners in Albany to advance the ROADS legislative package to hold reckless drivers accountable and keep those with a history of dangerous driving behavior off our streets and also support efforts to pass Sammy’s Law this session.

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