Jill Abramson on New York City’s Pedestrian Death Epidemic: ‘We Know The Causes’


Jean Chambers was in the crosswalk, with the signal in her favor, when she was struck and killed by a driver at West 95th Street and West End Avenue on July 10. That day Chambers became the fourth pedestrian struck and killed within one two block radius on the Upper West Side in the last six months.

Seventy three-year-old Alex Shear (at West 96th and Broadway) and 9-year-old Cooper Stock (West 97th and West End Ave) were both killed on January 10. Nine days later, 26-year-old Samantha Lee was struck and killed at West 96th between Broadway and West End Ave.

The cause of these deaths, and scores of others across the five boroughs, isn’t a mystery, says ex-New York Times editor Jill Abramson. Abramson, who was herself hit and nearly killed while crossing a street in 2007, attended a vigil for Chambers held at the crash site on Thursday, July 17. Chambers was a former employee of the New York Times.

“We know the main causes. It’s usually–people who are killed are usually crossing the street in the crosswalk, crossing with the light, and it’s either speeding or failure to yield. It’s driver fault,” Abramson told the Voice. “And study after study tells us that.”

Abramson has a special interest in pedestrian safety issues because of her own accident. “It gives you a kind of life-long anxiety that is probably, in some ways, a protective coating,” she said. “I was crossing with the light and paying attention, but now I mean I never step off of a curb until the light has changed. I think about the danger that exists on the streets of this city for people walking every single day.”

Abramson revisited her near-death experience in an article she wrote for the Times in May. The piece mentioned, in passing, the death of 9-year-old Cooper Stock, one block from the spot where Jean Chambers was killed exactly six months later. Shortly after it was published, Abramson met with Stock’s mother, Dana Lerner, who worked to pass Cooper’s Law, a measure instituting immediate suspension for any cab drivers who strikes a pedestrian. Abramson praised Lerner in a commencement speech delivered at Wake Forest University in May. “She is taking an unimaginable loss and already trying to do something constructive. We human beings are a lot more resilient than we often realize,” she said.

On Thursday Abramson said further measures need to taken to protect New York pedestrians. “The failure to have any criminal consequence when a car killed someone and a driver is to blame is a problem that needs to be looked at,” she said.

Video by Amanda Dingyuan Hou and Lea Zora Scruggs for the Village Voice.

See also: Video: This is the Deadliest Intersection in New York

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