Revel Without A Cause


Revel Scooters – Carroll Gardens

As the Corona virus pandemic slowly receded out of the collective consciousness of Gotham’s citizens, lots of issues that were put on the back burner were starting to rear their ugly heads again. The Presidential race, New York City and States fiscal issues, rising crime, the decrease in the city’s population, and more resignations from Mayor De Blasio’s staff were regular headlines in the paper and one would be hard-pressed to find any good news among the varying topics vying for front-page notoriety. In the midst of all of this was a story that seemingly came out of nowhere but was bubbling under the surface for quite some time, as it was intertwined with the ongoing FHV saga.

On the afternoon of July 18th, WCBS-TV reporter Nina Kapur was riding as a passenger on a Revel scooter that was traveling north on Franklin Ave in Greenpoint. A driver exited a parking space in front of the scooter as it swerved to avoid the car and ended up on it’s side. Both her and the still-unidentified driver were thrown onto the street and although she was taken to Bellevue Hospital, she later died from her injuries.

The level of outpouring was intense as several of her on-air colleagues wrote tearful remembrances on social media, for the 26 year-old that only recently joined the station as a reporter. Longtime Anchor Dana Tyler choked up on that Monday’s evening newscast as she reported of her passing and a memorial quickly sprung up at the site, with pink “N” and “K” balloons marking the intersection’s location. Many were touched at someone who was a rising star at the station and had a tireless work ethic, but it was shocking given how quite the city still was overall during the second half of this year. Although traffic counts in the city have been lower due to the pandemic, CitiBike and Revel usage had still been robust as the systems were still expanding outwards across the Boroughs.

From here on out, that probably won’t be true for the latter as the motorized service was temporarily banned by the city not too long after Kapur’s passing. There were other notable accidents around the time of it and videos were popping up on social media showing drivers joyriding in them and using the service in a reckless manner. Though helmets were in the back of every Revel scooter, neither Kapur nor the person driving it last month were wearing one at the time of the accident.

Ask any cabdriver whether he or she likes the proliferation of two-wheeled transportation as  a way to get around New York and most of the answers will probably involve some grumbling or a four-letter word. Bicycles were around long before horseless carriages were in New York and they will probably be around long after there are flying cars in the air or motorized vehicles are banned outright. In the meantime, the bike lanes will be expanded and various companies will seek to cash in by having their products on the streets of Gotham, or by sponsoring whichever form of transportation is approved for those looking to rent their way from Point A to Point B. Regardless of what wins out, some changes will have to be made in the meantime.

While it’s not agreed upon by everyone, licenses, license plates, and a form of insurance in the user agreement would make for a much more safer, and accountable, bicycle and motorized scooter system. Those would be a big step from what’s currently in place, but having those regulations in place would improve usage, safety, and make collisions and accidents easier to process should a police report be filed. I’ve told my passengers for years that I don’t mind the bikes, skaters, and such as much as I mind the people riding them and some of their blatant disregard for traffic rules. Had a cabdriver been responsible for the death of a passenger, it’s not likely that he or she would be back out on the streets in a matter of days, or would be unidentified in media reports. Yes, driving a bigger vehicle involves more responsibility but passengers in any form of transportation need to be protected as much as possible by ensuring that those at the helm understand that it’s a privilege, and not a right, to be taking others around New York.

The other end of the story is how easily the city lets in a service that puts profits and exposure ahead of the well-being of the users. I don’t need to remind anyone how much Uber has done a number on us but it is worth noting that passengers in the back of their vehicles are much more likely to get in accidents or be assault victims at the hands of the driver, than by someone operating a yellow cab. Exposés done on Revel in the days after Kapur’s death revealed that the scooters were not properly maintained and that their approval process to operate could have been a lot more thorough. Having something that reaches 30 m.p.h. (5 m.p.h. above the citywide speed limit) and could be potentially operated by someone under the influence without a seat belt or helmet on was ultimately going to end up with an accident that was entirely preventable from the get-go.

