Last month, 37-year-old Heather Hensl was walking on the sidewalk of Beekman Street near Spruce Street School in the Financial District when she was suddenly struck by a driver. Hensl, a physician assistant and mother of two young girls, suffered a large laceration on her face and fractures in her leg, leaving her unable to walk for weeks and requiring therapy and surgery. The hit-and-run driver, who also is accused of hitting an elderly woman in Brooklyn about 30 minutes later in the same car, has since been identified by police. But that doesn't mean that driver is going to be charged.
Downtown Express has the whole infuriating story: they write that they viewed surveillance video of the incident showing the hit-and-run driver backing up several times to get room to drive on the sidewalk—in order to bypass traffic on the block. "I never anticipated somebody getting around all that by driving on the sidewalk," Hensl told them.
Cops were able to run the plates and trace them to a woman in New Jersey; the NYPD also has footage of the car leaving the scene and going over the Brooklyn Bridge. You'd think that—along with the witnesses who have spoken out about the incident—would be enough to pursue charges. Not necessarily.
While the police have identified the car, witnesses cannot positively say who was driving due to tinted windows...Since the woman lives in New Jersey, she said she was told that there was a jurisdiction issue — if it had been a more serious crime, such as a homicide, things would be different.
“Unfortunately, I am writing this because the N.Y.P.D. has yet to bring the driver of the car which ran me over to justice,” she said in the email.
According to Hensl, the owner admitted to her insurance company adjuster that her car has not been stolen, that she has been the sole person driving the car, and that she was indeed driving the car in Lower Manhattan on April 13. First Precinct police initially said that if the driver were charged, it would only be for a misdemeanor, but they now say if they file, it would be for reckless endangerment,a felony, as well as for leaving the scene of an accident.
“They say this is not enough,” she said in an email. “My lawyer received a call on Saturday from the detective handling the case. They have requested the owner of the vehicle to come in for questioning … but if she fails to come in, which she is perfectly allowed to do, they will likely be closing the case.”
At a 1st Precinct community meeting last week, local detectives explained to concerned residents why the case was in limbo: "We want to have a solid case when we bring this to the DA," Capt. Mark Iocco said, according to Tribeca Tribune. "We can’t bring it to the DA with holes all over it. So you have to give us a little time. Our detectives, they’re doing so much with this. There’s a lot of pressure on the detective squad."
As Streetsblog notes, Spruce Street School parents had asked the DOT for improvements to Beekman in 2012, shortly before a curb-jumping motorist killed UPS worker Mike Rogalle. Since Hensl's incident, new traffic lights have been installed on Beekman, but that's cold comfort. “It is terribly disheartening to hear that your life and your injuries don’t matter enough,” Hensl said.
She added that she is upset that the "irresponsible, reckless driver has not been held accountable for her crime. She could be driving in that area every day, potentially causing more suffering to the Downtown community. I would like to see this woman lose her license and her car. I don’t want money. I want her to be held accountable for what she did. It’s unacceptable."