Two pedestrians were killed after cars collided in the Inwood neighborhood of upper Manhattan early Wednesday morning, just two days after New York City announced speed cameras would operate 24 hours a day to stem road deaths.
Joel Adames, 31, of Manhattan, and David Fernandez, 40, of the Bronx, were killed after a northbound BMW sedan on Sherman Avenue struck a southbound Subaru, police said. The Subaru collided with two parked cars and rammed the two men.
Mr Adames was taken to Allen Pavilion Hospital and Mr Fernandez (whose age police initially gave as 32) was taken to Harlem Hospital. The drivers of both vehicles remained at the scene, police said. They did not identify the drivers or say whether either had been charged in the deaths.
A memorial of white, yellow, red, green and pink candles was installed at the intersection late Wednesday morning.
The scene in upper Manhattan has been repeated across New York City for decades as officials grapple with how to reduce the number of road deaths and injuries. The intersection of West 207th Street and Sherman Avenue was a particularly dangerous example of the deadly problem.
Over the past five years, 36 people have been injured there, including 12 pedestrians and two cyclists, according to a statement from Transportation Alternatives, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group. In 2021, a 22-year-old motorcyclist was killed on Sherman Avenue three blocks from the Dyckman Street intersection, and a 68-year-old pedestrian was killed in 2017 two blocks from Academy Street , said a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives.
Mario Rodriguez, a music producer who lives in the neighborhood, said loud, fast cars are everywhere along four-lane Sherman Avenue. In the year he has lived in the area, Mr Rodriguez, 25, said he witnessed two car accidents.
“There’s a long strip of straight street, and a lot of people who have fast cars, they use that street to show off their cars, to do donuts,” he said. “Even if you don’t see it, you can hear it.”
City governments have been working for years to reduce the number of road deaths across the city. Former mayor Bill de Blasio said he would tame them when he takes office. But he was still struggling to deliver when his term ended last year.
In 2013, 184 pedestrians were killed on city streets, a number that had fallen to 94 in 2020according Vision Zero data, the city’s traffic death initiative. That trend reversed last year, however, when road fatalities hit their highest level in nearly a decade, with 125 pedestrians killed.
As of August 1 of this year, 60 pedestrians had been killed across New York City, according to city data. By comparison, 70 had died by this time in 2021.
Vision Zero, launched under Mr. de Blasio’s leadership in 2014, aims to eliminate serious traffic-related injuries and deaths in New York City. According to the city, the leading cause of injury-related death for children under 14 is being hit by a vehicle. Through a network of agencies and programs, like speed cameras, Vision Zero works to reduce the number of deaths on city streets.
Although the city’s initiatives have been successful, with road deaths hitting the lowest number in recent history in 2018, last year’s increase has put pressure on leaders.
Mayor Eric Adams and the city’s Department of Transportation announced speed cameras would operate 24 hours a day from Monday, after a new state law signed by Governor Kathy Hochul allowed them to operate at all hours of the day. In the past, the city’s 2,000 automated cameras were only allowed to operate on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The radars operate in the 750 school zones of the city. It was unclear if such a camera was working near the intersection where the two men were killed; Officials did not respond to a question Wednesday evening.
“Speed cameras work: they save lives, reduce speeding and help protect New Yorkers across the city,” Adams said in a press release two days before the new speed cameras were activated in full-time. “And we are expanding this proven program to ensure that New Yorkers have this protection at all times of the day.”
Mr. Adams promised to invest $900 million over five years in the city safe streets program in April, which would include funds for infrastructure upgrades to protect cycle paths and pedestrian areas.
Although expanding the speed camera program is a “victory for street safety,” a layered approach is needed, said Danny Harris, director of Transportation Alternatives.
“To achieve Vision Zero, we need the Adams administration to redesign streets for safety, and Albany to let us develop additional automated enforcement tools,” Harris said. “Currently, state law only allows red light cameras at 1% of flagged intersections in the five boroughs.”
Back in Inwood on Wednesday, Rafael Anthony was dripping with sweat as he helped light candles at the memorial. Mr. Anthony, 24, said he was hanging out with friends in the block early Wednesday when he suddenly heard a commotion at the intersection.
“I ran over here, I noticed all the people on the ground,” he said.
Mr Anthony said he recognized one of those killed in the crash as a friend.
Mr Anthony, who grew up in Inwood, said speeding in the area has increased dramatically in recent years, echoing the sentiments of his neighbours.
“It’s just unnecessary speeding,” said Everson Sanchez, 42, a taxi driver who also owns a muscle car. “Doing speed at speed.”