A bill that would seek to deter people from creating the circumstances that led to the death of a 16-year-old Middle Village teen took a major step forward last Thursday in the City Council.
Intro. 947, put forward by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), seeks to increase the penalty for leaving a car running and unattended from $5 to $250.
“Leaving your car running unattended seems like a minor mistake,” Crowley told the Council Transportation Committee at the bill’s first hearing last Thursday, “but all New Yorkers should know it has the potential to be deadly.”
Susan Petito, the NYPD’s assistant commissioner for intergovernmental affairs, said the department supported the Council’s move to strengthen the law.
“Some small language changes may be needed to ensure that any vehicle left unattended but with the key in the vehicle, whether idling or not, continues to fall within the scope of the law,” she told the Council.
Petito was also concerned about how the law would apply to tour bus drivers, who often must leave the vehicle to unload luggage and assist passengers.
Brendan Ogle, father of Robert Ogle, the teen who was killed by a car allegedly driven by a drunken 27-year-old who stole it from in front of a bodega, also spoke to the Council.
“Common sense would tell people not to walk away from a vehicle with the keys in, but money talks,” he said.
Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), who chairs the committee, was enthusiastic about the bill’s prospects.
“It seems to me like the NYPD and the administration is in favor of what the bill is trying to do,” Liu said. “I think these changes can be reconciled pretty quickly.
Crowley also got words of encouragement from Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Rockaway Beach).
“What happened in Middle Village could happen anywhere in this city,” he said.
Robert, a football player at Brooklyn Technical High School and a volunteer at the Queens Hall of Science, was walking home with Brooklyn resident Alex Paul from a friend’s birthday party early Feb. 1 in Middle Village when he was struck by a silver Kia police said was driven by Kenneth Guyear, 27. Robert was pronounced dead at the scene. Paul, 20, died later at Elmhurst Hospital.
Guyear’s blood-alcohol level was .26, more than triple the legal limit, when he was arrested, authorities said.
While in custody Feb. 1, Guyear allegedly told police he had five or six vodka drinks and two prescription pills at a different party and admitted he stole the car, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community News Group
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