After Tragic Death, BPC Resident Is Remembered for Her Many Passions

Flowers were placed at the corner of South End Avenue and Liberty Street, up the block from where Arlene Kalfus was struck and killed by a shuttle bus. Photo: Carl Glassman/Tribeca Trib 

Apr. 07, 2019

Arlene Kalfus is being remembered as a smart and energetic 81-year-old lover of travel and the arts who filled her days enriching both body and mind.

Kalfus, a resident of Gateway Plaza in Battery Park City, was killed Thursday evening, April 4, after being struck by a Downtown Connection bus operated by the Downtown Alliance. Police said Kalfus had just gotten off the bus before it hit her. (In a differing account, The Broadsheet quoted witnesses who said that Kalfus had just gotten off an M9 bus before being struck by the Connection bus.) She was pronounced dead at the scene, near 325 South End Ave., the building where she had lived for more than 30 years. The driver has not been charged and the incident continues to be under investigation, police said.

“This is an enormous tragedy,” the Alliance said in a statement on Friday. “Information is hard to come by right now and we are awaiting further information and details from the police department. As we do so, our thoughts are with those who were close to Ms. Kalfus.”

Claire Corcopio, who had known Kalfus for 15 years, described her as lovely, friendly,and very bright. Both women had participated in many of the activities of the Battery Park City Seniors group, including a book club, exercise classes, dinners and bus trips. “We were supposed to go to the museum tomorrow morning, Corcopio said after attending one of Kalfus’s regular activities, a Friday morning yoga class for seniors at Asphalt Green. But I don't think Im going to go.

I can't believe it, she added. Im shocked.

In a post to the Gateway Plaza Tenants Assn. Facebook page, Debra Dilorrio described Kalfus as “about 4 foot 10, and while she was a fragile physical presence, she was a Spitfire—alway out every day, whatever the weather.”

Dilorrio added, “She lived life with a passion until the very end.”

South End Avenue is a wide, five-block-long street between Liberty and West Thames that over the years has been the subject of three different plans to improve safety. A proposal presented in 2017 by consultants for the Battery Park City Authority was approved by Community Board 1 last year. (Information on those proposals can be found here and here.) A “detailed design” for the improvements are expected during the last half of this year, with construction expected next year, the Authority said in a statement.

“We need to make this a rallying cry,” Tammy Meltzer, chair of CB1’s Battery Park City Committee, said of the Kalfus tragedy. Meltzer said the city’s Department of Transportation should already have carried out some of the recommendations, such as a traffic light at Rector Place and the relocating of a Citi Bike station near Gateway Plaza.

“One of the reasons people don’t like crossing at the crosswalks there is that you get run over by people who have gotten their Citi Bikes,” she said. “Maybe Arlene would have walked to the corner and crossed, maybe not. But no one likes crossing there because of the Citi Bike station.”

“The whole goal for the renovation of South End Avenue is to protect the most vulnerable,” Meltzer added. “And to put traffic calming measures in to create a safer environment for everyone.

A DOT spokesperson has not reponded to a request for comment.


'Uninformed speculation' needed balanced commentary

Most of us react to tragedies like the death of Gateway Plaza resident Arlene Kalfus, who was run over on South End Avenue by a Downtown Connection bus last week, with expressions of sorrow and, perhaps, resolve to alleviate the conditions that contributed to that deadly incident. Unfortunately, one resident chose to use Kalfus's death to vent about a nearby bike-share dock that, from all accounts, had nothing to do with the fatal crash. It's unfortunate that you chose to amplify the resident's uninformed speculaton by quoting her in full. Couldn't you have at least balanced her personal gripe with informed commentary from a downtown safe-streets advocate? Or, better yet, kept it out of the article altogether?

Charles Komanoff, Duane Street

Don't blame bike sharing for the death

I’m more than a little perturbed that the Tribeca Trib found a way to blame Citi Bike for the killing of a woman, when, in fact, she was killed by a bus driver on a poorly designed, virtually unenforced double- and triple-parking zone in Battery Park City. Reminder: Car and truck drivers killed every single one of the 200-plus people killed on NYC roadways last year. Not a single person was killed by a cyclist, let alone a Citi Bike rider. The bike-share system has enormous positives for the city — pollution-free transit; a constituency for more bike lanes, which make roadways safer for all users; and, of course, an alternative to crowded subways. If the Trib wants to report on the system’s flaws, fine. But blaming a bike-rental system in a story about the killing of a woman by a bus driver seemed to be the wrong way to do it.

Gersh Kuntzman, editor, Streetsblog