Family members of crash victims gathered in City Hall Park Sunday to honor their loved ones for the annual World Day of Remembrance of Road Traffic Deaths.
They hugged and cried through the somber event, traditionally held on the third Sunday of November, as elected officials read the names of New York City’s crash victims from 2016. Afterward they tied yellow ribbons with the names of the deceased on a sculpture brought to the park for the occasion.
“Too many people have been needlessly killed and maimed on our streets, as we have been reminded in recent days. We are standing with New Yorkers who have suffered those losses to tell our city and the world that traffic violence is preventable,” said Paul Steely White, the executive director of the nonprofit Transportation Alternatives, which co-organized the gathering with its branch Families for Safe Streets.
Hank Miller, a Mount Vernon resident, was one of several family members who traveled into the city to pay tribute — some came from as as far as Japan, Germany and Canada.
Miller’s sister, Victoria Nicodemus was struck and killed on a Fort Greene sidewalk last December by an unlicensed driver who jumped the curb. She was 30 years old. Miller said his loss hits hard during Christmas, Nicodemus’ favorite holiday. Each Friday after Thanksgiving, their family would trip to a tree farm in Rhinebeck, New York, where Nicodemus’ scrupulous eye as an art curator helped select the perfect family Christmas tree.
“Victoria, more than anyone else, always enjoyed this tradition,” Miller said. “This Friday Victoria will not be with us when we go.”
Evelyn Cancel, from East Harlem, lost her six-year-old son, Dante Curry, when he was killed by a driver in the Bronx 19 years ago. She offered support to families in the park whose emotional scars were still very fresh—though she admitted that hers never really healed.
“I live with the pain every day,” Cancel, 49, said. “My health is declining. My doctor doesn’t believe me, but I think I’m dying of a broken heart. I really do.”
Sunday’s park event was one of many held around the world to raise awareness of the more than 1.2 million people that die in car crashes each year.
In New York City, 212 people have been killed in collisions thus far in 2016, according to data from Transportation Alternatives.
That number challenges the steady decline of traffic fatalities since Mayor Bill de Blasio instituted his version of Vision Zero in 2014. (There were 257 deaths in 2014 and 230 last year.)
White echoed Transportation Alternatives’ more recent push for the mayor to provide more funding to Vision Zero street redesign projects and called for state legislation that would allow for the city to expand its school zone speed camera program.
Families cheered on, holding up pictures of those who’ve died.
“It’s good to see that people want to support this, but I wish you guys weren’t here. I wish it was less people,” Cancel said to the crowd. “This pain is forever. It never goes away.”