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Upper West Siders' Shock Turns to Rage at Vigil for Pedestrian Deaths

By Emily Frost | January 16, 2014 9:14am
 The vigil centered on mourning the dead and calling for action to make the streets safer. 
Hundreds Attend Vigil for Recent Pedestrian Victims on the Upper West Side
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UPPER WEST SIDE — Dana Lerner kept her eyes closed and head down as she listened Wednesday night to residents and elected officials rail against dangerous conditions for pedestrians in the neighborhood.

She wept as the loss of her 9-year-old son only days earlier was brought into focus at the vigil, organized by concerned neighbors and community members, with support from Transportation Alternatives.

Lerner's son Cooper Stock was struck and killed by a taxi driver who failed to yield as he drove onto West End Avenue from West 97th Street Friday night, authorities said.

Grief and frustration over that incident, as well as the one that killed Alex Shear, 73, who was killed by a tour bus just blocks away the same night, drew hundreds to the site of Cooper's death for a candlelight vigil. 

Dana's brother Barron Lerner said he was surprised he was able to stand in front of the community and speak about his nephew because "we are still in horrible grief."

But he wanted to talk about Cooper, who "was always in an amazing mood," and to thank everyone for showing their support, he said. 

Julie Dermer, who lived in the same building as the Stock family and whose son was close with Cooper, said the neighborhood felt "more like a small town in a big urban city."  But that sense of safety and security was lost Friday night. 

"We lost one of our kids right outside our front door," she said. 

Another speaker pointed to the way the crash spoke to every parent's fears.

But Dermer's talk quickly turned to perceived policy failures, as she said her "shock and sadness has now turned to rage."

Dermer referenced a blueprint written by New York City Streets Renaissance in 2008 outlining changes that needed to be made to make the intersection where Cooper was killed safer. 

"These ideas need to be implemented," she said, "and not just sitting on a desk."

Scott Stringer, the city's new comptroller and an Upper West Side resident, said he was also angry and invoked his role as the father of a 2-year-old. 

"If you can't drive, get out of your car," he yelled. "We shouldn't treat giving a double parking ticket and mowing down a child the same way."

New City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said the support of the community was evident by the hundreds who turned out for the vigil. 

Gale Brewer, the neighborhood's former city councilwoman and new Manhattan Borough president, drew the most applause when she urged a changing of the speed limits. 

"Every single driver should be going 20 miles per hour," she said.