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Spin City
or, some deaths are more equal than others

by Michael Smith and Charles Komanoff

Truth really is stranger than fiction. Here's an example. First, a bit of scene-setting:


SIDEWALK BICYCLIST KILLS
On Tuesday, Nov. 18, 68-year-old Arthur Kaye, a businessman from Englewood, NJ, died when he fell after being struck by a bicycle ridden on the sidewalk by a 24-year-old immigrant man who was delivering dinner from a take-out chicken joint on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The cyclist was not charged at the time but was reportedly being sought by police after considerable media attention to the story.

SIDEWALK BICYCLIST KILLED
On Tuesday, Dec. 2, 68-year-old James Costello, a retired NYC police detective and resident of Hicksville, LI, was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk in neighboring East Meadow when a car jumped the curb and struck him. Costello was killed instantly. The driver, a 28-year-old woman who also lived in Hicksville, was not charged; the story received little attention and the driver is not being sought by the police.

Thus far, both stories are true. But it's in what happens subsequently that the truth gets strange.

The first story was big news and stayed big for days on radio and TV, in the tabs and The Times (in the latter alone: four articles, a column and an editorial 'Assault by Bicycle'). It generated enough words to fill a small book and led Mayor Giuliani to announce a crackdown on all bicyclist traffic-law violators.

The second story rated a grand total of five matter-of-fact sentences in one paper: Newsday.

On the left is a Nov. 20 column by Andrea Peyser of the NY Post, printed verbatim. On the right is how the same column might appear in some parallel universe, where Peyser or the Post had a grain of sense or a shred of decency, or where people were capable of recognizing what's really killing them.


COPS MUST SWEEP SPROCKET ROCKETS
OFF OUR SIDEWALKS

There is nothing to mark this tiny splotch of sidewalk on West 77th Street. No marker. No sign. Not so much as an errant scrap of police tape.

But it was here, a quick sprint from the imposing Museum of Natural History - a ball toss from the falling leaves of Central Park - that a man was killed by an assassin on two wheels.

And all the residents of this city suffered a collective body blow against our improving sense of safety.

The bicycle menace must be stopped. By any means necessary.

On Tuesday night, after a quiet dinner out, Arthur Kaye of New Jersey stepped onto the pavement at 77th Street. He never saw what was coming.

In a split second, Kaye, at age 68, wandered into the spot where a daily assault on the city's quality-of-life turned instantaneously into a deadly crime against humanity.

At that moment, police say, Eduardo Delossantos, 24, a deliveryman for Chirping Chicken, aimed his bicycle toward the exact point of sidewalk where Kaye was stepping.

And in the process, Delossantos became the human equivalent of a stray bullet - allegedly hitting Kaye with such unexpected fury, the man's head smashed into the pavement. Then struck it again.

Arthur Kaye, successful manufacturer, chemical engineer and family man, died an hour later at St. Luke's Hospital.

Delossantos received a ticket from police for biking without identification. And rode off into the night.

This is where this tragic tale becomes a regular horror show.

Had Delossantos fired a rifle along the sidewalk, chances are he would be in custody. Had he veered a car onto the pavement, they'd pick him up.

Instead, in what one source admitted was probably "a screwup," the cop who arrived at the scene of Tuesday night's accident allowed Delossantos to leave with a summons. For failing to carry proper ID.

Next morning - big surprise! - Delossantos failed to show up for work at Chirping Chicken.

Now the NYPD is looking for him - and "also looking into the possibility of charging him criminally," said Lenny Alcivar, director of press operations.

In the meantime, Delossantos' brothers in lawlessness are back on the sidewalk in force.

Barely 12 hours after this outrage was committed against Mr. Kaye and his loved ones, bikers could be seen mindlessly zapping along the Upper West Side on their bullets with spokes. Some rode within inches of the spot where Arthur Kaye died.

Across the street from Scaletta's restaurant, whee Kaye was killed, schoolkids lined up, double-file, to enter the museum. Just then, a man whirred by on the sidewalk, mere feet from the children.

"Get off the sidewalk," I tried to tell him. But he couldn't hear me. The music on his headphones was way too loud.

Things were worse on nearby Columbus Avenue. As one deliveryman pedaled perilously in their direction, I saw a young woman and her mother, pushing a baby carriage, scamper out of the demon's path.

"It's OK, no harm," the younger woman said in a thick German accent. Others, though, were incensed.

"Sometimes I think the pedestrians needs to wear all that gear the Rollerbladers use," Norman 'The Doberman' Robberstad told me ruefully.

When did walking on a sidewalk - amid some of the priciest real-estate in the nation - become such an obstacle course?

And when will it end?

The last two Sundays, I've written about the explosion of this city's outlaw cyclists, and the NYPD's efforts to curb them.

The police department recently assigned 10 cops to a special bike-riding force, mandated to catch up with the legions of bikers who run red lights and otherwise terrorize pedestrians.

