Drivers Kill Two in Separate Crashes: Police

Two people — one a Manhattan woman who was a longtime fixture at the New York Public Library and the other a Brooklyn man who cops say was homeless — were killed in separate crashes, police said on Friday.

The first crash was actually back on Feb. 17, when Michael Williams, 45, was struck as he tried to cross Atlantic Avenue at Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. Police say a driver traveling eastbound on the busy, highway-like Atlantic Avenue ran down Williams and kept going, even as the victim was lying in the roadway with trauma to his head and body.

Williams died on April 5 at Kings County Hospital. The NYPD said the investigation is ongoing, but provided no further details.

The intersection where Williams was killed is notoriously dangerous: On just the short stretch of Bedford between the merge with Rogers Avenue and Atlantic, there were 108 reported crashes in 2019, injuring three cyclists, three pedestrians and 29 motorists. Streetsblog recently noted the area’s dangerous design in a thread on Twitter.

Here’s what the intersection looks like:

Atlantic Avenue, looking east, at Bedford Avenue. Photo: Google
Atlantic Avenue, looking east, at Bedford Avenue. Photo: Google

The Manhattan pedestrian, Kathie Coblentz, was killed on Saturday, April 3 at around 2:10 p.m. between Eighth and Ninth avenues near Columbus Circle when the 31-year-old driver leaving an underground parking garage on the block slammed into her with his Honda minivan, causing her to fall backwards and strike her head on the pavement, police said.

Here’s what that crash site looks like (note the pedestrians on the sidewalk in front of the parking garage):

Photo: Google
Photo: Google

Coblentz was “conscious and alert” when EMTs arrived, police said, but she had “severe head trauma.”

She was taken to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Hospital, where she died. The driver remained on the scene and was not charged … for running over a pedestrian and killing her … on a sidewalk.

That said, the NYPD said the investigation remains ongoing. Meanwhile, the New York Public Library community was horrified by the loss. In a long letter to the library’s hundreds of staffers, President Anthony Marx called Coblentz “a dedicated public servant and research librarian who worked at NYPL for over 51 years.”

“Our hearts are broken,” Marx’s all-staff read. “Kathie was an institution here at NYPL. … She spent her entire career here,  starting in July of 1969 — just weeks before the moon landing. She was recruited right out of  library school at the University of Michigan, and … thought ‘she’d do that  until she could figure out what is next.’

“Well, over 50 years later, Kathie’s love for and dedication to her job kept her at the Library,” Marx continued. “She was known as an  extremely thorough and vigorous cataloger who took very seriously the responsibility of connecting the public to our collections. As she meticulously did her job, she would make discoveries and observations that she would
enthusiastically share with the public through thoughtful blog posts.

“Outside of work, Kathie, a Hells Kitchen resident, read in many languages (she learned Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian to read murder mysteries), ran in Central Park every weekend, and was a die-hard Yankees fan,” the letter continued. “In fact, she was excited to attend [Monday] night’s game, her first game since the world was turned upside down, and
had gotten vaccinated well in advance to be ready for it (the Yankees clobbered the Orioles, and somewhere, Kathie is smiling). Kathie also had a secret cinephile life too, and was an indexer, editor, and researcher on several books about movie directors Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen.”

Such are the people who are killed in a split-second careless act by a driver.