Thursday, January 16, 2014

Boulevard of Death?

By David Greene

BRONX, NEW YORK, JANUARY 16- Two Bronxites getting ready to celebrate the holidays were rundown in separate incidents, just two-blocks away from each other on the Grand Concourse-- during a 25-hour period leading up to Christmas Eve. The horror highlights the traffic problem on the Concourse which some activists are calling the new “Boulevard of Death.”

The still-unidentified 26-year-old male victim remains hospitalized at St. Barnabas Hospital after being struck by a 1999 BMW SUV at the corner of the Grand Concourse and E. 198 Street, at just before 7 p.m. on December 23.

At the time, the victim was said to be in critical condition and was not expected to live. The victim has since been upgraded to critical, but stable.

Police would later charge the driver Freddie Rodriguez, 49, of Cold Spring, NY with DWI.

According to the Bronx District Attorney's office, Rodriguez was arraigned on December 24 and released on his own recognizance. He returns to court later this month.

According to the criminal complaint, Rodriguez was unsteady on his feet and slurring his words when he admitted to a witness that he'd just returned from a Christmas party, when he offered, "I only had a couple of drinks. I can't believe this happened."

The complaint also states that Rodriguez would later tell a police officer, "I never hit anybody before. I had a couple of Chivas Regals."

Less information is available on the second victim, a woman who was struck by an SUV on the corner of E. 196 Street and the Grand Concourse at just before 8 p.m. on December 24.

According to witnesses at the scene, including two family members of the victim-- the victim was collateral damage after a 2-vehicle,  chain-reaction crash that pushed the first vehicle into the crosswalk.

This victim was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital and was expected to make a complete recovery.

A section of the Grand Concourse between E. 161 Street and E. 167 Street underwent an $18 million redevelopment project that was completed in 2008. The project included widened medians and improved lighting.

After completion of the project there had been talk to redevelop the section between E. 167 Street and E. 171 Street, but that plan has apparently stalled.

Longtime Bedford Park resident Karen Mendez, a mother of four children, lives on the Grand Concourse between the two intersections where the victims were hit. She says it has been, "many years" since any work has been done on the 10-lane thoroughfare.

Asked if she felt safe crossing the Grand Concourse, Mendez replied, "Only sometimes, because the cars often pass the red light. I'm concerned for my kids. They need to try something new like the cameras... because they (the drivers) don't care."

Other recent incidents along the Concourse include a May 19, 2013 crash in which Zuleimi Torres, 16, was killed and two others were seriously injured by an out-of-control SUV at E. 172 Street and the Grand Concourse. The unidentified driver suffered an undisclosed medical condition and faced no criminal charges.

On August 31, 2012, Melanie Sasser, a 29-year old deaf mother,  was struck and killed by a livery driver as she texted and crossed the Concourse and E. 198 Street. That crash was also deemed an accident and no charges were filed.

On July 13, 2012 Juan Rivera-Quintana, 42, was killed and a 34-year old man was seriously injured when an out-of-control SUV ran them down on the Concourse at E. Mount Eden Avenue. The vehicle only came to a stop when it slammed into a responding ambulance a block away.

Richard Haberman, 37, the alleged driver was charged with vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, DWI, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving.

On March 2, 2012, a 61-year-old man was run-over along the Concourse and Field Place in Fordham Heights. Police had no description of the vehicle that fled the scene.

Evyette Diaz, 28, was struck and killed as she crossed the Concourse at E. 165 Street outside of the Bronx Museum of Art. The driver of the SUV fled the scene and remains at large.

The Grand Boulevard and Concourse as it was originally called was opened to traffic in November, 1909.   

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