For the last two weeks, Bushwick residents have rallied to demand justice for Luz Gonzalez, the four-year-old girl killed by a hit-and-run driver outside a local laundromat last month. But while the driver—who left the scene of the crash and was stopped by police a block away—is not facing any charges, the city is now taking steps to force the laundromat to shutter its unlicensed parking lot.
On Friday, the Department of Buildings ordered Bushwick's Clean City Laundry & Dry Cleaners to paint over the illegal parking spots in front of the store, which for years could only be accessed by driving over heavily-trafficked sidewalks on either Hart Street or Wyckoff Avenue.
Graphic security camera footage shows the driver of a black 2018 Nissan Rogue SUV—since identified as Jeanette Maria—plowing over both Reyna Candia and her daughter, who'd stopped to tie her shoe while scootering on that sidewalk. Despite striking them with her front passenger side bumper and running over Luz with both passenger side tires, Maria continued driving, until she was eventually stopped by police at Hart Street between Irving and Knickerbocker Avenues. She told police that she was not aware that she'd hit anyone, according to an NYPD spokesperson, and was permitted to drive home.
In the two weeks since police announced that Maria would not face criminal charges, a community-led movement has gained momentum in the north Bushwick neighborhood. At frequent and growing rallies, hundreds of neighbors have turned out to mourn the young girl and to demand #JusticiaParaLuz. Her mother, who also suffered lacerations in the crash, told the Daily News, "I want her to pay. The person who did this, she has to pay."
A petition calling for Maria to be charged for the hit-and-run has also gained over 33,000 signatures. "Allegedly no charges are being pressed and we the people are not okay with this outcome," the petition reads. "Jeannette Maria needs to be charged for the MURDER of this precious child and should not be given a free pass just because her brother is a Sargeant [sic] for the NYPD."
.@BrooklynDA 4 yr old Luz Gonzalez was victim of fatal hit & run. Jeannette Maria is not facing charges & rumored to have family in police force. Leaving scene of a fatal crash without reporting is Class D felony in NY state punishable by 2 1/3-7 yrs in prison. #justiciaparaluz pic.twitter.com/rj7ZovpZ7J
— Rachel Peace (@REPwrites) June 29, 2018
Neither the NYPD nor the Brooklyn District Attorney's office responded to a Gothamist inquiry about Maria's rumored family connection to law enforcement. "The NYPD Collision Investigation Squad in conferral with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office has determined that there is no criminality at this time," said Sergeant Jessica McRorie, a police spokesperson. "The investigation is ongoing."
Asked whether Mayor Bill de Blasio believes the driver should be charged for leaving the scene after hitting Luz Gonzalez, a spokesperson told Gothamist, "The Mayor is not privy to the facts and won’t pre-judge the investigation into this terrible tragedy." De Blasio has not commented publicly on the young girl's death.
City Councilmember Rafael Espinal, who represents Gonzalez's district, told Gothamist that "anyone who flees the scene of an accident should be charged." The district's state senator, Martin Dilan, did not respond to a Gothamist inquiry.
On Monday, de Blasio announced that there were 81 traffic deaths in the first six months of 2018, the lowest ever in a six-month period. Days earlier, a new report from TransAlt and City Council Member Justin Brannan found that the city is on pace to see twice as many child fatalities in 2018 as the year before.