Delivery and Immigrant Communities Protest Death of Working Cyclist During Police Chase

Borkot Ullah Vigil
Borkot Ullah Vigil

Two dozen delivery cyclists and their advocates gathered at a memorial ceremony on Friday for a fellow worker who was killed in a hit-and-run crash earlier this month to mourn their friend, but also demand accountability from the NYPD, which has provided no information on the police chase that appears to have led to the fatal July 8 crash.

As Streetsblog reported, Borkot Ullah, 24, was killed by a driver who appeared to be fleeing a police chase when he ran a red light on E. Houston Street and smashed directly into the Bangladeshi native as he delivered food. Police have yet to answer any questions about the crash, and the driver of the Subaru Outback that slammed into Ullah has not been arrested — fueling outrage from the mourners.

“We demand a full investigation on both sides: Hit-and-run car information, and chase-by-police information,” said Mufty Hafiz Qasimy, the secretary of the Assafa Islamic Center, to which Ullah belonged. “If we get a full investigation, we will know. So we ask the Mayor de Blasio for a full investigation on both sides.”

The Islamic center’s president, Sultan Ahmed Jashim, called the police tactics and subsequent silence “shameful.”

Borkot Ullah
Borkot Ullah

“The Police Department says they still can’t find anybody,” Jashim said. “This is the city that never sleeps, and all the modernized technology provided by the government, City Council, City Hall, the mayor, the police department — and it’s shameful for the police because they say that they cannot find the person who did this!”

Delivery workers were personally touched by the death of Ullah, a member of the South Asian social-justice group Desis Rising Up and Moving, because they know the dangers they face on the roads as they try to make a living in a system that requires them to rush around with hot restaurant food for demanding customers.

The leader of Desis Rising Up and Moving specifically addressed the larger issue of life (and death) on the streets — and how city officials need to do more than just talk about Vision Zero in a year that is on pace to be the bloodiest since Mayor de Blasio took over.

“We’re interested in what systemic change can happen so these things don’t happen in the future,” said Fahd Ahmed. “What sort of traffic amendments the city makes, like in bike lanes and things like that, and more systemic issues like NYPD and their accountability around chases, not giving chases, and delivery companies that set up everything in a way that forces workers to always be on the rush and make unnecessary risks.”

One delivery worker who attended the vigil said there are so many near-misses on the streets that he never knows if he or one of his friends will be the next victim.

“Most of my friends, most of the people who do these deliveries full time, have had some kind of problem on the job,” said the worker, who only gave the name Sergio. “Sometimes it’s a crash or injury, or sometimes it’s a thief — our bikes get stolen all the time. We need change, for our safety.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer also attended the vigil for Ullah.

The police involvement in this case remains a mystery. Surveillance videos obtained by Streetsblog show that the driver of the Subaru killed Ullah after an unmarked police sedan, which may have been following the Subaru, flipped on his flashing lights, which compelled the driver to speed through the red light and kill Ullah before continuing east on Houston Street and fleeing cops via the FDR Drive northbound.

A few days after the crash, state Attorney Letitia James launched an investigation, which is typical in police-involved shootings, but unusual in vehicular cases. Neither James’s office nor the NYPD responded to a request for comment on Friday.

Brewer and Assafa Secretary
Secretary Mufty Hafiz Qasimy with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer after the vigil. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

Through July 29 this year, 147 people have been killed on New York City streets, the highest total through that date since 2013, when 146 people were killed. Almost half the dead — 71 — were pedestrians. Fifteen cyclists, e-bike riders and small moped users have also been killed, according to the Department of Transportation.