In Memoriam Dante Curry


Dante Curry was six years old when he was killed by a speeding driver on Wales Avenue, a quiet residential street in the South Bronx, on the afternoon of October 2, 1997. Our report on pedestrian fatalities in New York is dedicated to his memory.

From that report:

Dante Curry, age 6, was struck and killed on in front of a church on Wales Avenue, a predominantly residential street in the South Bronx, on the afternoon of October 2. According to the driver's statement, included in the police report, Dante "ran out from [between] double-parked autos, causing operator of vehicle to strike him." According to his family, Dante had been frightened by a dog and was running to his father, who was working across the street.

In the official narrative of Dante's death, he appears as the only subject of a finite verb: he "ran out" and "caused" the vehicle to strike him. Yet the unusually candid driver acknowledged traveling at 65 mph. This is more than twice the 30 mph speed limit, and far faster than any pedestrian -- child or adult -- should need to anticipate on such a street. It was also too fast for the driver to react and stop. Indeed, had Dante journeyed to the end of the block and crossed at the (unsignalized) corner, as the law requires, the outcome would have been no different. By any sane standard, the responsibility for Dante's death lies with the speeding driver, not the "jaywalking" six-year-old.

Dante's killer, 26-year-old Jacob Rivera of Newark, received a speeding ticket.

Right Of Way created a street memorial to Dante on the cold gray morning of December 19, 1998, and renewed it subsequently on March 20, 1999, and May 13, 2000. On the first of these occasions we met Evelyn Cancel, Dante's mother, and her sister Gladys, and these two remarkable women became much-admired friends of ours.

In the years since, Evelyn Cancel has become an eloquent and forceful voice against car-madness. Her campaign to rename Wales Avenue after Dante, as a symbol of new resolve on the city's part to end the shocking slaughter of pedestrians on our streets, has been met so far with an intricate blanket-toss of evasions, legalisms, buck-passings, foot-draggings, proposals and counter-proposals from Bronx Community Board 1, its chairperson, George Rodriguez, and Council Member Pedro Espada, in whose district Dante met his death. (Espada has more recently distinguished himself as a leading persecutor of children on scooters.) Verbal expressions of sympathy and deep concern have not, of course, been lacking; but talk is proverbially cheap, and especially cheap from small-time New York politicians.

Evelyn neverthess remains dauntless and undeterred. Her courage and perseverance have been an inspiration to all of us in Right Of Way.

--Michael Smith

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