On June 24th, a hit-and-run driver fatally struck four-year-old Luz Gonzalez while pulling out of an illegal parking lot in Bushwick. Police eventually stopped the driver, Jeanette Maria, a few blocks away, but she was not arrested or charged. Emotional rallies and online petitions followed, with family members and neighbors demanding "Justice for Luz" and claiming that the driver was let off easy because her brother is rumored to be an NYPD sergeant. (That NYPD connection has not been confirmed.)
More than two months later, both the NYPD and the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office say their investigation is ongoing. For his part, Mayor Bill de Blasio has remained publicly silent on the issue, and told reporters during a roundtable last week that he had not yet watched widely-circulated surveillance video of the deadly crash. That video shows Maria reversing out of a sidewalk parking space with her SUV and accelerating over Gonzalez as her mom bends down to tie her shoe, then leaving the scene.
Asked by a reporter why he'd demanded justice in the case of a driver who killed two children in Park Slope, but not for the person who struck Luz Gonzalez, de Blasio responded, "I respect all media questions, but I think your question kind of takes things out of balance."
"In the case that you're referring to, it's still under investigation," the mayor added, noting that the Park Slope crash—which was also under investigation when the mayor called for the driver's arrest—was "absolutely cut and dry."
(Reached for comment on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Mayor's Office would not say whether de Blasio has seen the video.)
The mayor's reticence has infuriated some in the Bushwick community. "The mayor's full of shit," Freddie L, a maintenance worker at Clean City Laundry, told Gothamist on Thursday. "He didn't show up here. He didn't march with the protesters. He doesn't care."
"He made the Vision Zero thing, so it's like, really, you don't care about a fatal hit-and-run?" the employee wondered. "Everyone knows [the driver's] got family that's cops. That's why the mayor won't say anything. That's why the police acted like her chauffeur."
The one thing the city has done, the employee noted, was to shut down the laundromat's makeshift parking lot, in which drivers were forced to exit over a sidewalk. On orders from the Department of Transportation, the parking spaces were painted over and the lot was blocked off a few weeks ago by flower boxes, one of which holds a memorial for Luz Gonzalez. Last month, Streetsblog noted that such parking lots are pervasive in the city, and typically ignored by DOT—according to Freddy, there are several by the nearest police precinct.
"It's 'parking lot this, parking lot that,' but the city doesn't say nothing about the driver," he added.
On Tuesday, a GoFundMe was launched by a person to claiming to be Jeanette Maria, who says she was "defamed all over social media" and is raising money to pay for legal fees. The page, which is seeking to raise $10,000, has not received any donations so far.