Adored Doorman and Grandfather Fighting for His Life After Being Struck by SUV

Alfred Pocari in a picture from his Facebook page

By Joy Bergmann

Kind. Gentle. Smiling. Lovable. Gleeful grandfather of triplets. So helpful. A good, solid human being. Always game to chat. Always calls out ‘GRAAAAcie’ to greet my dog. He’s our guy, our Alfred. 

Residents of 785 West End Avenue pour forth adjectives and love when speaking about their only doorman, Alfred Pocari, a 62-year-old Albanian immigrant who suffered severe head injuries after being struck by an SUV Friday afternoon.  Family members say that his care team at Mt. Sinai – St. Luke’s Hospital is “working hard to give him a chance at life, but there is very little hope.”

Pocari was crossing West End at 98th Street a few minutes before his shift’s 4:00 p.m. start time when he and a 65-year-old woman were hit.

“I was shocked,” says one woman who’s lived in 785 WEA for more than 25 years but did not wish to be named. “I didn’t see the accident, but I heard the thud and called 911. I was hysterical.”

“The impact was horrific,” recalls Tag Gross, a 30-year building resident, who also heard the crash. “Alfred was hit dead on in the crosswalk and went flying three car lengths away. He was unconscious and not moving; the woman was bleeding profusely from the head but still conscious.”

Christine Jaworsky says she and her boyfriend are “devastated and stunned.” Jaworsky has lived in various buildings along West End for 12 years and has noticed a degradation in driver behavior. “All those cars rushing to get to the West Side Highway. Constant horn honking. It’s insane,” she says. “I’m so mad at that reckless lady. Who will pay since she doesn’t have insurance? She needs to pay the price for the tragedy she has perpetrated against Alfred and the other person who was struck and gravely injured.”

Tag Gross believes unintended consequences from the 2014 redesign of West End Avenue have made the area more precarious. “Alfred was a victim of this redesign,” he says. “People [drivers] get jammed up at 96th and once they finally get a green light, they gun it up West End.” Gross is also critical of NYPD’s 24th Precinct. “I go to the Community Council meetings to complain about the traffic and the noise and the poorly timed lights. And they don’t do anything.”

Around 12:30 p.m. Saturday, WSR spotted three NYPD patrol vehicles from the 24th near the intersection where Friday’s crash occurred. An officer confirmed they were performing a 72-hour traffic enforcement blitz in response to the crash. Gross and another area doorman, Duane, said that they had seen drivers being pulled over all morning.

24th Precinct cops doing traffic enforcement in front of 785 WEA on Saturday

Meanwhile, Pocari’s family remains by his side, hoping his strong will helps him pull through.

“He’s a tender, optimistic, happy-to-talk-to-anyone-who-would-listen kind of guy,” Sonia Dilolli, his niece, tells WSR via email. “A happy grandfather to beautiful triplet girls who are just one-year-old. They were his world.”

She has set up a GoFundMe page to assist with expenses; support is especially needed because the accused driver was uninsured, according to NYPD.

Family photo of Pocari in May

Greystone, 785 WEA’s management company, declined comment. A rep tells WSR that, “Greystone will release an official statement on Monday.”

NEWS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Amelia Weiss says:

      i had about a year ago contacted police station on 82 about speeding drivers coming off highway at 96th and 79th. This has been a constant problem. Is there anything more we can do as a community. This won’t stop unless area is policed better and lights are fixed.

      • Alison Jackson says:

        I recommend going to your community board meetings with a group of folks who feel the same way. Concurrently, write a letter to your local Congress person for the House of Representive and send a copy to DiBlasio and City Council.

        • ScooterStan says:

          Re: “write a letter to your local Congress person”
          Save a stamp! Congress has nothing to do with local affairs.

          “…and send a copy to DiBlasio and City Council.”
          Maybe, BUT it might be MUCH MORE PRODUCTIVE to write Manhattan Boro President Gale Brewer.

