Fatal Hit-and-Run Renews Call for Changes at Hell's Kitchen Intersection

By Mathew Katz on February 7, 2013 7:08am 

HELL'S KITCHEN — A hit-and-run that left an elderly woman dead across from the Port Authority Bus Terminal has sparked renewed calls for safety improvements at the intersection of West 41st Street and Ninth Avenue.

Out-of-control cars and trucks have hit dozens of people at the intersection, according to the Clinton Hell's Kitchen Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, or CHEKPEDS. There have been 46 pedestrians hurt and two pedestrians killed there since 1995, in addition to Tuesday's deadly crash, according to Crashstat.org.

CHEKPEDS, which has a long history of pushing for greatest pedestrian safety in the neighborhood, has been asking the Department of Transportation for years to make the crossing less dangerous.

"We look to your help to make this crossing safe," wrote CHEKPEDS chairwoman Christine Berthet in a letter to the DOT just after Tuesday's hit-and-run. "The status quo is simply not acceptable."

Shu Ying Liu, 69, who lived in the neighborhood, was struck by a dump truck making a right turn from Ninth Avenue as she crossed West 41st Street. She was taken to St. Luke's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, police said.

The truck driver, Jack Montelbano, 47, fled the scene, and was later arrested and charged with a hit and run, cops said. Montelbano was awaiting arraignment early Wednesday afternoon, according to a spokesman from the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

Until Tuesday, there had been no fatalities at the intersection since 2004 and only 12 pedestrian injuries there between 2007 and 2011, according to the DOT.

CHEKPEDS and Community Board 4 members asked the department in a letter Tuesday to bar right turns onto the street from Ninth Avenue during non-peak hours to prevent future accidents, as well as possibly adding a blinking yellow turning light to urge drivers to slow down.

A DOT spokesman said it planned to study the feasibility of those proposals.

With neighborhood staples like the Big Apple Meat Market moving farther south, more of the area's longtime residents — especially seniors — have begun to regularly cross West 41st Street, adding to the risk, Berthet said.

"We cannot continue to lose our neighbors as they get killed and maimed on their way to buy their food," she said.

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