By Alexandra Cheney and Patrick Hedlund
LOWER EAST SIDE — A community board member leaving a meeting Tuesday night was struck and killed by a cab in front of his shocked colleagues, making him the second pedestrian fatality on the block in almost as many weeks.
The victim, Harry Wieder, 57, was crossing Essex Street between E. Houston and Stanton streets around 9:45 p.m. when he was hit by a taxi heading north on the block, police said.
Wieder, a longtime advocate for disability and LGBT issues, had been leaving a Community Board 3 meeting at PS 20 when the incident occurred, colleagues said.
A group of fellow board members witnessed the crash and accompanied him to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, colleagues added.
Wieder was a dwarf who used crutches to walk, one of the reasons he might have chosen to cross Essex Street midblock instead of walking to a crosswalk, said CB 3 District Manager Susan Stetzer.
“The safe thing would have been to walk to Houston Street,” she said, adding that Wieder’s car was parked in the middle of the block. “But it’s very, very difficult and laborious for him to walk.”
Police did not suspect any criminality on the driver’s part, and the investigation is ongoing, the NYPD said.
“I will miss Harry terribly,” CB 3 Chairman Dominic Pisciotta wrote in an e-mail early Wednesday morning after the incident. “He contributed so much to the board, and you could always count on him being at nearly every meeting. He loved serving the community, and most of all fighting for it.”
Stetzer explained that Wieder was highly active in both LGBT and larger community issues, including bringing a disabled person’s perspective to the board’s transportation committee.
“He had a big impact on his community,” Stetzer said. “That’s why his loss will be really felt by people, because he was so intensely engaged with the community.”
Other board members described Wieder as a tireless advocate for handicapped accessibility at new developments in the neighborhood and citywide who never sought to exploit his own disability to make a point.
"He managed to be everywhere," said Rabbi Y.S. Ginzberg about Wieder's attendance at all manner of community meetings. "He had a very strong, positive personality and never felt bad about his handicap."
After Tuesday night's meeting, Ginzberg said he walked the same path across Essex Street to his car, which was parked only a few spots away from Wieder's.
"I walked out with him and said goodnight," said Ginzberg. "I just didn’t believe it."
Pisciotta explained that Wieder might have been hard to spot because he emerged from in between two parked cars on his way across the street and was wearing dark clothing.
He added that the loss of Wieder would leave a void on the community board once filled by an indefatigable force.
"He was def an activist through and through and really fought for the community," Pisciotta said. "if he thought the community was getting short shrifted by the city, he spoke out loudly."
Manhattan Borough President Scoot Stringer said that Wider's death will only increase the call for more street safety regulations.
"How terrible that someone who worked to improve transportation for all was struck by a taxi," Stringer said in a statement. "We can honor his life by continuing to fight for safer roads, and furthering his legacy of equality and access for all."
On April 12, a man was struck and killed by a car while walking through the intersection of Delancey and Essex streets.
In January, a female cyclist died when a school bus ran her over at Delancey and Ludlow streets.
The transportation advocacy group Transportation Alternatives has recorded hundreds of crashes involving vehicles and pedestrians on the Lower East Side over the past decade, and recently released a study showing Essex Street as one of the most dangerous stretches in the area.
“We are at maximum saturation,” said Christine Carabetta, 47, a resident of the Lower East Side her whole life, who said she walks along Essex Street every day to and from work. “Cabs peel around the corner, and there’s just something wrong with that picture.”
“It’s horrible,” she added. “It’s like we take our lives into our own hands.”
Ginzberg, who recently found out that he and Wieder grew up in the same section of Forest Hills, Queens, said his contributions to the board could never be replicated.
"What he was able to offer to the board, nobody can replace," he said. "His accomplishments on the board will be sorely, sorely missed."
Services for Wieder will be held on Friday at the Schwartz Brothers-Jeffer Memorial Chapels in Forest Hills.