What’s Up With Cops Ticketing Jaywalkers at McGuinness?

Beware of the pink summons! © Zachary A. Martz


We’ve gotten a lot of emails from Greenpointers who are being issued warnings for jaywalking across McGuinness and Nassau over the last few weeks, so we figured we’d do a little investigating.

The local precinct confirmed that they have been stationing there “because it’s an accident prone location,” especially given the recent tragic death of 32-year-old Nicole Detweiler, who was struck by a vehicle while crossing at the intersection in December.

However the reaction to the accident from the police department, almost 2 months after Detweiler was killed, has been inefficient at best and completely illogical at worst. 

Sonia Deepak was walking home last week around 7pm, when she crossed the first 2 lanes of the intersection while no cars were in sight. When she and another woman reached the other side of the street, they were stopped by uniformed police, who, as Deepak writes, “explained that a young lady had been hit and killed while jaywalking across the intersection and that what we did was illegal.  They said that in the next couple of weeks they were going to start giving $50 summons to everyone who jaywalked at the intersection.”

The women were given warnings, but their ID’s and information were recorded.  “I feel badly for the young lady who died, but I was very aggravated by this.” Sonia told us, “In the 8+ years I’ve lived here I’ve seen a number of memorials, a ghost bike and a live accident happen at this intersection. I’m frustrated that city’s reaction is to blame residents and not consider that it is the intersection itself is dangerous… Their intentions might be good but if they’re trying to save lives, they’re going about it the wrong way.”

We couldn’t agree more.

The same thing happened to Lorraine Kenny when she was walking home with her daughter around the same time in the evening…except she received a warning before even attempting to cross the street.  The light was red, and as the women were waiting to cross the street, a cop handed them (and everyone else on the corner) a piece of paper that said:

Attention! You just VIOLATED TRAFFIC RULES governing pedestrians, for which a pedestrian may receive a summons (provided the pedestrian has identification. Otherwise the pedestrian will be taken to the station house for processing.) We hope that you will start obeying the laws governing pedestrians, and issuing a summons to you will not be necessary.

The logical solution to stoping speeding is to…well, crack down on speeding. So why are the police ticketing pedestrians instead of speeding vehicles?  The precinct said that this is not a new initiative and that they have always given warnings for jaywalking, but surely there has been a new level of concentration and resources placed on McGuinness. The officer that I spoke to, who declined to give his name, said that their intention is to make people “aware of the intersection.”

But now the warnings have turned into actual court summons.  This past Friday (2/28), Zach Zamartz sent us the above photo of the pink court summons he received for jaywalking on the same intersection.  “In New York City, where Jaywalking is artform and a way of life, I was flabbergasted at the very notion this occurrence was even cosmically possible,” Zach wrote on his blog.

The police responded to  Zach’s confusion by telling him that they had already warned Greenpoint residents at the intersection about elevated enforcement and therefore had a right to summons him. However, Zach not personally been warned and was completely caught off guard.

“After all was said and done, I asked the officers if it would be possible to post signs or have more effective ways of educating the community of the elevated enforcement… I was offered a canned answer and directed to call the precinct,” he said.

Jaywalking fines can range anywhere from $50 to $250 and as Zach explained, if he doesn’t show up for this court date, there will be a warrant out for his arrest.

“This has been one of the most stressful situations to research and process,” said Zach. “There is hardly any information on this misdemeanor available online and there is no easy way to reconcile the issue. I would prefer to get this out of the way and save myself, the court, the officers, and the state a sizable amount of time and money; but apparently there is no standard amount to charge, nor a 21st century way to pay a “Pink Summons”.’

The logical explanation is that this policy is part of de Blasio’s new Vision Zero policy to eliminate pedestrian deaths in the city. However, the NYPD did not answer my requests for information. Neither did the Department of Transportation, the Mayor’s Office, or Council Member Levin. Each department directed me to a different email address with no response– oh, bureaucracy.

Although this warning/summons method is well…far, far removed from the logical realm of justice, I suppose that the police do have good intensions (even if they are going about it the wrong way).  We may never get to the bottom of where this policy is coming from. But when all is said and done, it’s really not worth it to jaywalk on McGuinness. Do it anywhere else in Manhattan or in the neighborhood on side streets and empty intersections, but not there. In case you haven’t heard, North Brooklyn had the most traffic-related deaths in all of NYC in 2013. 

If you think about it, waiting an extra 5 minutes at the corner could save your life. Or at the very least, save you from having to spend the day in Court.  Is it really worth the risk?