Pedestrian Killed in Brooklyn — But This Time, The Driver is Charged

Where Bella Wolman was killed on Tuesday night. Photo: Google
Where Bella Wolman was killed on Tuesday night. Photo: Google

Cops arrested a 65-year-old driver who killed a pedestrian after dark on Tuesday as she attempted an illegal U-turn on a busy two-way commercial street.

It’s a common occurrence in fatal crashes involving drivers and pedestrians; cops will frequently only charge the reckless driver if there’s an addition crime beyond the mere failure to yield or exercise due care that caused the crash in the first place.

In this case, it was the U-turn and going through a red light. Police say Gittie Klein was driving her 2020 Mercedes S-450 westbound on Avenue M in Midwood at around 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday when she drove through the intersection of E. 12th Street, then hung a huey, striking Bella Wolman, 69, who was crossing Avenue M legally from south to north in the crosswalk.

Wolman, who lived just a few blocks from Klein, was taken to Maimonides Medical Center, where she died.

Klein had remained at the scene and was charged with the illegal u-turn and going through the red light, plus failure to yield and failure to exercise due care, the two seldom-written charges that are, nonetheless, applicable to virtually every case of a driver hitting and killing pedestrian, experts say.

The intersection where Wolman died is complicated by an angled road intersecting with Avenue M and E. 12th Street from the west. As a result, the DOT has created a cross-hatched zone to better delineate the separate roadways. But drivers frequently ignore the paint markings, as Klein allegedly did on Tuesday. The area is treacherous for pedestrians, given the congestion of vehicles in that area of Midwood, one block from the massive Edward R. Murrow High School.

Last year, there were 83 crashes on just the nine blocks of Avenue M between Coney Island Avenue and Ocean Avenue, injuring three cyclists, 14 pedestrians and 18 drivers.

The latest pedestrian death means that New York City has already exceeded last year’s road fatality count of 220 for the year, the first year under Mayor de Blasio that deaths increased rather than decreased as his Vision Zero initiative continued.

An irate  Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris issued the following statement, blasting the mayor for the incomplete success of Vision Zero:

In the past two days, two more New Yorkers were killed in crashes, surpassing the total number of traffic fatalities in all of last year with more than a month to go in 2020. On Wednesday, a 26-year-old driver was killed on Grand Street in Brooklyn after another driver blew out a tire and veered into the deceased’s lane. And on Tuesday, a 75-year-old pedestrian was struck and killed by a driver while crossing Juniper Boulevard North in Queens, one of three older New Yorkers killed crossing the street just this week.

With these two fatalities, [more] people have been killed in traffic crashes since the start of 2020, more than were killed in all of 2019. These tragedies are the predictable and preventable outcome of defunding Vision Zero initiatives and prioritizing the movement of car traffic above human life. This rise in fatalities arrives at a time when fewer New Yorkers are driving and traffic has been significantly reduced.

Many of those killed were vulnerable road users — pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists not protected by the steel shell of a vehicle — and the vast majority died in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. These inequities are reflected in our infrastructure. The majority of protected bike lanes, which are proven to reduce speeding and fatalities not just for cyclists, but for all road users, exist in Manhattan. Only 15 percent of protected bike lanes are in Brooklyn and only three percent in the Bronx. In the Bronx, fatalities more than doubled compared to last year. More than half of pedestrian fatalities occurred in Brooklyn and Queens. People are dying most in the neighborhoods where Mayor de Blasio has done the least.

Mayor Bill de Blasio must act now to rescue both his Vision Zero legacy and his promise to make New York City fairer. To staunch the tide of traffic fatalities, Transportation Alternatives demands Mayor de Blasio appoint a new DOT Commissioner with an unwavering commitment to safety over traffic, act on the recommendations of his Surface Transportation Advisory Council, and restore funding to Vision Zero, the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Law, the Green Wave Plan, and the Streets Master Plan, all of which have been defunded as traffic fatalities rise.