AT 97TH STREET VIGIL, GRIEF AND A CALL FOR CHANGE

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By Nesh Pillay

More than a hundred New Yorkers gathered at the corner of 97th street and West End Avenue Wednesday night to pay tribute to two local pedestrians who were killed in separate traffic accidents.

Pink roses and candles scattered the sidewalk where 9-year-old Cooper Stock was struck and killed by a cab last Friday. On the same night, 73-year-old Alexander Shear died after being hit by a tour bus on 96th street.

While the mood among mourners was somber, there was an undeniable air of dissatisfaction as countless residents echoed the same thing: this could have been avoided.

vigil3These deaths come just two months after residents donned bright orange stickers at a Community Board 7 meeting to demand that the Department of Transportation conduct a study to determine how safe certain Upper West Side Streets really are.

Now, more than ever, Upper West Siders are calling for change.

“It’s remarkable to me that we can continue forward, as a city, when events like these are happening every week,” said Steve Vaccaro, who grew up in the neighborhood.

Vaccaro says that he, along with neighbors, tried countless times to bring the dangers of Upper West Side traffic to the attention of local leaders.

“It fell on deaf ears,” he said. “We have a transportation committee in Community Board 7 that has not taken the safety concerns of this community seriously.”

Thomas DeVito, of the group Transportation Alternatives, says that incidents like Cooper and Alexander’s deaths are occurring far too often.

“Crashes and vehicular violence on the streets of New York City are not, and should not be facts of life, “he said.

Still, he adds that he has seen a change among New Yorkers when it comes to matters of traffic safety.

“New Yorkers are really clamoring and are ready to hold politicians accountable for deaths,” he said. “Deaths that should never have happened.”

The de Blasio administration is beginning to implement changes, including pledging to give tickets to drivers caught speeding by traffic cameras.

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Photos by Nesh Pillay and @1spiritedfilly.

NEWS | 14 comments | permalink
    1. Michael (@OperaNowPodcast) says:

      They have begun to be more proactive at 96th Subway line. Corners blocked by gates and traffic cops there.

      Who knows how long that will last.

    2. The intersection at 96th and Broadway has no traffic cameras to record offenses. The UWS has very few cameras and the ones they do have are in odd locations. Traffic enforcement also is minimal at these dangerous locations. The new administration would have to spend lots of money to install the needed cameras. Maybe someone will suggest a participatory budgeting project for cameras in City Council District 6.

    3. s says:

      The intersection, like many on the UWS, needs a complete redesign to make it safe for people on foot and on bikes.

    4. denton says:

      Forget about cameras, what we need are real cops giving real failure-to-yield tix to drivers at these intersections. Yes, that means stationing police there. When enough tickets are written, the word will get around. Every intersection that leads directly or indirectly onto the West Side Highway should be targeted. 66th and Amsterdam comes to mind as one where I see aggressive drivers blow past seniors and school kids all the time. All these suburban drivers think our streets are an extension of the WSH, and pedestrians are mere impediments to getting home on time for the Knick game.

    5. Ken says:

      Here’s a simple suggestion: When we collectively stop referring to each and every life-taking event on our streets as an “accident” but rather as a “collision” or a “crash,” we will know we are on the road to true reform. The use of the word accident removes any notion of responsibility and allows us to continue tolerating such tragedies as an “unavoidable” fact of urban life.

    6. Pedestrian says:

      A part of the Bloomberg legacy. Traffic safety didn’t matter; billionaires are safe in their limos. DeBlasio has a huge mess to to clean up.

      My sympathies to the families of the victims.

      • Steve says:

        This is wrong, Bloomberg was actually very good on this issue. Crashes decreased drastically under his leadership, but more needs to be done.

      • webot says:

        oh yes, this is Bloomberg’s fault,,,,,,,NOT!

        the guy was unbelievably progressive when it came to rethinking traffic and cities.

        When are you haters gonna stop.

        • Guest says:

          Whether you liked Bloomberg or not, Ray Kelly’s NYPD had a huge, troubling blind spot to this issue. As an example, an emergency room in Queens held a public-safety summit on the dangers reckless drivers pose to walkers (children, adults, seniors) as seen by the ER doctors on the front lines over the past year. But the NYPD spokesperson lined up to attend and speak blew off the event, didn’t show up.

          Drivers have got to slow down, watch where they’re going, yield to pedestrians. Could be, we need more and better crosswalks and fewer giant tourist tourbuses stuffed onto our streets. We shouldn’t have to wonder if the minivan, or truck, or cab driver coming around the corner towards us has ever run over and killed someone in the crosswalk he “didn’t see,” and we should know that this tragic death would be a crime in the eyes of the NYPD.

    7. pjrod says:

      “Billionaires safe in their limos”??? What a ridiculously silly comment made for inflammatory purposes only. Come on man!

    8. moi says:

      I love it when people talk about ‘numbers’ what numbers of people have been accurately reported dead or seriously hurt in traffic accidents, and by whom? Can we believe these numbers? I doubt it.
      There are way more people driving in NYC in the last decade. Who are these people and why aren’t they using public transportation or taking cabs. Get them out of here in their millions of cars. The insane repeated honking is bad enough. They drive at incredible speeds all over the city. God forbid you’re on a bike or trying to cross the street as a pedestrian…. Scary.

    9. cmg3c says:

      I blame the poorly thought out “new” 96th subway hub. Anyone who has been in the neighborhood a few years knows they used to have entrances on the sidewalks on the west/east sides of Broadway, so no one ever had to cross into that center island. Can’t imagine what they were thinking — unless they just wanted something like 72d Street which is just a whole different situation with Broadway/Amsterdam intersecting there too. At any rate, the decision to close the side entrances at 96th Street is directly responsible for all the people running across Broadway at many points so they don’t have to wait for the lights