The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Vision Zero Law Not Yet Used in Fatal Crown Heights Crashes, Analysis Finds

By Rachel Holliday Smith | January 8, 2016 2:51pm | Updated on January 10, 2016 6:57pm

CROWN HEIGHTS — Of four fatal crashes that have occurred in the neighborhood since new penalties for drivers went into effect in 2014, none have resulted in new "Vision Zero" charges meant to increase penalties for killing pedestrians and cyclists, an analysis by DNAinfo New York found.

In two of the four fatal crashes in Crown Heights, the driver did face criminal charges. But none faced the “failure to exercise due care” charge named in Administrative Code Section 19-190, signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio in May 2014 as part of the citywide Vision Zero pedestrian safety initiative.

The law went into effect in August of that year, creating a new misdemeanor charge that carried a penalty of up to 30 days behind bars and a $250 fine.

Since then, only 15 percent of drivers who have killed pedestrians or cyclists across the city have been hit with the Vision Zero charge, according to an analysis by DNAinfo of city data and court records.

Those who avoided the charge include a driver who ran over and killed Rabbi Yekutiel Rapp, 66, on Empire Boulevard and Balfour Place last summer. Witnesses at the time told DNAinfo the driver backed up over the Lubavitcher rabbi three times before coming to a stop.

The driver was not arrested or charged with any crime — including the Vision Zero misdemeanor — immediately following the crash, according to a report by Streetsblog. A source close to the Rapp family said they have not been made aware of any charges in connection to the case since then.

A spokeswoman from the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office said Thursday the case is still under investigation.

On another major thoroughfare in the neighborhood, city records show a pedestrian was struck and killed at Eastern Parkway and Rogers Avenue in the early morning hours of Dec. 17, 2014, by a sports utility vehicle. Information about the incident was not available from police or prosecutors.

The map below shows all of the sites of fatal crashes across the city since the Vision Zero charge was enacted, as compiled by DNAinfo:


Drivers in two other fatal crashes that have taken place in Crown Heights since August of 2014 face serious criminal charges, though none of them include the new Vision Zero misdemeanor.

Driver Janice Vargas-Cruz was arrested soon after hitting and killing 93-year-old Millwood Hughes as he tried to cross Albany Avenue near Lincoln Place on June 23, 2015.

Vargas-Cruz, who fled the scene after the crash, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a felony, and unsafe backing of a vehicle, an infraction, court records show. She was released on $20,000 bond and is due back in court on Jan. 21.

Driver Raymond Ramos is still in custody and faces multiple felony charges in connection to a March 9, 2015, crash at St. Johns Place and Nostrand Avenue. He is accused of fleeing from a car stop, then hitting and killing 21-year-old pedestrian Dave Jones. He is due back in court on Jan. 25, court records show.

An inquiry to the Brooklyn District Attorney's office about the use of the Vision Zero charges in the borough was not returned.

Previously, however, prosecutors across the city told DNAinfo the low numbers of Vision Zero charges are partly due to police inappropriately arresting drivers under the new law, Administrative Code Section 19-190.

"Not every 19-190 arrest is legally 19-190," a Manhattan DA spokesman said.

Additionally, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said that, as awful as crashes can be, the driver is not always acting illegally.

"No matter how tragic the incident and no matter how much sympathy we have for victims and families we cannot base a prosecution on those feelings," he said.

As of Dec. 14, 2015, 31 drivers involved in fatal crashes have faced the Vision Zero misdemeanor charge since it was made into law — 10 each in Brooklyn and Queens, nine in Manhattan and two in The Bronx.

To read the full analysis by DNAinfo of the new law, click here.