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UWS Street Corner Renamed for Cooper Stock

By Emily Frost | June 3, 2015 5:00pm
 Hundreds of residents and friends of Cooper's came out to dedicate his street renaming. 
Cooper Stock Way Street Naming
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UPPER WEST SIDE — He had this "crazy silly laugh," a quirky love of Shirley Temple, a strong sweet tooth and an all-encompassing passion for basketball that he hoped would earn him a spot at UCLA. 

Hundreds of friends, relatives and fellow students gathered Wednesday to remember Cooper Stock, 9, who died in January 2014 when he was hit by a taxi driver while crossing the street, by honoring him with a street renaming. 

Close to a year and a half after Cooper was killed outside his home on West End Avenue at West 97th Street, emotions were still raw for his parents, Dana Lerner and Richard Stock, as well as his classmates and teachers. 

"It's devastating. I miss Cooper every day of my life," said his friend and classmate, Jacob Hume, 10. 

 

Jacob's twin brother, Jonathan, also spoke of missing Cooper deeply in a speech that made Cooper's mother weep while she listened.

"He will always be a part of my life. I would have taken a bullet for him," Jonathan said.

Just before the street renaming, the Hume boys and about 150 other students from Cooper's school, The Calhoun School, marched from West 81st Street to the site of his death.

They called themselves "Cooper's Troopers" and held signs reminding drivers to take care and stating that "driving too fast kills."

The school has taken steps to teach each student to look both ways even on a one-way street, to make eye contact with drivers while crossing the street and to be especially careful with drivers making left-hand turns, said City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal, who presided over the event. 

Rosenthal said she wants to see similar traffic-safety education happen at schools across the city. However, meaningful changes have already been made to prevent more pedestrian deaths, she said. 

Since Cooper's death, pedestrian islands have been added nearby along West End Avenue to calm traffic and help pedestrians get across the street more easily. Additionally, a new law named after Cooper has gone into effect that punishes cab drivers who break traffic laws and in the process kill or seriously harm a pedestrian.

But the street renaming — the northwest corner of West 97th Street and West End Avenue now bears a sign reading "Cooper Stock Way" — was also tinged with anger. 

"What people need to understand when they look at this sign is that you were the innocent victim of a reckless driving epidemic. You and your dad were following the law but the laws in New York City do not hold drivers responsible," said Lerner in a letter to her son that she read aloud at the ceremony. 

Koffi Komlani, the driver who hit and killed Cooper while turning onto West End Avenue, was fined $500 for the incident, had his license suspended for six months and is forced to take a driver's safety course — a penalty Lerner called "an insult" to her son's memory. 

Lerner, a member of the advocacy group Families for Safe Streets, urged people to report reckless driving and report cabdrivers who are texting. She said pedestrians need "to take back the streets." 

"This is great, but every time we see this sign, let's ask why that sign is there," said Barron Lerner, Cooper's uncle.

With the help of his classmates, Dana Lerner released 10 balloons into the sky to symbolize the age Cooper would have been at the street renaming. 

"He would have enjoyed himself... He lived in the moment" and "he lived a wonderful life," Lerner said. 

Sofia Russo, whose daughter Ariel, 4, was killed two years ago just two blocks east, attended the ceremony. Russo now has a 1-year-old son, Thomas, who she held at the ceremony. 

Last year, she had a similar street renaming ceremony in honor of her daughter, who was killed by driver Franklin Reyes when he drove up onto the sidewalk during a police chase. Through their advocacy work, Lerner and Russo have become friends.

"We're there for each other. Sometimes we help each other get out of bed," Russo said. 

The signs serve as an important reminder to passersby, Russo added. 

"I hope that they'll never forget Ariel and they'll never forget Cooper," she said. "I hope they'll remember to drive safely."

Listen to DNAinfo's podcast interview with Dana Lerner: