Hudson River Park Trust sued for cyclist death

Photo courtesy of Travis Maclean
Upper West Side resident Olga Cook was struck and killed in June 2016 while biking across Chamber St. along the Hudson River Greenway, which parallels the West Side Highway.

BY COLIN MIXSON

The husband of slain Upper West Side bicyclist Olga Cook has added the Hudson River Park Trust to his list of state and city agencies he’s holding responsible for his wife’s death.

Travis Maclean alleged in State Supreme Court on June 29 that the HRPT was well aware that the intersection where Cook was killed was a death trap, and that the trust should have worked to improve safety there before his wife was fatally struck by a hit-and-run driver in June last year.

“They knew about all the past accidents that happened there and did nothing,” said Maclean.

Cook was heading towards Tribeca along the Greenway bike path in May last year, when New Jersey motorist Samuel Silva hung a right off the southbound lane of the West Side Highway and struck the 30-year-old cyclist as she crossed Chambers Street.

The intersection at the time had already seen 17 serious traffic accidents, according to the Department of Transportation, and Maclean alleges the agency responsible for maintaining the roads and bike path was well aware that conditions there were ripe for catastrophe, his lawyer said.

“Given the 17 prior crashes at the location … the condition should have been dealt with well before Olga’s death,” said attorney Daniel Flanzig.

Photo by Colin Mixson
Travis Maclean stands beside the memorial to his wife Olga Cook on a light pole on the Hudson River Greenway near where she was struck and killed by hit-and-run driver while she cycled across the greenway’s notorious intersection with Chambers St. on June 11, 2016.

Since January, Maclean has slapped both city and state transit agencies, along with the Battery Park City Authority and Silva himself with suits alleging nearly identical complaints, and the bereaved husband’s wide net is largely due to confusion regarding which agency holds jurisdiction over traffic infrastructure in the area, according to Flanzig.

“At our early stage of investigation, we’re still trying to determine what parties had responsibility for safety at that location,” Flanzig said.

For its part, Hudson River Park Trust claims no jurisdiction over the bike path, sidewalk, or roadways surrounding the scene of Cook’s death, according to spokesman James Yolles.

“We are very sorry for the loss, but this incident did not take place on or adjacent to park property,” Yolles said.

The city’s transit agency, which Maclean sued alongside the BPCA in May, is the only party among Maclean’s growing list of defendants that has taken any action to improve safety at intersections along the West Side Highway since Cook’s death.

The agency installed new safety features — most notably an additional signal phase that prevents drivers from crossing paths with cyclists on Chambers Street — at the intersection where Cook was killed, and plans on following up with similar changes to intersections along the West Side Highway between Warren and Thames streets beginning this fall.

Silva, who entered into a plea deal with prosecutors over charges related to Cook’s death, was sentenced to up to four years imprisonment by a Manhattan Criminal Court judge in March.

The city DOT declined to comment, instead directing inquiries towards the city’s Law Department, which did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.

New York State Department of Transportation declined to comment.

Maclean is not planing any additional lawsuits at this time, according to Flanzig.

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One Response to Hudson River Park Trust sued for cyclist death

  1. karen bernsohn

    I have posted this before that the intersection at Pier 40 and Houston St. is also very dangerous. When cars are making the right hand turn into Pier 40 coming from downtown on the highway, the turning cars and the bikers/walkers going up and downtown on the bike path both have a green light. I hold my breath when I cross, either on my bike, on foot or in my car.

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