Claims ‘defective design’ contributed to death
The family of Carla Giuffrida, a Beacon resident who died after being struck by a vehicle on Dec. 1 near Main Street, has filed notice that it may sue the city.
A notice of claim filed March 31 in Dutchess County Supreme Court alleges that Giuffrida was killed “due to the defective design and maintenance” of the pedestrian control signal installed at the intersection of Main and Teller Avenue, “which rendered the intersection dangerous and unsafe.”
It does not indicate how the control signal was defective, although the documents say Giuffrida had a “walk” signal and the right of way.
The claim was filed by Mauro and Lindsay Giuffrida, who are Carla Giuffrida’s children.
According to police reports, Giuffrida, 75, was struck in the center of the crosswalk by a vehicle turning south onto Teller from Main Street. She suffered a head injury and died that night at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.
The driver of the 2019 Jeep Wrangler that struck Giuffrida, whom police have not identified, told an officer that Giuffrida was not visible “due to a blind spot from the front left ‘A’ pillar of the Jeep’s frame” and sun glare. The accident occurred at about 3:11 p.m.
The driver, who passed a field sobriety test, was issued a ticket for failure to yield the right of way to a pedestrian, police said.
The notice of claim indicates that unless the family receives “adjustment and payment,” it plans to sue “for conscious pain and suffering”; medical, hospital and funeral expenses; emotional trauma; and “loss of love, comfort and companionship.”
Chris White, Beacon’s city administrator, said on Thursday (April 7) that he could not comment on pending litigation.
The tragic death of a person in a sidewalk is a stark reminder for us all to be vigilant, both when we are driving and when we are walking.
Here in Cold Spring and Nelsonville we are blessed with some amazing pedestrian infrastructure, and much work has been done by the villages to improve crossings on Main Street and beyond.
Nevertheless, we are also, unfortunately, saddled with numerous unsafe intersections, non-contiguous sidewalks and places “where the sidewalk ends,” as writer Shel Silverstein poetically put it.
Cold Spring and Nelsonville need to continue improving bike and pedestrian crossings now, for safe routes to school, work and play.
We should start by improving our signature crossing, at Route 9D and Main Street. This intersection features eight “beg buttons,” as they are often called. If you’re lucky enough to notice them, know how they work and arrive at the intersection in time to press them, you get a walk signal. However, of these eight buttons, at least one is broken and two require a feat of gymnastics to reach around the pole to press.
This type of crosswalk button is a relic of car-centric traffic engineering and should be relegated to the dust heap of history. By my observation, even when these buttons are working, most people don’t press them, and end up walking against a red “Don’t Walk” sign, not out of a desire to walk against traffic but out of pure confusion and frustration.
Let’s come together as two villages and address the pedestrian deficiencies indicated in the 2012 Cold Spring comprehensive plan (and elsewhere), and others worth addressing (including those unaddressed by the proposed Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail realignment).
Let’s start by removing these dangerous crosswalk buttons at 9D and Main and giving every pedestrian — even the ones with a bag in each hand, hurrying to the train — the opportunity to cross safely, with a delayed green and a “walk” sign for every light cycle.