Sammy Cohen-Eckstein dies after being hit by van on Prospect Park West

Twelve-year-old hit, killed by van on Prospect Park West

The Brooklyn Paper
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A 12-year-old Park Slope boy was killed by a van on Tuesday evening after he ran into a street near Prospect Park to fetch his soccer ball and was crushed, authorities said.

Samuel Cohen-Eckstein was playing near his Prospect Park West home near Third Street when the ball rolled out onto Prospect Park West and he sprinted into the two-lane street from the Prospect Park side to chase after it, police said.

The youngster fell as he was running and was struck and run over by a 2006 Chevrolet van at about 5:15 pm, cops said.

Emergency responders found the child with critical injuries to his torso and rushed him to New York Methodist Hospital, where he died, according to police.

The driver of the van remained on scene and was not immediately charged or ticketed, cops said. The investigation is ongoing.

It was not immediately clear whether the driver of the van was speeding, but neighbors say that Prospect Park West is a magnet for lead-footed drivers.

“Parts of the avenue are like a raceway,” said Tom Prendergast of Prospect Park Southwest, adding that drivers have slowed down since a controversial two-way bike lane was installed on the thoroughfare, cutting the car lanes from three to two.

“But there are still drivers that insist on speeding and who are oblivious to pedestrians that are crossing the avenue,” he said.

Cohen-Eckstein was just more than a month from celebrating his bar mitzvah, a Jewish coming-of-age rite, according to a website announcing his occasion. The boy, who friends called Sammy, was an eighth grader at Park Slope’s MS 51 on Fifth Avenue. By Wednesday afternoon, a memorial for Cohen-Eckstein had sprouted in front of the middle school and near where he was fatally struck.

“He was a really amazing person,” said his 15-year-old sister Tamar, who attends Beacon High School in Manhattan.

The youngster’s classmates said that he was a much-loved kid who played soccer and blew trumpet for the school’s jazz band.

“He was a really smart person,” 13-year-old Somia Azzam said. “Everybody loved him.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at
Updated 10:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

So sad from PS says:
This is so sad. Although, one needs to ask was this child crossing at the crosswalk and was it during a red light? Just terrible news.
Oct. 9, 2013, 12:50 pm
Justin from Parkslope says:
Vans and Car service - indy racing in the slope.
Oct. 9, 2013, 1:16 pm
Kristina from Brooklyn says:
Terrible tragedy. My heart goes out to the family of Samuel. On a positive note Natalie, your writing is beautiful. :)
Oct. 9, 2013, 2:03 pm
Jason from Cobble Hill says:
@So sad…

Before blaming the victim, one needs to ask how fast was the van driving? And what are authorities doing to stem the occurrences of these tragedies that happen multiple times a week, if not more?

We should not have to fear living our lives in our communities, walking a few blocks to school or the park. Motorists are stealing time from us. They are taking lives from us.
Oct. 9, 2013, 3:15 pm
Lisa from Williamsburg says:
So sad. As the mom of a boy around that age who is perpetually with a soccer ball, my heart breaks for this young boy and his family.
Oct. 9, 2013, 3:20 pm
Ray from Parkslope says:
Such a tragety, so young a boy. Prayers for his family. Hopefully the Methoist hospital expansion in the neighborhood doesn't rain down on us more of these tragic events such as yesterday's. Also
we in Brooklyn should learn that there is more to our lives & our family's lives than those Damm Cell phones & pay more attention to the beautiful world all around us.
Oct. 9, 2013, 4:06 pm
Alex from Park Slope says:
This is very sad and hits very close to home. But I would ask that we stop calling the Prospect Park West bike lane "controversial". A small group of well-connected wealthy people raised a stink over it while over 70% of the neighborhood supports it. That's not controversy. That's using money and influence to try to get your way.
Oct. 9, 2013, 4:16 pm
Ben from Park Slope says:
This is so sad... Sammy was on my baseball team and in my 7th-grade homeroom last year, as well as multiple classes in elementary school. He was one of my friends, I can't believe he died...
Oct. 9, 2013, 4:28 pm
Neighbor from Park Slope says:
So sorry for your loss, Ben. Sounds like Sammy was a great kid and a great friend.
Oct. 9, 2013, 4:55 pm
Jonah from Park Slope says:
I knew him. He was a really awesome kid and had many great friends. There are a lot of people including me, who will miss him greatly.
Oct. 9, 2013, 5:27 pm
Sam from Ex-park slope says:
Our hearts go out to his parents and sister. He was a great kid. There really are no words. Unimaginably sad.
Oct. 9, 2013, 5:37 pm
Prospect Heights Resident from Prospect Heights says:
Rest in peace, young man. When I saw the date of the funeral relative to the date of death, I knew that the young man was either a Muslim or a Jew.

