By Trevor Kapp and Jill Colvin
CITY HALL — The City Council is mulling new laws to prevent shopping carts and other objects from being tossed off of mall parking garages and pedestrian bridges after a rash of near-fatal incidents.
The legislation, introduced by Bronx City Councilman James Vacca, would force developers to install high barriers or fences along publicly accessible overpasses — in shopping mall garages or along walkways on bridges — to prevent objects from being hurled over the sides.
The proposal comes in the wake Upper West Side real estate broker Marion Hedges being struck by a shopping cart pushed from the fourth floor of an East Harlem parking garage last year. She was left in a coma after a pair of 12-year-olds pushed the cart just before Halloween, leaving Hedges with "permanent and lasting" injuries, her family has said. One of the boys who pushed the cart was sentenced Tuesday to spend 18 months in a group home.
Just last month, two men were injured when a shopping cart was pushed off of a parking garage at a Home Depot in the South Bronx, and in August a man was hit with a brick allegedly thrown from a foot bridge while riding his bike in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.
''The requirements right now are not enough," Vacca said at a hearing on the proposed legislation Tuesday. "One accident like this is one too many.''
He acknowledged it wouldn't be cheap for shopping malls and the city to implement the proposed changes, estimating it would cost roughly $1,000 per foot to install the barriers and fences.
But, Vacca added, "The cost is much higher if we allow the current situation to exist."
Stephen Arthur, 44, the victim in the August brick incident, had his wrists wrists still in bandages months after the accident.
"No one deserves to be the senseless victim of such violence,” said Arthur, who suffered a cut to his forehead, a gash on his cheek and several chipped teeth in the incident.
"Something needs to be done,” he said, noting that "fencing seems to make sense."
But David Woloch, the Department of Transportation’s deputy commissioner for external affairs, raised concerns about the potential price tag.
"Although we share the Council's appreciation for pedestrian fencing, this bill is far too broad in its approach,” he said, adding that the it would take decades to upgrade walkways.
"Installation is not just a matter of nuts and bolts. Each bridge in the DOT's inventory would need to be surveyed... to see if it could handle the additional weight," he said.
Vacca responded: "It's a sad day in the city of New York when we have to say it's going to take 10 years to build a fence."