It was a rare public display of private grief in Lower Manhattan on Monday.
"If it simply was a matter of my tragedy, I would not be here today," said Fort Greene resident Jacob Stevens of his wife, Clara Heyworth, who was struck and later died from her injuries after an unlicensed—and likely drunk—driver slammed into her at the intersection of Dekalb and Vanderbilt avenues on July 10, 2011. "I wouldn't be speaking on the steps of City Hall. I would be grieving instead in private."
Speaking in front of a crowd of pedestrian advocates and survivors of motor vehicle-related crashes, Stevens announced the filing of a civil lawsuit charging the New York Police Department for failing to adequately investigate last year's crash that claimed the life of a beloved 28-year-old wife, daughter and friend.
"They've also failed to investigate hundreds, if not thousands, of other cases," he said. "That's why I'm suing NYPD this morning in Clara's name, but also in the name of all of the others who have been affected by this inhumane policy and all those who will be affected in the future."
Stevens went on to provide harrowing details of the crash, which occurred as Heyworth walked across the street towards him in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 10.
"I can still hear the screech of the car and the sound of the impact," he said. "My friends saw the tire marks he left all over the road."
Despite Heyworth's life-threatening injuries and the fact that the driver, Anthony Webb, was driving with an expired license and was suspected of being legally intoxicated, the suit alleges that the NYPD's Accident Investigation Squad failed to launch any serious inquiry into the crash.
"Whenever a crash victim comes forward, the NYPD's response is, more or less, 'Accidents happen,'" said Stevens' attorney, Steve Vaccaro. "But crimes happen too."
The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment regarding the case.
At today's City Hall press conference, Transportation Alternatives executive director Paul Steely White put the lack of an apparent investigation into Heyworth's death in terms of a systemic failure by police to probe into the circumstances of pedestrian and bicyclist crashes involving motor vehicles.
"90 percent of these cases are not getting an investigation, which means that the drivers responsible for these people losing their lives, their limbs ... the majority of these New Yorkers are receiving no justice whatsoever," White said.
Webb, whose positive alcohol breathalyzer results administered by 88th Precinct officers was ruled invalid due to an uncalibrated machine, was not charged in connection with Heyworth's death.
White joined Stevens and Vaccaro in calling on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to put pressure on the NYPD to beef up AIS—which currently has 17 detectives assigned to investigate an average of 3,000 pedestrian and bicyclist-related incidents a year throughout the city.
But beyond the statistics, it was Stevens who provided a human face to the unspeakable tragedy that can occur, seemingly at any moment, on city streets.
"That night, I lost the love of my life, the basis of all of my plans and dreams for the future," he said.