I hope people reading this remember that tomorrow is not guaranteed to us and that we should cherish every moment of every day and cherish our loved ones.
Oct. 9, 2013, 5:44 pm
JAY from NYC says:
there is no indication that the van was speeding or that the driver of the van was doing anything wrong,it very well could be the kid ran out into the street in front of the van and his fate was sealed. This is possibly the nightmare kind of thing that could happen to any driver. This is just bad all around. really sad story.
Oct. 9, 2013, 6:41 pm
Bob from Park Slope says:
Sammy was a beautiful kid, we watched him grow up playing sports, he had a spark, an energy level and happy demeanor that you knew would carry him through life. Just so tragic to lose such a terrific young man. I will miss seeing him grow up.
Oct. 9, 2013, 7:03 pm
Annika from Park slope says:
I didn't know him all that well but he went to my school and ms51 is in mourning we will all wear black tomorrow in honor of him his death has touched everyone in our schools in different ways.
Oct. 9, 2013, 7:24 pm
Will from Park Slope says:
It's a heavy traffic area, by 12 years old his parents should have conditioned him to not run out into the street without looking. This is a tragedy. This is less an issue of speed and more of an issue of making children more street smart and savy. My friends and I grew up in the streets of this neighborhood and were trained from a young age to be aware of our surroundings. So sad to hear. I hope, from this terrible event, parents take the time to teach their kids to be conscious of the dangers of traffic and focus less on the politics of speed limits/bike lanes/traffic issues.
Oct. 9, 2013, 8:20 pm
Rblnyc from Kensington says:
Tragic, awful, ultimate horror for the family and for all of us who know terrible and unimaginable sadness .. And to the BLOOMBERG ADMINISTRATION that shoved the awful placement of bike and parking lanes in this particular lane on an already crowded Park Slope area. It seems too soon to say this, but anyone who lives and drives or walks with kids or dogs, or just spends time in the area along Prospect Park West,knows for sure that the way the street was reconfigured made the visibility worse, aggravating an already risky situation. A terrible terrible tragedy.
Oct. 9, 2013, 8:43 pm
brooklynmama73 from Park Slope & Bay Ridge says:
How many of the folks commenting here know what Sammy's parents conditioned him to do or not?

This is a tragic accident. My understanding is that Sammy was wearing cleats, and while he did run after his ball, he slipped (cleats = good traction on grass, bad traction on asphalt, if I'm not mistaken) and fell into the street. His parents have been avid cyclists since way before the bike lanes and, as such, are keenly aware of the crucial need to be aware of/watch out for cars and would have taught their children to do the same. He had lived on that busy corner since birth. With those factors at play, it is highly unlikely he would have just run out into traffic. As for the driver, it could have been any one of us motorists driving and someone could slip and fall right in front of us. In an instant. Everything changes.

