Last night in Fort Greene, on the patch of sidewalk where Victoria Nicodemus, 30, was killed by an unlicensed driver earlier this month, a public vigil was held in her honor. Nicodemus’s family members, along with council member Laurie Combo, advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, and Indiewalls, where Nicodemus worked as an art curator, organized the gathering. Relatives and elected officials sternly called for tougher penalties for reckless driving—Marlon Sewell, who drove the vehicle, was charged with two misdemeanors and released without bail—and for the Brooklyn DA to more aggressively prosecute Sewell. Indiewalls unveiled an installation that calls for safer streets, where Sewell’s SUV careened onto the sidewalk and hit Nicodemus.
A sizable crowd stood close together outside of Habana to Go last night, where a memorial for Nicodemus comprising flowers and candles has stood since the day after her death. “Victoria was many things: brilliant and creative, caring, and compassionate, but most of all, Victoria was loved,” said Hank Miller, Nicodemus’s brother, speaking to attendees. “And we stand under this mural and we’re very thankful for Brooklyn; Brooklyn, we’re feeling loved, thank you.” Miller referenced the very large phrase painted on the building above Habana to Go and Not Ray’s Pizza that reads “Spread Love, It’s the Brooklyn Way”.
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, in attendance with Public Advocate Letitia James and assembly member Walter Mosley, said, “This is a situation that should have never happened, and all the red flags that one could possibly need were visible,” DNAinfo reports. In addition to Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan, which makes the failure to yield to pedestrians in sidewalks a criminal offense, officials said there should be much tougher consequences for drivers, like Sewell, who were unlicensed, as well as for those whose licenses have been revoked or suspended.
Artist Mark Samsonovich, in collaboration with Indiewalls, created the installation that now stands prominently at the corner of the collision. It is called “Safe City” and is part safety barrier, part art. There is a double-sided board with Samsonovich’s illustration of an owl supporting a sleeping woman on one side, block letters that read “Safe City” on the other, and ropes connected to traffic cones, that serve as a reminder to pedestrians and street traffic to keep vigilant. Other attendees held signs that read, “We need safer streets” and “We want Vision Zero.”
Nicodemus’s brother Peter said this situation is exactly the kind of thing that would not have sat well with Nicodemus, and that she would often say, “It’s not OK,” DNAinfo reports. He added, “It’s not OK that the sidewalks are not a sacred space.”