MORRISANIA, the Bronx (PIX11) — Since the Presidents Day holiday weekend began last Friday evening, four people have been killed by passing vehicles on New York City streets. The numbers are raising concerns, as well as calls for the city government to do more to make streets safer.
The last of the four fatalities was on Sunday morning when an SUV slammed into 47-year-old Felix Thomas Bontia at a high speed while he was drying off a car as it exited the round-the-clock car wash where he was working just before 5:30 a.m., according to police.
Bontia didn’t have even a split second to get out of the way, according to his manager. Two women who were in the SUV that hit and killed Bontia fled the scene, according to police, who are searching for them now.
On Monday morning, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson said that while she’s satisfied with how Bontia’s traffic homicide case is being handled, more needs to be done about the situation generally.
“There is an investigation into what happened in this particular case,” Gibson said in an interview on the PIX11 Morning News, “but overall,” she continued, “I certainly think enforcement is something we need to make sure we are working on with the 44[th NYPD] precinct. [Traffic] cameras are always great, but we also need to work with the Department of Transportation on making sure our streets are safe for pedestrians, for cyclists.”
Gibson was talking about the wider issue of traffic safety for pedestrians, which has been put in the spotlight in the wake of the weekend’s deaths.
They began on Friday evening when a 7-year-old girl was fatally struck at Newtown Road and 45th Street in Astoria. Two hours later, a 52-year-old home health aide was struck and killed by an NYPD vehicle that was involved in an accident while it responded to a call in Far Rockaway, Queens. Then on Saturday, a 50-year-old woman was hit by an SUV at Ditmas Avenue and East 21st Street in Brooklyn.
In those three cases, the drivers responsible for the crashes stayed at the scenes. That was not the case, however, in the latest case, in which Bontia lost his life.
The city’s Vision Zero initiative was established to reduce pedestrian deaths. Some traffic safety activists say the city has fallen behind on the goals of the initiative.
“It is both tragic and telling,” said Amy Cohen, a co-founder of Families For Safe Streets, in a statement, “that the weekend after the City Council held a hearing on Vision Zero — highlighting the many ways this administration has fallen behind on its legally mandated annual street redesign commitments — that four people lost their lives on the streets of New York City to traffic violence. To get Vision Zero back on track, we need to roll out street redesigns much more quickly across the five boroughs.”
For its part, a New York City Department of Transportation spokesperson pointed to city statistics showing that in 2022, traffic fatalities dropped for the first time in three years, in contrast with national trends showing increases in pedestrian deaths.
Mayor Eric Adams also made reference to those Vision Zero improvements at a Monday evening vigil for the victims of the U-Haul truck attack that happened on Feb. 13.