          Ms. Brewer knows the UWS and was for years head-honcho at Community Board 7. She or her aides will contact the 20th Precinct AND send you a copy of her letter to the 20th.

          Google “Office of Manhattan Boro President” to get contact information.

          • robert says:

            Gale will do nada
            We are NOT in the 20, but the 24th which is on 100th Street.
            The next community/precinct event is National Night Out on Aug 6 at the Happy Warrior Park 99 & Amsterdam Ave it is from 6 till 9 aprox. It is a BBQ the precinct puts on for the community with lots of free food. Precinct command and Manhattan North are there. The next 24 community council meeting is in Sept Wed Sept 18 19.00. The precinct command runs these Q & A meetings each month

    2. Scott says:

      Bad driving is bad driving folks. No redesign or traffic light tweak with accommodate drivers like [the accused woman in this case]. I mean, driving without insurance should tell you something. I was under the impression that DMV was supposed to suspend your license if you let your insurance lapse.

      • Mark P says:

        And it doesn’t seem like the penalty for driving without insurance is much deterrent.

        According to https://www.thebalance.com/penalties-for-driving-without-insurance-in-new-york-527525, up to $1500 fine or 15 days in jail.

        I fail to see how a fine is punishment. People just don’t pay them. I understand there may be tripwires like, you have to deal when you renew your license or sell a house but people can just evade those tripwires. Seems to me the penalty should be, at a minimum, you do the time if you don’t pay the fine within a set period.

    3. Janice says:

      This is awful. My heart goes out to the victims here.

      WEA is a recipe for disaster. Especially near 98th and 97th streets. Most cars are trying to make the light to get onto the highway. I’ve seen a ton of cars go through the light and jam on the gas to do so. And, let’s face it, a lot of drivers, because it’s a small street (comparatively) don’t seem to pay much attention (or are texting while driving.

      When I used to drive, I would literally pray everytime I turned on WEA. I’m glad I no longer need a car for work and don’t drive.

    4. Isabella says:

      Drivers are also making high speed rights turns onto 98th Street coming from Riverside. They push their cars to “make” the WEA light, without any consideration for pedestrians. Apparently, their main concern is getting onto the Westside Highway.
      Things are screwy, really screwy – especially since the new “safer” traffic regulations have recently been put in place.
      😕

      • Rob says:

        Wrong. The redesign is making things A LOT better. Look at the overall data; isn’t the number of drivers hitting people on WEA down compared with before the redesign? If anything, the redesign was watered down to accommodate double parking, not safety.
        As for reducing drivers, especially dangerous drivers, on WEA, ball is firmly in Governor Cuomo’s court. Cuomo alone can make it more expensive to drive to the UWS on the Henry Hudson parkway. Cuomo alone can direct the NYS-DMV to take recidivist dangerous drivers off the streets.

    5. Kat French says:

      Cars are smart now. You’ve seen the commercials. Some can brake on their own when an object appears in front. Some can even parallel park on their own. It’s time to use that technology to make cars do what their drivers will not: obey the law! Why not design cars that cannot exceed the speed limit no matter how much the driver floors it? Why not have traffic lights send out a signal to cars to decelerate when the light turns yellow? We need to require carmakers to advance these technologies and to STOP making engines that can go 140 MPH. Who needs a car that powerful?

    6. Mindy Kaufman says:

      the redesign of traffic to one lane going south to 96th on both WEA and Bway is horrible. How about just putting in speed bumps. And this car appears to be going North, not South.

    7. Alfred is a glorious human being and his smiling presence graced our lobby and was a gift to all who crossed his path. May a miracle embrace him and all his loved ones and restore him to wholeness. We’re so grateful for his being here.

    8. H says:

      Hopefully an investigation will be conducted to determine who was at fault. The legal system has degrees of responsibility and there will likely be negligent behavior on all parties that allowed this to occur. As for the lack of insurance, there are easy things to do, automatically suspend license if insurance lapses. That would trigger harder penalties and long jail requirements if in an accident (regardless of degrees of responsibility as driver should not be on the road). Problem is, a lot of liberals feel such common sense measures are a burden on less fortunate individuals. At least until someone they know and love is harmed.

