Council Member Brad Lander’s Statement on the Indictment by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez of Dorothy Bruns

Council Member Brad Lander’s Statement on the Indictment by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez of Dorothy Bruns

Council Member Brad Lander’s Statement on the Indictment by Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez of Dorothy Bruns for Manslaughter & Criminally Negligent Homicide in the Killing of Abigail Blumenstein and Joshua Lew
 
This morning, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez indicted Dorothy Bruns, the reckless driver who struck and killed two children, Abigail Blumenstein, age 4, and Joshua Lew, age 1, and injured Abigail’s pregnant mom. She is being indicted for two counts of manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide, and reckless endangerment of human life. On March 5th, Bruns blew through a red light into a crosswalk full of pedestrians, in a horrifying and entirely preventable crash at the intersection of 9th Street and 5th Avenue.
 
I’m genuinely grateful to DA Gonzalez and his team, and to the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, for moving promptly and thoroughly to seek justice for Abigail and Joshua, and to insist on accountability for criminally reckless driving that kills New Yorkers.
 
All too often, there is neither justice nor accountability for reckless drivers who kill or seriously injure our neighbors. The state laws are weak, investigations receive too little priority, we fail to connect the dots to drivers’ prior dangerous driving. Investigations can drag on for many months, and in most cases the driver continues to drive without limitation, even when their record makes clear they are a hazard. In too many cases, charges are never even brought.
 
So it’s important to give due credit to the Brooklyn District Attorney and his office, along with the NYPD, for their serious work here. At the urging of my office, they moved swiftly to take Ms. Bruns’ license away immediately. They then conducted a thorough investigation to substantiate today’s charges.
 
Ms. Bruns should not have been behind the wheel of the car, and she knew it. She had a series of medical conditions, and she had been told by a doctor that she should not drive. This crash was foreseeable and preventable. She also had a history of reckless driving. In September, she hit a pedestrian in Queens, but unfortunately the crash was not properly documented, and no charges were brought. Over the past two years, her car had been ticketed four times for running red lights, and four times for speeding in school zones.
 
For today, this indictment is an important step. We must have accountability if we are going to save lives and make progress. But, the crash also painfully exposes how much more we must do.
 
For starters, as we promised in March, we must make this intersection -- and all of 9th Street -- safer. There have been other fatal and serious crashes here and along the corridor. We’ll never know whether Abigail and Joshua might have been saved from Bruns’ criminal driving by better street design. But we do know we can prevent crashes and save lives by doing so.
 
I’ve been speaking regularly to NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. She and her team have been developing proposals to make 9th Street safer, to address double-parking, failure-to-yield, swerving, and speeding. They are continuing conversations with stakeholders this month, and they have committed to present a proposal (or possibly a couple of options) to Community Board 6 and the public in June.
 
We must also do more to stop reckless drivers before they kill. This crime called attention to a small percentage -- but, alas, still a pretty large number -- of drivers who have run an appalling number of red lights, and sped in school zones time and time again. Some of these cars are owned by drivers who have other reckless driving violations. And some by hit-and-run drivers like Dorothy Bruns.
 
A comprehensive fix requires change in Albany. After the crash, new legislation was introduced, but it is difficult to be optimistic when they won’t even allow speed cameras in front of the vast majority of our schools.
 
In the meantime, I am working on new legislation in the City Council. We do not have the authority to suspend (or even add points to) the licenses of reckless drivers. But we can, must, and will find a way to do more.
 
None of this, of course, will bring Joshua and Abigail back to their families. I know that so many of you, like me, found this gut-wrenching and immensely personal, even for those of us who did not know them. Let’s continue to hold them close in our prayers, as we move forward to pursue justice. In their memory, we will make change.