Now is not the time to debate the merits of the bike lane or blame the child or his parents or even the driver. Now is the time to hug our children and loved ones close and be grateful we were not involved in this tragedy. It is the time to remember that *everything* can change in a single instant. One. Single. Instant. It is the time for us to hold the Cohen Eckstein family in our hearts, send them thoughts of loving kindness and pray that they might somehow find comfort through this unspeakable grief and loss. Parents aren't supposed to have to bury their children. But they do.
Oct. 9, 2013, 9:29 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Well said brooklynmama73.
Oct. 9, 2013, 9:46 pm
Heartbroken from Park Slope says:
Sammy was a great kid. I had the privilege of knowing him and his family. He was a smart and kind boy. I also knew his parents well enough to know that raised their kids to watch out for cars, but tragedies happen. This doesn't seem like anyone's fault, bad things happen. Instead of looking to place blame we should all look to send our sympathies. A beautiful, bright light has gone out too early. Sammy you will be missed.
Oct. 9, 2013, 9:58 pm
Haviland Miller from Windsor Terrace says:
Speed limit? Cell phone or texting? The latter should be checked in EVERY accident; and texting & driving should be considered the equivalent of DUI.

Just because dispirited cops say no 'criminality' what's the ** proof **?

RIP Sammy.
Oct. 9, 2013, 10:02 pm
Rachel J from Park Slope says:
I'm a neighborhood resident, mom, teacher... My heart breaks for this family's loss. I teach kids who go to his school, and it's very hard to see kids so young having to deal with something this...

brooklynmama73, you are so right. My initial reaction after reading about this was that it's a tragic *accident*. If the driver was doing something he shouldn't, well that will be known and acted upon soon enough. In the meantime, yes, we must just all love each other and consider this a wake-up call that life is precious... and fragile.
Oct. 9, 2013, 10:11 pm
Richon from Parkslope says:
I am so sorry for the people who knew and loved him. Sammy, You will never be forgotten.
Oct. 9, 2013, 10:30 pm
Janice Wylie from Park Slope says:
RachelJ, perhaps this was an accident, perhaps not but before assuming it might be...

Can you name even ONE non-DUI car/truck/van accident that resulted in the death or serious injury of a pedestrian or cyclist that resulted in ANY criminal charges?

Not that that's your job, by any means, but the bar is set extremely high, even when likely speeding is obvious, even when the car/van in question has illegally tinted windows and so forth.

Sadly-- and infuriatingly-- there is NO reason at all to believe NYPD has the any interest in investigating such "accidents" seriously.

Q: What charges were made against the cab driver who ran over the woman on a Manhattan sidewalk last month?

Q: What charges were made against the SUV driver in Queens last month that ran over five kids on the sidewalk in Maspeth, killing one?
Oct. 9, 2013, 11:10 pm
Vlado from Park Slope says:
My sincere condolences to the family. This is a terrible tragedy. I have no substantial words that would comfort efficiently in this situation, knowing well the pain of loss. :(.i am so sorry. I work in this neighborhood with the dogs past decade and people know me from the street. Objectively speaking- I found this area, filled with kids, families and dogs -extremely dangerous because of its intense traffic! Maybe car-free zones??
Oct. 10, 2013, 7:45 am
A Father from Park Slope says:
I was in the park with my children when this horrible tragedy occurred. My heart is broken for his family and friends and I wish them strength to somehow get themselves through this.
Oct. 10, 2013, 7:54 am
a mom from Fort Greene says:
My heart goes out to this family in the way of this terrible tragedy.

On another note, as a driver, this is my worst nightmare. I have driven many times down this stretch of highway, including at rush hour, when this happened. If you drive at a reasonable pace, you get tailgated by the drivers who want to speed no matter what. I would like to see the speed limit enforced and reduced to 20 MPH on all streets except the expressways.
Oct. 10, 2013, 8:33 am
a mom from Fort Greene says:
sorry, the "wake" of this tragedy, not "way."
Oct. 10, 2013, 8:33 am
s from PPW says:
Anyone who blames the bike lane is an ——. This stuff happens all over the city - kids get killed crossing the street with the right of way, kids get hit by drivers on the sidewalk, kids get killed by drivers everywhere.

So shut up about the bike lane.
Oct. 10, 2013, 9:11 am
So sad from PS says:
@ Jason from Cobble Hill - Where did I say I blame the victim or anyone? We live in a country where there is due process. When an accident or crime occurs, all questions need to and should be asked to get as much detail as possible. People can then take what is learnt and possibly learn from it. In this case, there is no difference, we should find out exactly what happened so that parents, drivers, kids as a community can all try to prevent this from happening again and not let history repeat itself. YOU are the one that is assuming that I am assuming the blame is on someone. All I got to say is Mr. Jason from Cobble Hill – please STAY in COBBLE HILL.
Oct. 10, 2013, 9:17 am
Stephanie McGillicuddy from Park Slope says:
RIP Sammy & meanwhile...

