Harsher penalties must be dealt to reckless drivers whose behavior behind the wheel results in tragic collisions, Mayor DeBlasio told a crowd that rallied to confront him Tuesday morning as he left his gym on the same Park Slope street where a driver hit and killed two children on Monday.
“If someone has shown because of their actions they could endanger other human beings with a vehicle, and use that vehicle as a weapon, there should be more stringent penalties,” Hizzoner said.
More than 100 traffic watchdogs converged on the Prospect Park YMCA on Ninth Street the day after a Staten Island woman drove her white Volvo sedan through a red light and into five pedestrians crossing that street at Fifth Avenue, killing 1-year-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein, and injuring three others, including Blumenstein’s pregnant mother, Tony Award–winning actress Ruthie Ann Miles.
The mayor emerged from the gym in workout gear shortly after 9 am, calling on state legislators to stiffen penalties for lawbreaking motorists and for the installation of more speed cameras around the city in response to advocates’ demands for safety improvements at the site of the deadly crash.
But DeBlasio’s solutions merely retaliate against already committed crimes, and fail to prevent collisions in advance by implementing traffic-calming measures on treacherous roadways like Ninth Street, an organizer of the rally told the mayor in response.
“I don’t want drivers pulled over for speeding … I want streets that drivers look at and say, ‘I’m a guest here,’ ” Doug Gordon, who blogs about street safety on Brooklyn Spoke, said to DeBlasio. “I don’t want cops to arrest my child’s killer, I want my child not to be killed.”
Hours after the protest, investigators said the woman may have experienced a seizure at the time she accelerated into the victims, and Gordon admitted that no amount of infrastructure improvements could prevent crashes caused by certain uncontrollable circumstances.
“There’s no way of knowing exactly what would have made the difference here,” he said. “There are times you can look at things and say maybe nothing would have worked.”
But Gordon said the recorded five fatalities along Ninth Street since 2004, in addition to the 33 injuries suffered on the road since 2010, suggest chronic hazards that can be fixed through sensible traffic-safety improvements.
“If it had been the only crash in recent history, yeah, then maybe this wouldn’t be the time or place to call for improvements, but when you look at the overall pattern, it suggests something more needs to be done,” he said.
And as advocates pushed for change outside the YMCA, mourners congregated around floral bouquets and other tokens of grief laid down the block in honor of the victims, for whom some openly wept tears of grief.
“We’re such a close-knit community,” said Park Slope resident Nancy Scherl, who left roses at a memorial outside the Chase Bank on Fifth Avenue near Ninth Street. “When something happens to one person, it happens to everybody.”