BY JOSH ROGERS and DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | The hit and run driver who smashed into a pedestrian on a sidewalk near Spruce Street School last month has not been brought to justice, but she seems to have made her mark Downtown nonetheless.
Beekman St. now seems less dangerous with traffic lights at the intersection of Nassau and stepped up enforcement.
“I feel a lot safer,” parent Elena Brower said last week outside the school, referring to the new traffic signals that replaced stop signs.
But the changes are not something that can quickly quell the fears of parents who have been worrying about the street’s safety since the school opened four years ago, particularly since there is still a lot of nearby construction.
Beekman is “like the Wild West,” said Ashley Duncan, who has three children at the school. “If [cars] can’t make the turn, they just jump the curb. It’s a real big danger.”
That’s exactly what happened April 13 outside the school.
Video viewed by Downtown Express shows the driver backing up several times in order to be able to make the turn onto the sidewalk and head west past a traffic jam.
The driver, who police believe is a woman, apparently didn’t realize she had pinned a pedestrian to the wall, badly injuring the victim’s leg and cutting her face.
The video was taken by Terence McDonagh, project executive of New Line Structures, Inc., which is working with Pace University on constructing a new dorm at 33 Beekman St. He said he was not authorized to release it to the press.
Captain Mark Iocco, the First Precinct’s commanding officer, said the same car was involved in an accident in Brooklyn about 30 minutes after that incident. The car was pulling into a parking spot and hit an elderly lady, he said at last week’s meeting of the First Precinct Community Council. The elderly woman couldn’t identify her, and could only confirm that the driver was a female, he said.
“Right now she’s a suspect,” said Iocco.
There are four witnesses that the police have spoken to, but none of them could see through the tinted windows of the car. The police are looking to speak with one more witness, a jogger who may have seen through the windows and gotten a good look, but he hasn’t been found yet, said Iocco.
The suspect has filed an insurance claim. The police are working with the insurance company and they are “investigating her up and down,” said Iocco.
Meeting attendees pressed him to question her, but he said. “We could bring her in as a suspect … but if she says ‘I want a lawyer’ — this is going to go nowhere.
“We want to have a solid case when we bring this to the D.A. We can’t bring it the D.A. with holes all over it.”
But even if she is charged, it would only be for a misdemeanor, according to officers in the precinct’s community affairs office.
Meanwhile on the street, the new traffic signals, which city officials insist were not installed because of the hit and run, are helping. The Dept. of Transportation approved the signals last year, but delayed the installation because of the construction of The Beekman hotel at 5 Beekman St. The construction is nearly complete, allowing the installation, but there are still construction -related lane closures nearby on Nassau St. and the Pace project.
Liz Chen, a Spruce parent, said that ironically, when the K-8 school opened, safety measures were put in east of the school, but now more students will be coming from the west along Beekman because of a rezoning prompted by the new Peck Slip School.
Beekman traffic has been a problem since police closed part of Park Row for security reasons Chen said.
“It’s been bumper to bumper since 9/11,” she added.