“There is a no more senseless or inhumane action than to leave a body in the street,” declared city councilman Ydanis Rodriguez at a news conference earlier today at the Greenpoint intersection where 27-year-old Neftaly Ramirez was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver early Saturday morning.
The death of Ramirez, the 11th New York cyclist killed by traffic this year, was followed Sunday afternoon by the death of 18-year-old Alejandro Tello, who was killed in the Gravesend neighborhood of Brooklyn while skateboarding. In both cases the drivers fled. Ramirez is believed to have been hit by a private sanitation truck and Tello by someone driving a white BMW SUV.
Rodriguez is chair of the city council’s transportation committee. Also present at the news conference were councilman Mark Treyger, who represents Gravesend; councilman Stephen Levin, who represents Greenpoint; and Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, a group which advocates for pro-cyclist, pro-pedestrian, and pro-public transit policies.
“None of us want to be here today,” said Levin, describing the deaths of Ramirez and Tello as “an utter tragedy that was one hundred percent avoidable.” He called on the Department of Transportation to make the narrow Greenpoint intersection where Ramirez died safer by adding a dedicated bike line and changing parking and traffic regulations.
“Our hearts break for Neftaly Ramirez,” said Treyger. “Our hearts break for Alejandro Tello.” He emphasized that leaving the scene of an accident is not only “heartless” and “inhumane” but “criminal.” The NYPD is working with neighborhood residents to identify the perpetrators, he said, and they have strong leads.
Paul Steely White struck a more confrontational tone. He painted the recent hit-and-runs as the product of city policies that implicitly place higher value on automobiles than the lives of cyclists and pedestrians. According to White, NYPD officers responding to the crime scene made comments that seemed to excuse or rationalize the driver’s actions. “The NYPD needs to stop playing criminal defense for [reckless drivers],” said White, who also noted that the NYPD recently launched a punitive ticket blitz against cyclists. “The NYPD should spend its limited resources on bringing these criminals to justice.”
Several proposals for improving pedestrian and cyclist safety were raised during the conference, including protected bike lanes, speed cameras, overnight deliveries, and a change in parking regulations which reward private car ownership at the expense of the vast majority of New Yorkers who use other modes of transit.
“Drivers need to know they do not own the street,” added Rodriguez.