"Cooper's Troopers!" yelled Calhoun School students as they marched along the Upper West Side to memorialize their deceased friend earlier today. The 150 children from the local lower school also chanted, "Don't get hit by a car! Don't text and drive!" as they held up signs begging for safer New York City streets, fifteen months after their classmate Cooper Stock was killed by a cabbie making an illegal turn. Today, that fatal intersection was named "Cooper Stock Way."
Cooper, just nine years old, was holding his father's hand when they were crossing with the light at the corner of West End Avenue and West 97th Street, right by their apartment building in January 2014. His death and other pedestrian deaths caused by reckless driving have prompted Mayor Bill de Blasio to sign Vision Zero legislation and pursue safer streets initiatives like encouraging police to ticket speeding drivers. On the Upper West Side, West End Avenue was re-engineered from two lanes in each direction to one lane each, with turning lanes and medians.
Dana Lerner, Cooper's mother, advocated for "Cooper's Law," which would allow the city to immediately suspend the TLC license of a cab driver who maims or kills pedestrians. But Koffi Komlani, the driver whose reckless left turn killed Cooper and injured the boy's father, only received a $580 fine.
The Calhoun students, wearing T-shirts that said "Cooper's Troopers," were marching from the school at West End Avenue and West 81st Street to West End and 97th to join the street naming ceremony. They marched north up Riverside Drive, in the park—so they'd have fewer streets to cross—with a police escort.
Lerner, with husband Richard Stock and daughter Gianna present, fondly remembered Cooper's desire for chocolate at breakfast, lunch and dinner, "Mostly, I will miss your crazy silly laugh... Now your name is on this street, where you lived for nine years, for the worst possible reason. What people need to understand when they see this sign is that you were the innocent victim of the reckless driving epidemic. You and your dad were following the law and the laws in New York City do not hold drivers responsible."
She also pointed out that every 35 hours someone is killed by a car, declaring, "We have to take back the streets of New York City."
Council Member Helen Rosenthal, who represents the Upper West Side, said that Cooper's death was one of too many pedestrian fatalities in the neighborhood, and said the legislation passed so far is "good, but by no means enough. Today we recognize a new street on the Upper West Side, Cooper Stock Way, to commemorate Cooper and continue fighting the epidemic of reckless driving deaths." She praised the Calhoun School for incorporating pedestrian and street safety into its curriculum and its students for becoming more aware about the issues.
Cooper's 50 classmates, now fourth graders, were at the renaming ceremony, and four of them spoke. Jonathan Hume, 10, said that Cooper was "the kind of guy you wanted to be around. I sometimes see him in my dreams. If I had one wish, it would be for him to be here with us." Other friends, Ari Litt, 9; Palmer Pyles, 10; and Jacob Hume, 10, also spoke. Jacob said, "He made me laugh all the time. We talked about going to the same college together—going to UCLA and playing basketball."
Cooper Stock Way ceremony by Gothamist
After the sign was revealed, the students released blue and orange balloons—the colors of the Knicks, which were Cooper's favorite team. Cooper's uncle Barron Lerner said, "Cooper predicted that LeBron James would go back to the Cavaliers before anyone else because he was smart and wise. And now it happened and now the Cavaliers are playing in the finals and I can't believe he isn't here."