Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Sarah Pitts was killed Monday while cycling when she was hit by a charter bus on Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg — an event that brought to mind what many believe to be a failure on the part of Mayor Bill de Blasio to make safer streets across the city.
Pitts, 35, was remembered by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez as an agent of change who sought to make the criminal justice system in New York City more fair since she was hired in 2018. Meanwhile, Transportation Alternatives see her death as just one of dozens that could have been avoided had the de Blasio administration struck while the iron was hot on key policy initiatives.
“She was a brilliant and compassionate lawyer dedicated to seeking justice. We are overwhelmed at this sudden loss,” Gonzalez said. “She was assigned to the Appeals Bureau and also worked diligently with our Post-Conviction Justice Bureau to review parole applications to determine those our office should support. And when the COVID crisis struck, Sarah selflessly volunteered to come into the office to help with urgent matters and to relieve the administrative staff so they would not bear the full burden of the pandemic. She was a kind and generous co-worker who will be greatly missed.”
Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris pointed to actions taken by the mayor to cut funding to Vision Zero, the Green Wave plan while simultaneously ignoring the recommendations of his his own advisory council on surface transportation.
During the height of the pandemic, streets were barren of cars, yet de Blasio ignore calls for a plan to prevent congestion from return, and returning even more severe than it was before COVID-19.
“Our city continues to fail people who bike. All but one of the fatal crashes which claimed the lives of bicyclists this year took place on streets without protected bike lanes. These crashes could have been prevented, but safety has for too long been secondary to the convenience of drivers in New York City,” Harris said. “We expect better from the mayor of the so-called “fairest big city in America.” After a year which saw cyclist deaths rise to their highest level in two decades, along with a pandemic which has led millions to seek out alternatives to the subway, Mayor de Blasio slashed funding for his own Green Wave plan and Vision Zero program, ignored the recommendations of his own Surface Transportation Advisory Council, and, unlike his global peers, has yet to come up with a plan to prevent catastrophic congestion as the city continues to reopen.”
According to the Mayor’s office, the Green Wave program continues despite the budgetary cuts due to COVID-19 which are expected to culminate in a deficit of up to $4 billion this year alone. About 25 of the promised 30 miles of protected bike lanes are underway with several more miles planned for the autumn. Seven miles of temporary bike lanes are in service and Green Wave Signal Timing on 12 roadways has been implemented in four boroughs.
“Ms. Pitts’ death is a tragedy and we mourn her loss together as a city. We send her family peace and strength in what must be an unimaginably difficult time,” a mayoral spokesman said.
Brownsville, Brooklyn and Soundview, in the Bronx were just some crashes involving cyclists this year, including the death Queens resident Salvador Chairez-Rodriguez, 50.
But 2020 still has not exceeded the number of cyclist killed in 2019, which came in at 29 total, the majority of whom were struck by large vehicles.