Where was the investigation into this fatal pedestrian "accident" in Dyker Heights?

How about this one that killed a motorcyclist in Bay Ridge? Sure seems like an illegal U-tern at the least.

Etc etc.

Maybe this ** was ** an accident, maybe, but what evidence does ANYONE here have that NYPD or Kings Co. DA will take this in least bit seriously?

** MAYBE ** if was a cop or politician's son/daughter wife/parent etc... Otherwise, WGAS?
Oct. 10, 2013, 11 am
Johnny from City Hall says:
Its the bike lanes fault.
Oct. 10, 2013, 12:08 pm
Ben from Park Slope says:
It's me again, the same Ben as earlier on. At the funeral service today, they explained how it was no one's fault. He was wearing cleats, ran out, and tripped. The driver had no time to react, and he was breaking no traffic laws. Please let us not turn the death of one of my closest friends into a political debate.
Oct. 10, 2013, 2:09 pm
Dylan from Williamsburg says:
It is really sad that this happened I went to ps321 with Sammy and he was a good friend I actually looked up to him as a great soccer player I even played his soccer team gjoa at pier 5 in Brooklyn bridge park and that was the last time I saw Sammy rip Sammy u will be missed
Oct. 10, 2013, 6:05 pm
cheryl scott from queens new york says:
Well said brooklynmama....I know this family personally and they are very good parents to sammy and tamar. This is a loving family whom I greatly admire ..I will nevee forget how gary and amy play like two kids with the children when they go to grandma ruth's home. They are a close knitted family and are great bikers. for those people making negative comments about teaching child about road use...its called an accident. .sammy slid...keep yout negative comments to yourself and allow the COHEN ECKSTEIN and ECKSTEIN FAMILY To mourn in peace......Rest in peace sammy..I miss ur smile already. ..Rest in peace
Oct. 10, 2013, 7:10 pm
Iris from Park Slope says:
Sammy went to my school and i would always see him laughing with his friends or playing soccer on the turf outside of 51. He always seemed like he was having so much fun and is truly missed at school.
Oct. 10, 2013, 7:41 pm
Jonah from Park Slope says:
Same Jonah as before: Anyone, on any website who blames the bike lane is being completely irrational. I was at a protest with Sammy for the bike lane. He was a great bike advocate and a great person.
You are still with us Sammy!!!!!!!
Oct. 11, 2013, 1:33 pm
_Eleanor from Bay Ridge says:
_I knew Sammy frpm when he was a toddler. His parents were the best a kid could ever want. They and his big sister, Tamar, were blessed to have him in their lives. He wass a great child and will be missed dearly.
Oct. 12, 2013, 9:14 am
Kimi from Windsor Terrace says:
This is so sad. I'm very sorry for the family's loss. I noticed this memorial immediately, bicycling past it this week and wondered who it was for. Though I didn't know Sammy, the description of him playing the trumpet in his school band made him real to me. My husband played the trumpet at his age.
Oct. 13, 2013, 1:18 am
That Guy from Uptown says:
The slower the vehicle, the less likely a fatality during a collision. 20 MPH speed limit on side streets, city wide. Would be nice.
Oct. 14, 2013, 1:50 am
richard from parkslope says:
the city will need to install street car bumps on some of the streets in the slope. For example, Garfield place and First street. also, where are all the cops to enforce speeders.
Oct. 16, 2013, 10:42 am
Ray from Park Slope says:
Condolences to the friends and family of Samuel.

As a motorist who drives down this street almost everyday I see people speeding down this particular street a lot.

The city should install some speed bumps or maybe lengthen the traffic lights on that street to better enforce the speed limit.

Rest in Peace.
Oct. 24, 2013, 2:46 pm

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