Anatomy Of A Greenpoint Bike Accident

If a car slams you off your bike, the cops won't do anything

Streetsblog, a five-year-old nonprofit, compiles a weekly tally of fatal motor-vehicle crashes, culled from the news. At last count in the five boroughs, there were 91 accidents, and 13 drivers charged. "The pattern you see is that reckless driving is not taken seriously by the police," says Streetsblog editor Ben Fried. "Whenever you see that a pedestrian or a cyclist is seriously hurt or killed, you can't count on the police to give you a detailed account of what happened," he notes, having researched the problem for more than three years. "When you do find out about the investigation, it just seems sloppy. We've had cases where witnesses say they gave their names to the police and they never got a call back, or they were turned away at the scene." He hadn't been following Michelle Matson's story, but calls her account of dealing with the police "not terribly surprising."

Nor is the experience of Rachel McCulloch, mother of 28-year-old Web designer Neil Chamberlain, a pedestrian fatally injured by a Greenpoint hit-and-run driver in the 94th Precinct. "I tried to follow up with the police investigating the accident," writes the Brandeis University professor in an e-mail. "It seemed their unit was understaffed relative to the workload, but it was hard for me to know whether that was true or just an excuse. I did call the precinct to complain that no one called me back after I left several messages, and after that I got a return call pretty fast—though the officer who called confused Neil with another victim with the same surname, which was not very reassuring." Chamberlain was also hit along Calyer Street.

Lately, Michelle has been sculpting guts. "I can't imagine why," she guffaws on a recent Friday in the Williamsburg studio where the artist now spends at least 20 hours a week. On a drawing board are prehistoric Wall-E-type creatures, paperweights made of eyeballs, chattering teeth, and plaster-cast balloon-animal intestines. Beside them is the top half of a bald man's salmon-colored scalp, his innards stretched out and suspended like taffy. In a display case to his left, there's the skinless bottom half of a head, comprised only of muscles, teeth, and that menacingly symbolic C-spine. "It's impossible not to make work about things that happen to you," she reasons. "Even if you don't intend on doing it, it just happens. I can't not."

Michelle can walk now, but she will never ride a bike again. "Just thinking about it grosses me out." She can't run or jog or even dance for more than five minutes. If she unintentionally ends up on a long stroll, she has to sit down periodically and wait for the pain to dissipate. "It's like your leg is a kid," she says, feigning a maternal whine, " 'Johnny's tired and we can't do anything because he's cranky!' I never really wanted a kid!"

There have been no arrests in Michelle Matson's case. Hit-and-run complaint No. 2010-094-03432 is still open, according to an NYPD spokesman, and thereby still under investigation. Yet Michelle hasn't spoken to anyone at the NYPD since January. The most serious offense listed on the paperwork is a misdemeanor, even though earlier this summer a Bronx woman was convicted of a hit-and-run felony for barreling over one of Mayor Bloomberg's aides and leaving her in a vegetative state. (Last week, the Brooklyn judge told the court the maximum penalty allowed by law was "inadequate.")

No one knows what John Doe remembers about October 23, 2010. He's the real-life Grand Theft Auto player, identified in the personal-injury suit that plaintiffs Michelle Matson and James Paz had to file jointly with Country-Wide Insurance, the New York–based company responsible for Jaime Conty Jr.'s vehicle, in order to collect claims for their Bellevue Hospital ambulance ride, medical bills Michelle's Medicaid didn't cover, and the lawyer they needed to handle the paperwork. Even with Medicaid, Michelle had to deplete her savings just to afford all the car rides: "Because of somebody else's error in judgment, I'm being completely and totally punished. And nobody else is."

Mr. Conty owes at least $443.27 for outstanding parking violations. All four 2010 offenses were originally a $45 fee, but unpaid penalties have made them balloon. No one knows if Jaime Conty personally left his Nissan there on Clay Street during street-cleaning hours to accrue all those fines, but he's the one ultimately responsible: Parking violations are explicitly charged to the "Name of the Operator, if present; if not present, Owner of the Vehicle Bearing License"; there's no mention of John Doe. The last street-cleaning fine was issued on October 18, 2010, five days before that same car would mow down Michelle and James. October 18 is also Michelle's birthday.

Coincidences can be cruel. That's the constant reminder of the two life-size yellow-haired acrobats dangling in Michelle's studio, limber figures she was focused on when that four-wheel monster bulldozed her body. "Gymnasts—and I couldn't move!" she declares now, with a despairing laugh. Her sister is a dancer; human flexibility was just something on Michelle's mind, until it became the only thing.

