Family and friends mourn Marine Park cyclist who ‘just loved everyone’
Rob Sommer’s death came during a violent year for cyclists in Brooklyn.
Friends and family of Rob Sommer, the cyclist killed in a crash in Marine Park on May 12, gathered on Thursday at a wake to remember the man they called a “contagiously happy person” who “had a heart for everyone.”
Sommer, who was killed by a driver on Avenue U and East 33rd Street, was a neighborhood fixture according to friends, family and mourners who came to the Marine Park Funeral Home to commemorate the 30-year-old’s spirit.
Sommer’s death came during a violent year for cyclists in New York City. The 10 cyclist fatalities that have occurred so far in 2019 have already matched the total number of last year’s cyclist deaths. Half of those deaths took place in southern Brooklyn, and two more Brooklyn cyclists were killed in the days following Sommer’s death.
“So many people get killed by people driving,” said Sommer’s father, Robert Sommer Jr., a retired NYPD detective. “It’s a damn shame. If their kids got ran over, then they’d learn more.
“I lost my only son, I lost him for my life … I’m gonna see his clothes, I’m gonna be in his room, and I’m gonna cry a lot. You don’t let your kids die ahead of you, it’s not right,” Sommer Jr. said.
Sommer’s best friend from childhood, Karina McLoughlin, told the Eagle that Sommer “had just gotten a new job at a new deli. He was making more money, so he could take care of himself better and take care of his dad, and he was trying to get a job with the city. He was looking into being a crossing guard.
“His biggest thing was finding the right girl. He wanted to settle down, find a good wife — that was his newest focus,” she said.
According to those at the wake, Sommer was something of a local celebrity.
“If you didn’t know Rob Sommers, you weren’t from the neighborhood,” Sommer’s friend Brittney Lauriat told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“He would give anyone anything,” said Sommer’s father. “If he saw someone hungry, he’d feed them, give him money. He’d shovel snow for people; he didn’t want money for it. He took [money] from me and gave it to everyone else,” Sommer Jr. said.
Tom McNally, Sommer’s cousin who came to live with the family before Rob was born, said Sommer once wandered off from a block party on Avenue T where he lived, only to show up again with a stranger.
“One of the neighbors said ‘Oh Rob, who’s this?’ And Rob turned to the guy and said, ‘What’s your name again?’ So the neighbor said, ‘You don’t know your friend’s name? And Rob said, ‘Well, I met him down the street just now so I figured I’d tell him to come back because we had plenty to eat and drink.’ Who does that?”
Robert Farberov, who knew Sommer from around the neighborhood, was particularly affected by the way Sommer would interact with the local teenagers. “He always took time out of his day to say hi to us or help us out whenever we needed help fixing our bikes,” Farberov told the Eagle. “He was just a great guy who always put others before himself.”
In light of the sharp uptick in cyclist deaths, southern Brooklyn elected officials called for changes in driving habits among residents and in the DOT’s attitude to neighborhood streets. They want a more aggressive approach toward safe street infrastructure in an area that has not seen the same type of investments as others.
Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents a nearby district where a 3-year-old on a scooter was recently killed by a van driver, told the Eagle that “We need to make sure there’s a sustained effort to hold reckless drivers accountable.”
“We have to move beyond the antiquated, wrong mindset that these are just accidents,” he added. “They are preventable.”
“It seems like every day there is another story about a pedestrian or cyclist getting hit by a car in southern Brooklyn,” Councilmember Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, told the Eagle in a statement.
“I will continue to call on DOT to go back to the drawing board with some of our more dangerous corridors and nothing should be left off the table. Likewise, I urge my constituents to tell my office where they think traffic calming measures are needed since they are the ones who experience these dangers on a day to day basis.”
Councilmember Alan Maisel, who represents the district where Sommer was killed, did not respond to request for comment.
Dave Colon is a freelance reporter in New York City.
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