Deaths of Two Children in Park Slope Accident Prompts Protests

Doug Cohen, the organizer of the rally, speaking on the accidents that have occurred on 9th Street in the last several years. (Taylor Romine / NY City Lens)

Concerned parents and community members gathered in front of the Park Slope YMCA on Tuesday to protest the city’s lack of street safety in response to a car collision that killed two children on Monday afternoon.

On March 5 at 12:40 p.m., two children and three adults, who were walking across the street, were hit by a woman driving westbound on 9th Street, said the police. Joshua Lew, a one-year-old boy, and Abigail Blumenstein, a 4-year-old girl, were identified as the deceased. Their mothers, Ruthie Ann Blumenstein and Lauren Lew, were injured in the incident, as well as an unnamed 46-year-old man. They are all currently in stable condition.

Dorothy Bruns, 44, was the driver who caused the accident, the NY Daily News reported. While the investigation remains ongoing, Bruns seemed to have had a medical incident while driving, said the police. According to public data, the car Bruns was driving has been cited for 11 traffic violations, including five speeding tickets and four red lights tickets. No arrests have been made.

Marcia Landais (left) and Amy Cohen (right) speak about their children’s deaths on 9th Street. (Taylor Romine / NY City Lens)

The pedestrian deaths put the spotlight on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan that aims to reduce the number of fatalities and injuries from traffic incidents. So far, city hall has outlined 151 initiatives to reduce deaths and injuries that are currently in progress. In 2017, there were 217 deaths and 58,648 injuries from traffic incidents, compared to 259 deaths and 51,055 injuries in 2014, when Vision Zero was originally introduced.

“They said things would change and all they did was retime the lights,” said Doug Cohen, one of the organizers of Tuesday’s protest. “I don’t buy it, I don’t accept it and you shouldn’t either!”

The crowd of about 100 people passionately cheered behind him throughout his speech.

“It can’t be okay to drive like a New Yorker,” said Amy Cohen, whose 12-year-old son Sammy Cohen-Eckstein died in a traffic incident near Prospect Park in 2013, pointing to Marcia Landais, whose daughter Joie Sellers, who was also 12, died in a collision in 2014. “Our kids went to school together. This isn’t an accident.”

About 30 minutes into the rally, Mayor Bill de Blasio came through the crowd and spoke one-on-one with Cohen.

“We need to strengthen laws, we need more consequences, we need better street design and we need more across the board,” De Blasio said. “I agree with you. We should show it better, but I’m telling you we are adamant.”

During the one-on-one conversation, De Blasio emphasized more enforcement as the way to solve the reoccurring traffic incidents, but Cohen countered, saying that better street design is crucial.

“I don’t want the cops to arrest my child’s killer,” said Cohen. “I want my child not to be killed.”

Pedestrians walk on 9th Street and 5th Avenue, where two children died in a collision on March 5th, 2018. (Taylor Romine / NY City Lens)

Many community members who joined the rally said they are tired of children being killed.

“When more kids are dying here, I thought I should show support,” said Hannah Gmach, 17, who was friends with Sammy Cohen-Eckstein.

The parents of the children who died in Monday’s accident haven’t made a statement, and no funeral arrangements have yet been made.