NEW YORK CITY — The number of pedestrians struck and killed by vehicles on the Upper East Side is on the rise, with 26 killed in the past five years and 7 killed just this year, according to officials.
The number of fatalities this year is the highest of any other in recent years, with three deaths in 2012, four in 2013 and five in 2015, officials said. Four deaths this year involved pedestrians walking in crosswalks, including 73-year-old Blanca Pagan who was mowed down by a white van taking a right turn on York Avenue and East 89th Street on Oct. 7.
The driver in that accident was arrested and charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian.
Five days earlier, on Oct. 2, a 42-year old woman was critically injured when she was struck by a car, then dragged by a van on East 95th Street and Second Avenue.
Two deaths involved elderly residents who were struck by cars that were backing up into parking spots, including 83-year-old Lee Strong who was killed in September, and 85-year-old Vincent Downing in May.
Upper East Siders were shocked by the recent number of tragedies on their streets, and said it's made them extra wary.
"One is too many, but seven at this point in the year is horrible," said Valerie Mason, president of the East 72nd Street Neighborhood Association. "You shouldn’t be hit when in the crosswalk with the light...but now you have to look in front and behind you when you're in the crosswalk."
The number of pedestrian deaths since 2011 were by far the most common type of traffic-related fatalities on the Upper East Side, DOT data shows.
On March 15, 55-year-old Jodi McGrath was killed crossing First Avenue at East 92nd Street after she was struck by an SUV.
"There's definitely a bad traffic situation," said Marol Phillips, who owns a floral shop on East 92nd Street, at the time. He added that it was especially dangerous for children attending schools nearby, including East Side Middle School (M.S. 114) a block away.
"There's no one stationed here at First Avenue. It's behind the times — I myself could get killed."
In response to concerns, Community Board 8 is planning to schedule a forum on pedestrian safety in the near future, according to board officials.
"We all need to be safe on our streets, and as much as we fight about various projects, we need to talk about the areas where people are getting killed," said Scott Falk, the co-chair of the board's transportation committee said during a meeting last week.
Mason said she was struck by a car about six years ago at the 72nd Street and Second Avenue intersection and escaped with a torn ACL and broken ankle.
"He said he didn’t see me," she said. "I was crossing with light, but I was perhaps in his blind spot. It's not an unusual story."
Mason credited the increase in local development, general population and cyclists for the growing number of pedestrian injuries and deaths.
Jim Clynes, chairman of Community Board 8, blamed traffic congestion, speeding, driver inattention, and the aging population on the Upper East Side as reasons why pedestrians are getting hit more often.
"We're all getting older," he said of the Upper East Side. "It takes longer for an older person to make it across the crosswalk from one end of the street to the other."
He and Mason support a traffic measure called Leading Pedestrian Intervals, which gives walkers a head start before cars get the light to make turns across the crosswalk, they said.
There are dozens of LPIs on the Upper East Side and the DOT has plans to add more to Second and Third avenues next spring, officials said.
"One fatality is too many and following a year in which New York had the fewest overall and pedestrian traffic deaths in recorded history, we are making critical investments and taking a comprehensive approach to reducing fatalities and serious injuries on city streets," said Scott Gastel, a spokesman for the DOT.
And while pedestrian deaths are on the rise, pedestrian-involved collisions in general are down by 9.2 percent this year compared to last year, according to the NYPD.
Following each fatal pedestrian collision, the 19th Precinct does a three-day targeted enforcement initiative at the location, and regularly sends out Tweets regarding safe driving and walking tips and also visits senior centers to talk about pedestrian safety, the NYPD said.