Joshua Jongsma, Staff Writer; Published 6:07 p.m. ET Nov. 21, 2017; Updated 4:02 p.m. ET Nov. 22, 2017
The parents of a New Milford man killed in the New York City terrorist attack on Halloween intend to sue the city and multiple departments citing an unsafe environment that contributed to the attack.
Darren Drake, 32, was one of eight people killed on Oct. 31, when authorities say Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old Uzbekistan immigrant from Paterson, sped down a bike path in lower Manhattan in a truck he rented from The Home Depot. He allegedly knocked down pedestrians and cyclists, including Drake, before ramming a school bus.
Also Tuesday, Saipov was charged in Manhattan federal court with providing material support to the Islamic State group, along with eight counts of murder and 12 counts of attempted murder in aid of racketeering. Numerous counts carry a potential penalty of death.
Drake’s parents, James and Barbara, are seeking monetary damages from the City of New York and its Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Transportation, and the Hudson River Park Trust.
According to the notice to sue issued Tuesday by attorney Rosemarie Arnold, representing the Drake family, the agencies being sued were “grossly negligent” in the operation of the bike path.
Officials responsible for the path did not recognize vehicles had “easy access” to the path and did not install barriers that could have blocked entry, according to the intent to sue document.
“All of the above entities were instrumental in creating and constructing the bike path, which should have been free and clear of vehicular traffic,” Arnold stated in an email to NorthJersey.com. “All of the above mentioned entities were aware that vehicles regularly either mistakenly or purposefully used the bike path but did nothing to curtail that problem. The terrorist, who did a test run of his terror mission, knew in advance that he would have unfettered access to the plaintiff and other victims.”
Messages left for the New York City Comptroller’s Office, which handles claims for and against the city, were not immediately returned.
A 2003 graduate of New Milford High School, Drake lived most of his life in the borough. He was pursuing a second master’s degree in technology management from Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, and was a program manager for Moody’s Analytics at the World Trade Center.
“Darren was a highly educated, well-loved, successful 32-year-old man who was a happy, positive person who used biking as a means to stay healthy in mind and body,” Arnold stated. “His parents are heartbroken, especially since this terrible tragedy was completely preventable.”
A message left for James Drake on Tuesday night was not returned.
Darren Drake rode his bike on the lower Manhattan path every day to stay slim, Arnold said. On the morning of the attack he spoke to his mother and was distressed because he was too busy at work to take his ride that day, Arnold continued. However, one of his appointments canceled and he was able to ride his bike for an hour — the same time as the attack.
Barriers were credited with preventing more fatalities and injuries when a car plowed into pedestrians in Times Square in May.
The New York State Department of Transportation recommends bollards for paths shared by cyclists and pedestrians
“Unauthorized motor vehicles are banned from bicycle or shared-use paths,” the state’s design guide says. “Barriers should be provided.”
However, the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials calls them “ineffective” and says they may hinder access by emergency vehicles and cause serious injuries to cyclists who strike them.