Drummer’s Fatal Cycling Accident Shows Neighborhood’s Bike Safety Problems
The tragic October death of Total Slacker drummer Terence Connor remains a mystery
The tragic October death of Total Slacker drummer Terence Connor remains a mystery. But one former band mate said the incident leaves no question of whether area officials ensure the safety of Bushwick bike riders.
“If they did, my friend would still be alive,” said David Tassy in a phone interview.
Police said the Oct. 1, 2012 accident on Metropolitan Avenue by the warehouses of East Williamsburg was a hit-and-run, and the frequency of such wrecks leaves people who knew Connor wondering what, if anything, the city will do in response to his death.
“No one’s saying anything,” said Tucker Rountree, lead singer of Total Slacker. “Everyone’s acting like nothing happened. And the guy is gone.”
Connor, who was 24 years old, lost his life in a treacherous area for bikers. A flatbed truck killed another rider within a mile and a half of Connor’s crash in 2011, and at least two other white “ghost bikes” for fallen riders dot Metropolitan Avenue.
When asked to supply crash statistics for the neighborhood, a spokesman for the city Department of Transportation, Nicholas Mosquera, cited police statistics that only cover the final month of 2012. He also declined to comment on Connor’s death.
But neighborhood employees remembered the day Connor’s body was found and noted the danger of the heavy industrial traffic in the area.
“People drive like crazy over here,” said Maritza Perez, the secretary at a Sunoco station a block from Connor’s accident.
Numbers compiled by non-governmental sources demonstrate that bike and pedestrian safety problems are not confined to East Williamsburg or even one part of New York City.
Streetsblog, a transportation news site, combined the monthly police reports to find that 136 pedestrians and 19 cyclists died in the city in 2012.
Another site, CrashStat, a project of an advocacy group named Transportation Alternatives, used state data to find that two of the top ten most dangerous intersections for Brooklyn bike riders (the intersection at Flushing and Broadway, and the three-way at Myrtle, Broadway and Jefferson) are in Bushwick. The site reported that there were 26 accidents involving a cyclist at Flushing and Broadway Avenues from 1995 to 2009, the most in Brooklyn and the eighth most in the city.
Local guide David Naczycz said that the area’s former identity as a brewery hub caused the traffic problems in the present day.
“What you have in Williamsburg and Bushwick is a 19th century city plan,” said Naczycz, who co-founded Urban Oyster in 2009 and often leads its “Brewed in Brooklyn” walking tour. “The problem is that you have a boom in both industrial and residential demand.”
The history of Brooklyn transportation was far from people’s minds when they gathered at Stewart and Metropolitan Avenues to remember Terence Connor at a candlelight vigil three days after the accident. Tassy said almost one hundred friends, family and acquaintances paid their respects.
“It was really overwhelming,” said Tassy, who donated his bike to serve as a permanent memorial at the accident scene. “Part of me wanted to be sad, but it was so beautiful how many people were there.”
Attendees noticed that the warehouse at 1202 Metropolitan Ave is equipped with a video camera that should have captured the accident. Though one story in Gothamist reported that the camera was a “dummy,” rumors about it persist.
Neither the owner of the building, 47 Bridgewater Corp, nor the attorney listed on the public deed, June Liu, would clarify whether it’s a working camera. A man who was identified by workers at the company’s headquarters in Greenpoint as the owner of the property refused to give his name. But he said in a phone interview he’d never been contacted in connection with the accident.
Requests to the public information office at NYPD failed to yield any comments or documentation of the investigation into Connor’s death.
Cases like this one make some Bushwick riders more cautious on the road. Local bike enthusiast Jesse McDonough noted the importance of helmets, hand signals and body language.
“There’s plenty of things you can do to make yourself more visible and claim your space,” said McDonough, who leads two-wheeled tours for Bike the Big Apple. “It’s a give and take.”
Area truck drivers agree that visibility is key. Manuel Almonte, who drives a 14-wheel dump truck to the Waste Management facility in East Williamsburg, said it can be difficult to spot cyclists.
“Sometimes, not all of them, they jump in front of you,” said Almonte. “You don’t see them until it’s too late.”
Naczycz, the walking guide, said cases like Terence Connor’s don’t demonstrate who should be blamed as much as what should be done.
“Instead of pointing fingers at who needs to do better, I think you need to put in the infrastructure that helps people get out of each other’s way.”