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Man Crashes Car Into Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City

By Julie Shapiro | August 13, 2012 1:55pm

BATTERY PARK CITY — A speeding car plowed into the Irish Hunger Memorial in Battery Park City Sunday afternoon, authorities and witnesses said.

The driver behind the wheel of the Chevy Impala was weaving down River Terrace just before 5 p.m. Sunday when he blew through the stop sign at Vesey Street, jumped the curb and slammed into the memorial's northern wall, police and witnesses said.

"You could hear the engine going really fast," said Diane Cimine, a Battery Park City resident who saw the accident happen. "The car swerved and swerved and swerved, and went hurtling into the wall."

The alleged driver — a shirtless man identified by police as Antoine Odom, 24, of Long Island — emerged from the car, a rental with New Hampshire plates, and appeared unhurt, witnesses said.

"He just gets out of the car like it's nothing, and he's wandering around the street," Cimine said.

"He started yelling about how he didn't do it [and] the car wasn't his," added Miguel Lantigua, a server at Le Pain Quotidien across the street from the memorial, who raced outside when he heard the crash.

Parks Enforcement Patrol officers chased the driver down and subdued him until the police arrived, witnesses noted.

Cops arrested Odom and charged him with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief, grand larceny, criminal possession of a controlled substance, operating a motor vehicle while impaired and leaving the scene of an accident, the NYPD said.

They could not say whether the vehicle had been stolen or what susbtance Odom had on him.

He had not been arraigned as of Monday morning, the District Attorney's office said.

Cimine said a teenage boy who was standing near the memorial suffered a minor injury to his leg during the incident, but it was not immediately clear if he was hit by the car or if he was injured as he jumped out of the way.

The boy declined medical treatment at the scene, Cimine said. The FDNY did not have any record of injuries at the location.

"The whole situation was really terrifying," Cimine said. "So much worse could have happened."

The sloping Irish Hunger Memorial, which was dedicated in 2002 to commemorate those who died during the Irish potato famine in the 19th century, lost some of its gray stone cladding in the accident but did not appear to suffer any structural damage and was open to the public Monday morning.

The Battery Park City Authority, which manages the memorial and is responsible for maintaining it, referred questions to the NYPD.

Dennis Gault, a Battery Park City resident who came across the accident's aftermath Sunday evening, said he was disturbed by such a close call on a busy neighborhood sidewalk.

"To see this, it's unnerving," Gault said. "It's very upsetting."

Gault, a Community Board 1 member, believes the city should install speed bumps on River Terrace to slow cars as they approach the turn onto Vesey Street and to prevent them from cruising through the stop sign there.

CB1's Battery Park City Committee will discuss the accident at its next meeting, Sept. 4 at 6 p.m., at 1 World Financial Center, 24th floor.