She finally returned to her studio on crutches this past February, forced to prop her ailing leg on a stool just to be able to withstand the strain. The athlete twins sat untouched since autumn, their skeleton existence something of an antagonistic gesture. "I finished them because it was a weird mental challenge," she explains. They were supposed to be part of a series. "I kind of lost interest after the whole accident." The pieces are presently untitled. "Maybe you could call them The Taunters?"

cdodero@villagevoice.com

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388 comments
Ben F
Ben F

hahaha she even manages to look like a hipster when lying in a hospital bed. hahahaha that look on her face, so vogue....

Tjbikeplay
Tjbikeplay

so you're saying what? She biked into a car just to see if she could still hold up some whatever her image is? Why don't you try looking trendy layed with broken bones, shitting in a pan and never being able to sleep in a hospital! You're hilarious!

Real Creature
Real Creature

I ran a yellow (just beat the red) - cop followed me for four blocks, pulled me over and then told ME to be more careful - cars can (are allowed to) kill bicyclists.

tjbikeplay
tjbikeplay

So do you aim for cyclists when you're driving? Maybe when you cross the street on a "Don't walk" someone should aim for you. Is that allowed? I'm not wishing harm on anyone but really? So, cyclists are targets for you when you drive?

Thetruth
Thetruth

you sound like a real asshole.... whiny bitch

3rd_Man
3rd_Man

Probably some Polish guy; pissed about his rent going through the roof.

Long live diehipster.com

Moderator
Moderator

Actually it would have been nice if the same driver took out another 30-40 other assholes who were running reds and riding late at night with no lights on the bike. We could nominate the driver to get the Key for the City of New York. The assholes on bike are a menace. Hit them THEN drag the 10 blocks then back over them to loosen them off your bumper!

Moderator
Moderator

How do we not know these two were not drunk and they simply did not look when the swerved right into an oncoming car's path? I see bike riders all over NYC cut right into a cars path without looking. They look like like hipsters I see all the time on bike riding like they are the only one on the road, cutting off cars, turning without hand signals.

And what kind of lack of self respect would they have to actually sit down and do press? You take to the road on a bike at midnight on a bike without helmets with that "nothing bad will happen to me" disregard and all something like this story amounts to is THINNING OUT THE HERD"

KillerApp
KillerApp

Fast Eddie is back with his finger deeply embedded in his A$$. You fucking loser!

Guest4
Guest4

Honestly, who cares? The person who hit her drove away and hid, and that's the real crime. He/she left her in the street to die, and lost the opportunity to make any claims that she swerved in front of him or did anything like that. Use your brain and have some fucking empathy, asshole.

heyhohey
heyhohey

Moderator is thespinguru is edesposito is lee franklin.......the list of fake accounts this guy has is practically endless. He spews the same hateful, miserable bullshit using the same exact language/rhetoric and then pretends it's not all his accounts and calls anyone who points this out fucktards and then pretends to be all different people who just work in the same office.

KillerApp
KillerApp

Suck my dick Ed Esposito...you are a toxic loser!

heyhohey
heyhohey

No dumb ass, that was another person talking about getting your IP address when you posted under another one of your user names. Not me. And yet again, you, Ed Esposito, accuse someone of using their parents' computer. I mean really, how much more obvious do you get? The only one trolling here is you.

Moderator
Moderator

Sorry, but don't know who these people are, but looking at your history of comments, you seem to revel in troll-like behavior. Now go away llttle boy and stop playing with your parents' computer.

Weren't you bragging about getting somebody's IP address banned in one of your babblng posts?

morris_goodman
morris_goodman

Honestly, who cares that she died? People like that deserve no fucking empathy.

morris_goodman
morris_goodman

I neither want nor need empathy. Kindly go fuck yourself, asshole.

KillerApp
KillerApp

But you probably think you do..huh? Climb back under your rock maggot!

morris_goodman
morris_goodman

I'll find you, you spic cocksucker. You'll end up a wet spic stain on the pavement. And nobody will give a flying fuck.

morris_goodman
morris_goodman

What you're trying to say, Pendejo, is that you don't have the cojones.

Bendejo
Bendejo

I'd cut your dick off, but I do not have a knife that is small enough.

Bendejo
Bendejo

I am in Prospect Park every morning, come get me, you fucking coward. Think you can get to Prospect Park without hitting 6-10 cars. You know the saying, a man drives like he fucks. Then again is there a single Hasidic women that experienced a single orgasm? Find her for us, we will put the first one on the cover of the N.Y. Post.

morris_goodman
morris_goodman

Hey spic,Let me know where you'll be biking and I'll come and run you down with my Buick, cocksucker. One spic less - who's going to give a shit?