      • Joy Bergmann says:

        NYPD’s Detectives Collision Investigation Squad is conducting its investigation. Per our Saturday morning story, the driver in this crash was arrested and charged on multiple counts. https://www.westsiderag.com/2019/07/20/video-shows-car-blowing-through-red-light-before-hitting-pedestrians

      • Christine says:

        “Who was at fault?” Um, let’s start and end with the egregious driver who drove her tank through the red light, plowing down Alfred and another victim. Full stop.

      • Mark P says:

        I like the idea of no insurance > no license, which then triggers much harsher penalties. Question is how to get it done. Maybe insurance companies have to report to DOT when a person’s insurance ends and then said person has 90 days or something to report their new insurance else automatic suspension. Definitely would need to figure out the logistics of enforcement as well as passing the law. But events like this do result in new laws when there is sufficient outrage and pressure on public servants…

        • Scott says:

          It’s already the law.

        • Bill Williams says:

          It’s vehicle owners not drivers that have to carry insurance. There are many many people with Drivers Licenses that don’t own cars. Requiring them to carry insurance is unworkable.

          • B.B. says:

            What you have said is generally true, but keep in mind that any person operating a motor vehicle (their own or someone else’s) can and likely will be sued for liability in case of an accident.

            This is why car rental places sell various waiver protection, and or many credit cards offer various similar “insurance”.

            Taxi, limo and others who frequently drive vehicles they do not own purchase “non-owners” liability coverage. This sort of insurance is just that; liability coverage not attached to a particular motor vehicle.

            In New York and nearly everywhere else whenever there is an automobile accident victims of damage or injury are going to sue everyone involved; owner of vehicle and driver. If the two are different then both have will have problems.

            Those involved in automobile accidents can also be sued by the insurer of other party’s vehicle to recoup sums paid for damages and or injury.

    9. PedestrianJustice says:

      The 24th and 20th Precincts should be doing aggressive traffic enforcement EVERY day of the week, not just after tragedies.

      WSR has reported on how crime stats for rape, robbery, assault are way down on the UWS. NYPD should use their now-less-busy officers to crack down on driving scofflaws. [ Just now an SUV didn’t yield to me and my dog in the crosswalk at 79th and Riverside — another notorious intersection — and again I had to shout and wave and dodge. Happens daily.]

      • Christine says:

        And also what good is a 72 hour blitz starting on the weekend. I’m home right now, at 785 West End Ave at (98th) looking down from my apt at the crosswalk where Alfred was hit. Cars are backed up both ways, you know, cuz it’s a regular work day and people need to get their cars to/from the WS Hwy. It gets even more jammed come September, when school will be back in session.

    10. stu says:

      The light sequence needs rethinking. A major issue is cars heading eastbound on 96th after coming off the UWS Highway, and attempting to turn left (northbound) on WEA. Cars speed up to make that left, and I have seen more than one near-accidents. They need a left-turn signal there.

    11. David Vassar says:

      And just this morning I learn that two more cyclists have died in motor vehicle violence in NYC.

      Our streets are war zones, with all the protective armor belonging to those doing the killing and crippling.

      Even moving at or under the speed limit, an armored monster like an ‘Escalade’ or ‘Armada’ (our Vision Zero mayor’s current conveyance, I understand) will take your life or harm you irreparably. NYC should BAN these “tanks” as another commentator aptly called them.

      Cruiser-bound cops are traditionally reluctant to charge fellow drivers even when drivers are at fault: Blaming the victim. This has got to change. More bike and foot patrol may just make NYPD more empathetic with the majority of us out there who are nonmotorists.

      If the elderly gentleman she struck succumbs, the driver in this instance is guilty of manslaughter, PERIOD. I pray for him, the second victim, their families and friends.