[Marxism] An American tragedy

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jan 25 08:45:18 MST 2014


NY Times, Jan. 25 2014
Bicyclist Killed by a Bus Rose Above Usual Anonymity of Deliverymen in 
the City
By ANEMONA HARTOCOLLIS

Launch media viewer
Pedro Santiago, 45, was known as a gregarious deliveryman who made 
friends with customers, and sat and read Dostoyevsky and Cervantes in 
two languages during his downtime.

In life, he was another anonymous bicycle deliveryman who traveled the 
streets of New York City. To many pedestrians he was no more than a 
nuisance, and to his customers, never fast enough.

In death, he was still anonymous. The news reports identified him only 
as Pedro Santiago, 45, who was riding his bicycle around 1:30 a.m. 
Sunday, when he was struck and killed by a Metropolitan Transportation 
Authority bus on West 125th Street in Harlem. He was one of four people 
fatally struck by vehicles on the city’s streets last weekend, leading a 
spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio to declare an “urgent need to make 
our streets safer.”

Mr. Santiago was among the forgettable faces of the workers in the 
service economy, the person who facilitated the lifestyle that New 
Yorkers take for granted. They cook, they clean. They make it possible 
for children to grow up thinking that when the doorbell rings, it is 
time to eat.

“All of us kind of use them a lot,” said Henry Rinehart, the owner of 
Henry’s, a bistro at 105th Street and Broadway, where Mr. Santiago once 
worked, “but they completely fall below the radar of the human scale, 
and Pedro is a really good example of that — educated, smart, very 
thoughtful.”

To a close-knit network of waiters, dishwashers, deliverymen, street 
peddlers and restaurant managers up and down the Upper West Side of 
Manhattan, this was not just the anonymous death of an anonymous Pedro. 
He was the gregarious deliveryman who made friends with customers, who 
sat and read Dostoyevsky and Cervantes in two languages during his 
downtime, who sent money back to Mexico to support his family and who 
took classes at Columbia and Hofstra Universities, with the dream of 
becoming an engineer who would build bridges and roads.

“I think he liked serving food,” Mr. Rinehart said. “Henry’s has a lot 
of repeat customers. He was always very able to connect with people very 
quickly. He was everything you would want in an employee. Very punctual. 
Very thoughtful, very considerate of others.”

Even after Mr. Santiago moved on to another job — always trying to 
balance his schedule with his continuing education classes — he still 
went back to Henry’s often to say hello.

About nine years ago, Peter Soter, then the owner of Morningside 
Bookshop near Columbia University, noticed a pudgy, good-humored 
customer who came in every couple of weeks to order books in English and 
Spanish. “What are you going to do with these books?” Mr. Soter asked. 
“I’m going to read them,” Mr. Santiago replied. At the time, Mr. 
Santiago did not speak English well, but Mr. Soter was so impressed that 
he offered him a job, sweeping, delivering books, sometimes helping 
customers.

“After working for me for four years, he became like part of the 
family,” Mr. Soter said. “I trusted him with my kids. When I went on 
vacation, he fed my cats, watered my plants.”

Mr. Santiago, who had lived in the United States for about 17 years, had 
crossed the border from Mexico twice, spending frigid nights in the 
desert, according to his father, Serafin Pedro Santiago. Eventually, he 
got his high school equivalency diploma, friends said.

Over the years, he bussed tables for Columbia students and professors at 
the old West End bar and delivered cookies late at night for Insomnia 
Cookies, friends said.

The day after he died, Mr. Santiago was scheduled to start a new job as 
a runner — the person who brings the food to the table — at Amsterdam 
Restaurant and Tapas Lounge at 120th and Amsterdam Avenue, his friend 
Neftali Tapia, a restaurant counterman, said.

Mr. Santiago rode his bicycle everywhere, even when he was not working, 
stopping often to greet people he knew. It was like a part of him, Mr. 
Tapia said.

Mr. Santiago was traveling east on 125th Street toward Lenox Avenue on 
his way home to East Harlem, on the driver’s side, near the double 
yellow line, when he was hit by the Bx15, an articulated bus, at 1:26 
a.m., the police said; he passed the bus as it was pulling away from a 
stop, and “immediately pulled in front.” The police said the driver hit 
the brakes, but the bus hit Mr. Santiago’s rear tire, throwing him to 
the pavement, where he was run over. He was pronounced dead on arrival 
at Harlem Hospital Center. No one was charged or given a ticket.

Marisa Baldeo, a spokeswoman for the M.T.A., said Thursday that she 
could not provide details of the driver’s record because the accident 
was still under investigation.

Riding on the left side is the safest way to pass a bus, because the 
cyclist is more visible to the driver and less likely to be squeezed if 
the bus pulls toward the curb, according to Caroline Samponaro, a senior 
director at Transportation Alternatives, which advocates walking, 
bicycling and public transit as opposed to driving.

“I would do the same thing, to be visible,” she said. “Inevitably, you 
do have to pass buses at times.”

But the lack of a bike lane on 125th Street and the busy two-way 
traffic, even at night, make it dangerous, Ms. Samponaro said.

Mr. Rinehart, who worked as a bicycle messenger in his youth, said Mr. 
Santiago had always been concerned about safety. “When there was bad 
weather, he’d say, ‘I’m going to be a little slow,’ ” Mr. Rinehart said.

Friends are now trying to raise money to send Mr. Santiago’s body back 
to his family in Mexico, where he has parents, two daughters, a son and 
a grandchild, with another on the way. The Mexican consulate has 
promised $1,700.

His friends said Mr. Santiago’s family hoped the M.T.A., as a kindness, 
would pay to ship the body. But Ms. Baldeo said she could not comment on 
that.

“I was told that we couldn’t answer any questions about compensation 
because it’s still under investigation,” she said.





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