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The city of New York can be liable for traffic accident injuries or deaths on dangerous streets

After a young bicyclist was struck by a car in New York City, the Court of Appeals held the city of New York liable for failing to install traffic calming measures in a street the city knew was dangerous. The Court of Appeals decision  is related to a crash between a bicyclist and a car that occurred back in 2004  on Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn, NYC.

On December 5 2004 around 6:30 pm, 12 year old Anthony Turturro was riding his bike on Gerritsen Avenue. At the time of the accident, Gerritsen Ave was a four lane avenue with two lanes of traffic going in each direction.  As he was attempting to cross the avenue at mid-block, the young boy was struck by a car. The driver, Louis Pascarella, was speeding. The police investigation established that when the crash occurred, the driver’s speed was 54 mph, 24 mph over the 30 mph speed limit at this location. Turturro suffered serious injury. The driver pleaded guilty  to assault in the second degree.


Before the accident, between 2002 and 2004, the city of New York as well as elected officials received multiple letters from residents, including children, who complained about speeding and reckless driving. Residents said Gerritsen was used for “drag racing” and asked for traffic studies as well as installation of traffic signals.  The Intersection Unit conducted two studies  in 2002 and two others in 2004 to determine if 3 intersections on Gerritsen Ave needed traffic signals. The studies confirmed that speeding was an issue on Gerritsen Ave and police were notified about it. The city never followed up on whether police enforcement resolved the speeding issue and if additional measures such as traffic signals were needed. Additionally the studies were incomplete because they covered only the intersections. They didn’t examine speeding along the entire stretch during off-peak hours which residents had been complaining about. Such a study may have led to the installation of traffic calming measures such as speed bumps, roundabouts or narrower lanes.

After a trial, the jury found that Turturro was negligent for 10%, Pascarella for 50% and the city of New York for 40%. The City appealed and the case went up to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals ruled that municipalities can be held liable for failing to redesign streets with a history of traffic issues.

In 2005, Gerritsen Avenue was finally converted into a two lane avenue with flush medians and left turn bays. The speed was lowered to 25 mph. A Greenstreet median was proposed in 2008 but refused by the community. Accidents continue to occurred. A pedestrian was severely injured in 2010 and another one died in 2014. A bicyclist was severely injured in 2011 and last July another one died. A motorcyclist died in 2007 as well as a car passenger in 2015.

The DOT finally responded last October with additional traffic calming measures (see below) including a two way protected bike lane and pedestrian islands.

traffic calming measures DOT NYC

Illustration source: DOT