Volume 19 | Issue 33 | December 15 - 21, 2006
Downtown Express photos by Jefferson Siegel
Eric Ng’s friends grieve as they listen to remembrances of him near a white ghost bike memorial left for him on the Hudson River Park bike path at Clarkson St., above.
Love and rage at memorial for cyclist slain on path
By Jefferson Siegel
Eric Ng, the 22-year-old cyclist who police say was killed by a drunken driver on Dec. 1 on the Hudson River Park bike path, was remembered by family and friends in a day of memorials last Saturday.
The group Visual Resistance had placed a white “ghost bike” near the spot where Ng was struck, along the greenway at Clarkson St. Early Saturday afternoon, as cyclists gathered in Washington Square Park for a memorial ride, several dozen others already had congregated alongside the bike path, where flowers adorned the stark white cycle. A woman walking by stopped to snap a photo of the all-white bike on her cell phone. A female jogger slowed and then stopped when she realized why the crowd had gathered. She paused, hung her head and crossed herself before resuming her jog uptown, the spring in her step noticeably a bit less.
Maya Elise Joseph-Goteiner stood quietly holding a bouquet of flowers, her eyes red, her face disconsolate. Joseph-Goteiner said she went to school with Ng for four years, and together they were members in the Peace Coalition. Nearby, a man in a green jacket, his jaw clenched, held a bunch of flowers close to his chest.
Just before 2 p.m., a mass of 150 cyclists coming from Washington Square pedaled down Greenwich St., turned right onto Houston St., crossed the West Side Highway and rode onto the bike route, where Park Enforcement Patrol officers politely directed them into the lot in front of Pier 40. Riders dismounted, many carrying flowers, and walked to the bike path in silence.
Ryan Kuonen of Time’s Up!, who has had the unfortunate task of organizing too many memorial rides, was one of the first to approach yet another ghost bike and place a flower in the spokes of the rear wheel. Nearby, Noah Budnick of Transportation Alternatives, who suffered a serious head injury last year on a poorly maintained bridge bike path, stood quietly in the midst of the crowd, wearing a Brooklyn cycling hat.
Several neighborhood leaders and activists also paid their respects. Brad Hoylman, chairperson of the Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, and Keen Berger, a member of the committee, stood with cyclists in Washington Square Park before the ride. Ian Dutton, a public member of the C.B. 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, and Livvie Mann, president of the Bedford-Downing Block Association, rode with the mass to the ghost bike.
Alone and in pairs, cyclists paused in front of the bike and laid flowers, placed stones and said silent goodbyes.
Someone played a brief trumpet solo. Then, Ng’s friend Ryan Nuckle stepped onto the low wall by the ghost bike. Recalling memories of Ng, Nuckle paused occasionally, overcome with grief. Facing him was a clutch of Ng’s friends, their arms around each other, some crying inconsolably. A gloved hand covered a face red from crying. In the bright December sun, an overwhelming sense of grief and loss filled the air.
Nuckle finished his brief remarks and stepped down to join Ng’s friends. One friend then let out a bone-chilling scream, a cathartic cry, a wail lamenting the injustice of such an untimely loss, as if she could yell all the way to the heavens to let Eric Ng know how much he will be missed.
Then she joined her two friends in singing a lullaby, “Sleep, Baby, Sleep,” and more people in the crowd buried heads in hands and on shoulders, many of them sobbing.
People then lined up to lay flowers and say farewell as others hugged, eyes tightly closed and hands clenched. Despite the six lanes of rushing traffic just steps away, a silence seemed to shroud the gathering.
Before long the ghost bike was festooned with colorful flora. Friends had also planted brightly painted yellow wooden sunflowers around the bike so that, whatever the season, it will always resonate with life.
The cyclists then returned to their rides for one final tribute. In a symbolic gesture that has become painfully frequent in the past few years, the mourners quietly held their bicycles over their heads for a minute. Then they got back on their seats and pedaled across the highway.
Their next stop was a memorial service at St. Mark’s Church in the East Village. Several hundred people sat in a circle of chairs, watching as photos and videos of Ng played on a screen overhead, accompanied by tapes of his singing. Friends then stood, one by one, and shared their fondest memories. Some read e-mails Ng had sent over the years. One read some of Ng’s favorite Richard Brautigan poems.
The day concluded with a dance at the Time’s Up! space on E. Houston St. Dancing, as Nuckle explained, because Ng would have liked it. Fierce dancing, reflecting the epitaph attached to Ng’s ghost bike: “Love and Rage.”