Brooklyn vigil mourns traffic death victims, Adams wants city to plant ‘memorial grove’

Family members and safe street advocates set up a pot with a name and age for each of the 1,800 people who died in traffic during the eight-year tenure of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

Mayor-elect Eric Adams wants the city to plant a memorial grove dedicated to victims of traffic violence, a senior rep announced at a Sunday event honoring the roughly 1,800 people who died on New York City streets under the eight-year tenure of outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“We must do more to honor the victims and their loved ones of traffic crashes,” said Ryan Lynch, Adams’ chief of staff as Brooklyn Borough President. “Upon assuming office, the mayor-elect will direct the Department of Parks and Recreation to establish a tree memorial remembrance grove to create a sanctuary for families of those who have lost loved ones as well as to never forget their memories.”

Families of victims of traffic violence gathered Sunday afternoon, Nov. 21, to mourn the deaths of their lost loved ones. The event was organized by Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives as part of a international World Day of Remembrance to pay tribute to road traffic victims.

They placed 1,800 pots with the names of each victim on the steps of Borough Hall, marking both a memorial and a sense of hope for a better future, according to one advocate.

Marcia Landais, whose 12-year-old daughter Joie Sellers was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Flatlands, Brooklyn, in 2016, speaks outside Brooklyn Borough Hall.Photo by Kevin Duggan

“They represent a painful, horrifying reminder of the past eight years. But they also represent our vivid hope for a future that is full of life and light, healing and remembering dignity and optimism,” said Rita Barravecchio, whose niece Madeline Sershen was killed at age 17 in Whitestone, Queens, in 2018.

Adams, who did not attend the event, has not yet decided where exactly the planned planted tribute will go, Lynch told Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication amNewYork Metro.

Family members and politicians read out the names of people who died this year month-by-month, as the city has seen a rise in fatal collisions in 2021 on pace to be higher than any other year since de Blasio took office in 2014 and instituted Vision Zero as official city policy.

“Time after time the administration caved whenever faced with pushback on proven safety measures,” decried Barravecchio, who is also part of Families for Safe Streets. “Eight years later, we have the gruesome consequence 1,800 humans killed on the streets of New York.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer briefly joined to pledge his support, saying funds from the recently-enacted $1.2 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework could be used to address street safety.

“I worked very hard as Majority Leader to get $10 billion dollars in The BIF bill, $5 billion for transportation alternatives and $5 billion for safe streets for all,” Schumer said. “I will work with all of you to make sure the regulations as to how to spend this money are done the right way, the effective way to save the most lives possible, that’s my commitment and promise to everybody here.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke in support of families who lost someone to traffic violence, outside Brooklyn Borough Hall.Photo by Kevin Duggan

Survivors spoke through tears as they held up portraits of their lost loved ones, such as Marcia Landais, whose 12-year-old daughter Joie Sellers was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in Flatlands, Brooklyn, in 2014.

“She was loved. She was a stellar student, a disciplined performer, a loving daughter, someone’s best friends,” said Landais. “She was more than someone. She was someone unforgettable.”

One Manhattanite recalled the death of his father Jeffrey Williamson, 71, who was hit by a postal truck driver on the Upper West Side in June.

“I’ve been a paramedic in the City of New York for 15 years and my blood is red with people I’ve seen crushed and killed over the years,” said Bennett Williamson. “I just never expected to have to pull the tube out of my own father’s body in St. Luke’s on that day.”

This story first appeared on amNewYork.