The owner of a busy Bay Ridge dry cleaner is in stable condition after suffering serious injuries on Sunday, July 15 when she was struck by a car out on a joyride.
A police source said that, at around 8 p.m. Sunday evening, a 16-year-old girl and a 19-year-old male acquaintance — identified by cops as Mahdi Makki — took the girl’s mother’s car without permission or authority to drive around, at which point the male, who cops said was driving the car unlicensed and at an excessive speed, spun out of control near the corner of 85th Street and Fourth Avenue, jumping the curb and striking a pedestrian.
According to authorities, the victim – said to be the 47-year-old owner of Finest One Cleaners on Third Avenue, Mrs. Chen – sustained various injuries, including a fractured pelvis, several broken bones, rib fractures and a scalp laceration.
The girl, who lives near Fort Hamilton Parkway and 92nd Street, was charged with reckless endangerment and unauthorized use of a vehicle while the driver, who lives just blocks away from the victim’s business, was hit with the same two charges as well as driving without a license.
While both teens have been arrested, the incident, elected officials say, points to a much larger issue in the nabe.
“We’ve done a lot of work in our community to try to reduce traffic violence but we need to do more. When crashes like this happen, it feels like that work is in vain but we can’t let up – we need to work even harder,” Councilmember Justin Brannan told this paper. “That is why I always say there is no silver bullet. We need better street redesigns, more enforcement to crack down on speeding and reckless driving, more education, and stronger prosecution of drivers who hit pedestrians.”
Driving, he added, “is a privilege, not a right. As your councilmember, I am dedicated to improving the safety, mobility and livability of our streets so they can be shared and enjoyed by all. It’s time we had a real, candid community conversation about pedestrian safety. This is about saving lives and all options to increase pedestrian safety must be on the table.”
John Quaglione, an aide to State Senator Marty Golden, a Bay Ridge resident and a longtime customer of Chen’s, shared similar sentiments.
“This is a horrible accident and I am glad that arrests were made, but we definitely need a multi-faceted safety awareness campaign in the community, encompassing bikes, pedestrians and motor vehicles,” he told this paper.
As for Chen, Quaglione said, “Mrs. Chen is not only my dry cleaner, but she is one of the friendliest and hardest working people I have ever met. Many of her customers I am sure are hoping and praying for a quick and speedy recovery, and I will be talking with her family to see how the community can help.”
Ridgeites on social media agreed.
“If you frequent her store you would know her to be absolutely lovely and incredibly hard working,” wrote Maureen Landers, a founder of Bay Ridge Advocates Keeping Everyone Safe (BRAKES), in a Facebook group geared towards Bay Ridge parents. “I have asked her son how we could help. In the meantime, I figured I would post here in the event anyone knows the family better and has ideas on how we can support them during this difficult time.”
Landers, whose own son sustained a broken leg after a car struck him and who was injured herself by a speeding motorist in 2009, is no stranger to the fight for safer streets in southern Brooklyn.
She was also not alone in spreading the good word of Chen’s hard work.
“Mrs. Chen is a lovely woman and a terrific business owner,” replied one user to Landers’ post. “She may have a long road ahead of her, I hope our community can help her through this.”
“She is an amazing woman,” wrote another, recalling a time when she was pregnant and when Chen would do all of her heavy lifting. “She would run to my car so I wouldn’t have to carry anything. She met my kids once and remembers all of their names. I hope she has a speedy recovery.”
Finest One Cleaners is located at 8118 Third Avenue, and is still open for business.
Correction: This article has been updated to include the name of the driver. The headline has also been updated.