That’s not to say that collisions don’t happen at all. Yes, the Vision Zero goals are laudable and worth striving for and yes, motorized vehicles kill more people than bikes or scooters but that doesn’t mean that one form of transportation should be held more liable than the other. Revels were not allowed to use bike lanes, highways, or crossings between Boroughs but the result of that was having many on streets without proper separated lanes or commercial traffic that used the same lanes as passenger vehicles. While many streets continued to be reconfigured for bikes, buses, or pedestrians exclusively, recent events such as Nina’s indicate that more work needs to be done if various forms of transportation are going to sharing lessening and reconfigured street space in the coming years.

Recent reports have hinted that the city’s traffic may be back at pre-Covid levels, or even above it, in the very near future. Although tens of thousands have chosen to work at home or have left the city outright, many of those who remain in Gotham have expressed a reluctance to take mass transit out of fear of catching the virus. Should that come to fruition, single-use of automobiles will only add to the gridlock and pollution that characterized traffic in New York at the height of the last bull run. If the streets become close to capacity again, look for more tragic accidents to happen, regardless of the form of transportation chosen, adherence to the rules, or operational reforms by those looking for cheaper and more mobile ways to get around town. After failing to rein in the explosive growth of new services in recent years, it would be the ultimate disservice to Nina to repeat the same mistakes the next time around.

Nina Kapur Memorial – Greenpoint



52 Street

A record from another time

Once upon a time, I had two parents. Both living, both married to each other, and both raising me. I can’t recall a whole lot from those days but they had steady jobs, a good disposition, and taste in music. Lots of it. Even though I went to bed early at night and never went out much of anywhere with them, I was lucky enough to listen in on what was spinning at 33 1/3 rpm Not too long after I graduated from a diet of 70 jars of baby food a week, I moved on to such staples as Frank Sinatra’s Greatest Hits, Endless Summer by the Beach Boys, The Village People’s Macho Men, and of course, The Piano Man’s classic, 52nd Street.

Granted, these weren’t 8-tracks blaring out hard rock or disco but rather, these were on vinyl and the largesse came not in the component that held the music, but in that which played it. We had the most beautiful wood-paneled stereo system that the 70’s could crank out and every time it came on, it let you know that nothing else in the room mattered. I could never see the record spinning away in a halcyon state since I was short but I’ll never forget the album covers or the light that shone against the dots on the side of the revolving turntable. No, I never made it to Studio 54 in it’s heyday but I was lucky enough to have the next best thing at home, along with the most ideal family living situation in my 30something years that I’ve been alive.

Flash forward to the holidays in 2011, long after giant stereo systems were replaced with mp3’s and life turned into an existence between an unstable living and ad-hoc employment situation. Much as records needed to be played faster when shrunken down, so was the case with my day-to-day existence. As the city became smaller and more familiar to me, so the days and pace quickened, to the point where 40+ fares in a 12-hour shift could be pulled out of my back pocket. I had a whole string of these in December until a seemingly innocuous fare turn the most unexpected of turns.

It began, like so much else at the end of the year, in Times Square. A waitress heading home after work slammed the door of the cab in front of me and walked toward my Taxi. This meant that I was going to be making a run to an outer Borough, which I had yet to refuse in nearly 5 months on the job.

“How ya doing? I saw that Taxi reject you up at the light.”

“Such an a-hole! I’m going home to the Bronx. Right off the Deegan and you can take the Madison Ave. Bridge to get up that way.”

“Sure thing. There shouldn’t be much of any traffic since it’s late and all the work is over on the Wills Ave. Bridge. How’d your night go?”

“Pretty good. Work was busy and the tourists were good to me. How about you?”

“Just the usual holiday rush. Lots of Europeans in my cab tonight, especially Italians. Must be a good exchange rate right now.”

