News & Politics

Driver Charged With Homicide in Deaths of Park Slope Toddlers

Residents and transit advocates say arrest is only the first step toward preventing future tragedies

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The driver who killed two children in Park Slope in March has been charged with two counts each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, and three charges of assault. 

Dorothy Bruns, a 44-year-old woman from Staten Island, was arrested this morning in connection with the incident on March 5, when she drove her Volvo through a red light at the corner of 5th Avenue and 9th Street. She hit four pedestrians crossing the street. Two of them, four-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and one-year-old Joshua Lew, died at the scene. The two women hit, Ruthie Ann Miles and Lauren Lew, were seriously injured but survived.

The deaths sent shock waves through the Park Slope community, yet many transit advocates doubted whether Bruns would ever be charged with a felony, given the city’s long history of not pressing charges against people who kill with their cars

The news of the arrest was met with tepid relief from transit advocates. “It’s encouraging to see that the city is seeking justice for Abigail and Joshua,” executive director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White told the Voice in a statement. “Now prosecutors must ensure that every negligent or reckless driver who kills or injures a New Yorker is brought to justice — not just when the victim is a child in Park Slope.” 

On Tuesday, the organization held a vigil for Carlos Vasquez, a cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx. It was the latest in a slate of people killed by drivers in the borough. 

The morning after the Park Slope killings, hundreds of people gathered at the Park Slope YMCA, where Mayor Bill de Blasio regularly exercises, to convey the urgency of making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The organizer of that rally, Doug Gordon (no relation to this reporter), spoke to the mayor for approximately ten minutes outside the YMCA. But as months went by without any updates on the case, a familiar angst set in that Bruns would get off with a slap on the wrist. 

“It’s certainly a positive development in the sense that prosecutors are taking what Ms. Bruns did seriously,” Gordon told the Voice on Thursday morning after news of the arrest broke, “but as a parent I imagine it would be cold comfort.” Following his chat with de Blasio in March, Gordon had told the Voice, “I don’t want the cops to arrest my children’s killer. I want my children to not be killed.” 

Steely White echoed this sentiment, adding that the arrest is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done, particularly when it comes to restricting driving privileges for known dangerous drivers, as Bruns was, before they kill. “Our elected representatives must enact policies that prevent known deadly drivers from getting behind the wheel, and implement smart street designs to protect pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers alike. Vision Zero means stopping tragedies before they occur.” 

Gordon similarly concluded, “I hope we don’t lose sight of what’s more important, and that’s preventing these kinds of tragedies in the first place.”

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