Things seemed to be looking up when, last week, I observed 12 cops pulling over dozens of lawbreakers along Sixth Avenue in Midtown handing out summonses of up to $125 to creeps in Spandex.

But apparently, news of the bike war hasn't trickled down to everyone.

City Councilman Andrew Eristoff, who helped push through the law making sidewalk biking illegal - the law so many bikers flout on a daily basis - has an idea.

"I'm going to seek legislation to make business owners liable for the actions of its employees," Eristoff told me.

So if a Chirping Chicken deliveryman on a bike mows down a pedestrian, Chirping Chicken would have to pay.

It might be an effective weapon in the war being waged on pedestrians.

How many more have to lose their lives, their limbs, or their sanity before these guys are stopped?

COPS MUST SWEEP MOTOR MURDERERS
OFF OUR STREETS

There is nothing to mark this tiny splotch of sidewalk in East Meadow, Long Island. No marker. No sign. Not so much as an errant scrap of police tape.

But it was here, in safe, middle-class semi-suburbia - after a working life spent on the streets of New York City - that a retired New York cop was killed by an assassin on four wheels.

And all the resident sof this region suffered a collective body blow against our improving sense of safety.

The car menace must be stopped. By any means necessary.

On Tuesday afternoon, after a quiet lunch, James Costello rode down the sidewalk along Newbridge Road. He never saw what was coming.

In a split second, Colstello, 68, rolled into one of the spots where a daily assault on the region's quality-of-life turns almost daily into deadly crimes against humanity.

At that moment, police say, Kathleen Nolen, 28, occupation and errand not described, aimed her car toward the exact point of sidewalk where Costello was riding.

And in the process, Nolen became the human equivalent of a stray artillery shell - smashing into Costello with such unexpected fury, that the man was crushed flat and killed instantly.

James Costello, public servant, good citizen, retiree, family man and cyclist, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Nolan received no ticket, for anything, from the police. And she drove off into the monoxide-brown afternoon.

This is where this tragic tale become a regular horror show.

Had Nolen fired a rifle along the sidewalk, chances are she would be in custody. Had she veered a bicycle onto the pavement, the'd confiscate her bike.

Instead, in what police sources acknowledge is policy, Costello's death is shrugged off as an accident. Nolen wasn't even charged with a crime, or even ticketed - and won't be, police say.

Next morning - big surprise! - Nolen didn't fail to show up as usual at her job.

The police, after, all, aren't looking for her - and certainly not "looking into the possibility of charging her criminally," as all police sources flatly state.

In the meantime, Nolen's brothers and sisters in mayhem are out on the streets as usual.

Barely a minute after this outrage was committed against Mr. Costello and his loved ones, drivers were mindlessly zapping along Newbridge Road in their bombs on wheels. Within hours, thousands drove unheedingly past the spot where Costello died.

Down the block from where Costello was killed, schoolkids were trying to make it through the crosswalk. Just then, a driver whipped around the corner, mere inches from the children, scattering them.

"Yield to pedestrians," I tried to tell him. But he couldn't hear me. The music on his car stereo was way too loud.

Things were worse on nearby Seventh Street. As one yuppie in a Range Rover hurtled in their direction while jabbering on his cell phone, I saw a young woman and her mother, pushing a baby carriage, scamper out of the demon's path.

"It's OK, no harm," the younger woman said in a thick German accent. Others, though, were incensed.

"Christ, it wouldn't help even if pedestrians wore all that gear the Rollerbladers use," Howard 'The Valet' Ribblefarb told me ruefully.

When did cycling on a sidewalk - amid some of the priciest real-estate in the nation - become such a slaughterhouse?

And when will it end?

The last two Sundays, I've written about the explosion of this region's outlaw drivers, and the NYPD's complete lack of concern.

Here's my dream: The police department assigns 10 cops to a special bike-riding force, mandated to catch up with the legions of drivers who terrorize pedestrians out of crosswalks and cyclists off the road.

Things will be looking up when, someday, I see cops pulling over dozens of lawbreakers along Sixth Avenue in Midtown handing out summonses of up to $125 to creeps in two-ton assault vehicles.

But the car war must start with the pols and then trickle down to the cops.

Maybe City Councilman Andrew Eristoff, who pushed a sidewalk biking law, will embrace the idea of curbing the druly dangerous lawbreakers, who kill 250 peds a year in NYC.

And "seek legislation to make business owners liable for the actions of its employees," as he boasts of doing against sidewalk cyclists.

So if a Lehman Brothers bond trader in a Jag mows down a pedestrian, Lehman Brothers would have to pay.

It might be an effective weapon in the war on pedestrians and cyclists.

How many more have to lose their lives, their limbs, or their sanity before these guys are stopped?


Wouldn't it be a howl if some gifted hacker should turn his skills to good use and put the right-hand column on the Post's site? But of course that would be very, very wrong.

© Michael Smith and Charles Komanoff
originally appeared on the New York cyclists' mailing list ebikes

 

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