So off we went, crosstown until we got to Madison Ave. where I made the left to start the long journey up to the Bridge. Hardly a soul could be seen until another Taxi pulled up next to me. We rode in near tandem for a few blocks and at 52 Street, we were even at the red light. When it turned green, we were just about to go through when a cab crossed the intersection through the red light, hauntingly.




Still nothing. I was quite scared as both the cab next to me and I laid on our horns, to no avail. The Prius that ran the light did so quietly and ominously and both of us went through the light after him.


And then a scream…

I threw my car into park and ran out, and so did two other drivers. All of us rounded the corner and halfway down 52 Street towards Park Ave when we saw the cab up against the curb, with the driver unconscious and hunched over the steering wheel, and the fire hydrant that he crashed against knocked over and on the sidewalk.

“Holy shit, just as I thought.”

“I’ll call for help.”

“Let me see if I can flag a cop down. I still can’t believe he went through the light like that.”

I ran back to tell my passenger what happened and looked for an officer heading uptown, but to no avail. 30 seconds later, I called 911 as a secondary precaution.


“Yeah, I’m on Madison and 52. Someone in a cab went through a red light and he’s out now.”

“Is he breathing?”

“I don’t think so. Looks like he had a heart attack or stroke. We can’t get in the car either.”

“I’ll call for help. You were on Madison and 57th?”

“No, 52nd. 5-2. He’s on East 52 between Madison and Park now, up against the curb. I don’t think there were any passengers in the vehicle at the time.”

After giving my name, profession, and number, I hung up and ran back to the car. By now, the Police were there and because the doors were locked, the nightstick came out. I could hear the whaps as I ran back to my Taxi.

“I’m sorry for the delay, but I had make sure help was coming. You don’t have to leave since I’ll take you home now and I’m going to turn the meter off early for the time which we sat here.”

“Thank you so much. You did the right thing in calling for help.”

“I had no choice, we’re not allowed to touch others so I had to stay hands off.”

“I understand.”

“I can’t believe out of all the intersections in the city at this hour, he rolled right in front of us. That would have been awful if it happened during the day.”

“I know! At least the help arrived.”

Neither of us spoke as we made our way uptown, over the Harlem River, and eventually onto West Kingsbridge Road. I was white as a ghost the entire right, thinking I had watched someone die in front of me for the first time in my life. As soon as I dropped her off, I flew back down the FDR and made my way back over to the accident scene, parking on Madison Ave. By that time, the car was being loaded onto a flatbed to be towed away, with the street blocked off with yellow Police tape.

“Officer, I was here 45 minutes ago when this happened and I saw the driver out over the steering wheel. Is he alright?”

“Yeah, he had a massive heart attack but the paramedics revived him. He’s in the Hospital now and should recover.”

“Oh my God, that’s great to hear. Thanks for the information.”

“No problem.”

I don’t recall much else from the rest of the night, except for the usual assortment of financial workers, bartenders, and nightcrawlers making their way into my cab for the ride home. I didn’t have to go up Madison Ave until my next shift, but it was never quite the same when I crossed the intersection that the wayward cab crawled through that fateful night. I took the medallion number down and passed it on to the guys at the garage, but they weren’t aware of who the owner or leasing agent was. Inquiries into various print and online news agencies turned up nothing either, but that certainly would not have been the case had the driver passed on.

Years from now, the memories will pass on. Much like the 21 Club or Toots Shor’s, the scene will only stand out for those who were there to witness it for themselves. The location will still exist for any witness who wishes to walk through and think about what took place there, but the pace of life will become so quick that it will be hard to do so; while stepping away from a world that will be incrementally faster than today’s. I don’t know if the Prius, the mp3, the Christmas of 2011, or even the notion of hauling passengers around in yellow vehicles will be outdated in 20 or 30 years, but I do know that some things in life stick with you no matter the pace or scale of change.

Especially the one that took place on 52 Street.

The hydrant, a week later