Bendejo
Bendejo

Actually not you racist mysoginyst. I have a lot of Jewish friends, who also hate the backward Hasidic community. That's right, most of the Jewish community that has past the 17th century hates you asshole Hassidic pieces of shit...Let me know where you will be walking in the bike lane again, so I can bike by and club you in the meaty part of your neck, asshole!

You will be the "chosen one" for a fat lump behind your skull when I catch the next one of you ugly motherfuckers walking in the bike lane!

morris_goodman
morris_goodman

Hey Pendejo, I know what you are. You're a jew-hating cocksucking spic.

Bendejo
Bendejo

Hey, stupid ass.....

I'm Hispanic, ducking retard!

Sorry, if it was not for arranged marriages, you ugly ducks would never get married.

Who the Fuck you kidding? You Hasids all visit black prostitutes

morris_goodman
morris_goodman

Hey Pendejo,Your white women are only good for working as prostitutes.

Bendejo
Bendejo

Hey Heebie,

Shut the Fuck up!

You cocksuckers filed suits because of "scantally dressed women cyclists" but everyone of you visit prostitutes... Ducking hypocrites.

Moderator
Moderator

Why should the taxpayers have to pick up the tab for two dumb assholes?

Moderator
Moderator

Fuck them. Too many stupid people on the earth taking up valuable oxygen. No lights, and they are the reason they both got splattered all over the pavement. Two less assholes biking around the city like they own the road

Bendejo
Bendejo

Everybody is a cyclist here. Get off the road assholes law breaking bike riders

Moderator
Moderator

Suck a cock... Fuck assholes who do stupid shit on bike. No helmets, no lights and drunk on bike. Now the tax payers have to pick up the tab for this cunt?

Phoenix
Phoenix

Hold still while I take a screen shot of you. I want to show all the world what kind, empathetic, and deeply moral people conservative bike-haters all are.

You too, Stevart.

Moderator
Moderator

Jiminnycrow,

And you think you opionion matters because....................?

STFU you feces nugget.

Go get a job scumbag!

jiminycrow
jiminycrow

Thanks for the reality check, Guest4.

Moderator, it is you and your kind, that make comment forums the pieces of trash they have come to be. Congratulations on being just another scrap of human litter.

terafied
terafied

If you're the moderator, I'd hate to read more commenters.

Stevart
Stevart

"If a car slams you off your bike, the cops won't do anything" Jeez, I wonder why? Like maybe because bike riders have gotten so obnoxious that they give you the finger for suggesting that they slow down a bit as the zip past you. Even the uber liberals of Park Slope have turned on those spoiled SOBs and want the bike lanes OUT...as they don't want any more pedestrian fatalities.

Phoenix
Phoenix

Yet another macho man who's glad that Village Voice doesn't reveal IP addresses.

Moderator
Moderator

And what would u do if you had someone's UP address? Probably go to their house and hit them with your purse, you semen swallower!

Moderator
Moderator

Commonplace in NYC is cyclists running red and not hand signaling when they make a turn. GOSPEL.

Moderator
Moderator

Is that not the truth. Sit on any Avenue in NYC. Count how many out of 100 stop at a red light. Free dinner if you can find 10!

terafied
terafied

They are not culpable, but they also need to realize that bringing charges that will not stick is not something law enforcement should do.

Moderator
Moderator

This is far from the truth because the NYPD does it all the time.

terafied
terafied

Of course, some do. It should not be the standard, and luckily it is not. Wasting prosecutorial dollars on a useless case is no better than sabotaging a good one.

terafied
terafied

Maybe you haven't read the story you're replying to, but in this case no one was either arrested or locked up, and that ostensibly is the problem.

Moderator
Moderator

But it does not change the fact police have falsely arrested and locked somebody up.

terafied
terafied

Oh, I'm not ignoring reality. I'm only saying that just because they make some poor choices, doesn't mean all prosecutors are going to file charges in every case.

Moderator
Moderator

Ignoring reality does not make it disappear.

terafied
terafied

Your anecdote does not a pattern make.

Moderator
Moderator

Oh please! I have a friend who was put through the system after being pulled ice by an out of uni cop who refused to show a badge. When he went to pull away the cop punched the back of his car and yelled "my foot, my foot!" faking that his foot was run over.

End result: the City paid him $38k. Now you know why the City is broke. This is probably one example of maybe 100,000 cases just like it. You think the NYPD gives a rat's ass about the amount of cases the DAs office has?

 
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