Man killed in Harlem hit and run was a mystery to his neighbors

Arnold Slater lived at 171 Thompson St. and kept two cats, but neighbors knew little else about him. Photo by Tequila Minsky

BY TEQUILA MINSKY  |  Village resident Arnold Slater, 75, was hit by a northbound car while crossing Broadway at 114th St. just before midnight on Friday evening. In an apparent hit and run, a black Honda Civic drove off before police arrived. Slater died shortly after being hit.

Slater, who lived at 171 Thompson St., a half block north of Houston St., was a quiet man who kept to himself.

Sara Jones, a resident of the building for 30 years, said Slater had lived there ever since she’s been there but that she had only encountered him a few times in the past decades. Andrew Pingle, Slater’s next-door neighbor of more than 10 years, said he knew nothing about him. A resident on the same floor who is a more recent arrival, said he, too, really didn’t know anything about his neighbor Slater.

The observation was the same from other longtime residents, with their comments ranging from, “I’ve never spoken to him” to “I’ve seen him only a few times.”

“He kept to himself,” everyone in the building said, with most of them concluding by saying, “I know nothing about him.”

“He was quiet, he held his head down,” said a neighbor who lives on the same floor, who also thought Slater seemed disoriented or distracted the last couple of encounters they had.

The building’s superintendent, Edmond Portelli, who lives next door in 175 Thompson St., where he is also the super, probably had the most contact with him.

“He seemed intelligent and he always seemed busy, but I don’t know with what,” Portelli said.

John Deglialberti, who lives one floor below, knew Slater had at least two cats. Following news of Slater’s death, he spent hours trying to find a way to get into the apartment to rescue the cats. His calls to 311 didn’t were unsuccessful in getting a response.

When Deglialberti called 911 about the cats, he was informed that the situation wasn’t an emergency.  When he called Animal Care & Control, he got stuck in the menu system. A call to the 26th Precinct where the accident occurred referred him back to the Sixth Precinct, where those who answered said they couldn’t do anything. The 26th Precinct also tried calling an emergency animal line that just rang and rang.

Deputy Inspector Brandon del Pozo, the Sixth Precinct commanding officer, said police would assist in gaining access to the apartment, if needed, as long as someone was there to take in the cats, and — if the lock needed to be drilled out — a locksmith was there to secure the door.

However, by Tuesday afternoon, the super had managed to get into Slater’s apartment — but he didn’t spot the felines.

“They’re scared and might be hiding,” Portelli said. Food and water were left for the cats.

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15 Responses to Man killed in Harlem hit and run was a mystery to his neighbors

  1. Mary Baldridge

    Arnold Slater was a friend of mine and for many years a member of the Playwrights Lab at the Neighborhood Playhouse (E. 54th between 1st and 2nd Avenues). The end of last year, I discontinued the Lab. However, a number of its members, including Arnold, continued to meet regularly. Arnold was erudite, well educated, and an informed asset to the group. This past spring, he was part of the last public presentation of the Lab with a wonderfully witty one-act that was a real success. It is my understanding that one of his friends and fellow playwright was able to rescue his cat, with the assistance of the police, the older one having recently died. We, current and past member playwrights and his friends, are shocked and immensely saddened by his sudden death and we already miss him.

  2. Suzanne Mernyk

    I knew Arnold as a fellow playwrigh, and member of the Playwright's Roundtable.
    Isn't it ironic that his neighbors knew so little about him while his friends spanned the globe?
    For those who took the time to learn about him, they were indeed impressed by his intellect and creative insights. More touching was the generosity of his heart and his actions for those he cared about. RIP, dear Arnold.

  3. Michael Simon Hall

    I was a friend and colleague of Arnold's for many years, also via the above mentioned groups. Arnold tended to have a quiet demeanor unless enaged in intelligent cultural discourse. He had a rich understanding of european history and would provide important context for our group discussions regarding the development of a new play. I have been thinking in this past week, who now will be able to provide us these insights? In addition to the work that was presented at the Neighborhood Playhouse, he translated a French play which was produced at 59E59th. Arnold had a unique, sophisticated, brechtian sort of humor, which I savored on many occasions. He had a special affinity for the Upper West Side, where he had lived before moving downtown, and hence he spent much time there, often dining with friends late into the evening. Arnold had a quiet kindness. He will be very missed and not forgotten.

    • Marilyn Salisbury

      Beautifully stated, Michael. Arnold would approve (I'm pretty certain).

    • I only knew Arnold for a couple of years as a member of the Playwright's Circle. And having read what my fellow members have said, I couldn't agree more. Instead of repeating what they said, I will share some moments we spent together the last time I was with him. We had gone to see the Bob Marley film which he didn't enjoy that much, though he liked his music. We rode on a bicycle taxi in the east end which he thoroughly enjoyed especially when we were almost hit by a car and we ate often at his favorite Thai restaurant on Amsterdam Ave. Arnold was insightful and could articulate very quickly problems in plays that were being discussed within The Playwright's circle. I especially respected and treasured the comments he made about my plays. It is hard for me to realize that he will no longer be present to discuss things with. I will miss him dearly.
      My hope is that we at the Playwright's Circle may be able to put together a collection of his writings. Maybe the people in his building who didn't know him, may get a glimmer of who he was.

  4. Wanted to let it be know that indeed we have secured Arnold's cat who is safe and sound and in a friend's home (Doug) being well cared for. We and Arnold's beloved cat will miss him.

    Arnold was a real New Yorker, urbane, spoke multiple languages, friendly and with a sharp sense of humor and wit. Active in business and the arts, a graduate of Columbia, he was very interested ideas, politics, human nature and had a great curiosity. Well read and engaging, Arnold had spent some time in the Army when he was much younger (signal intelligence I think), worked at D&B for years then moved into working on economic development projects with my company for another 10+ years.

    A real play and movie buff, always willing and eager to share his perspective, whether it was popular or not. Arnold loved to travel, be it in Europe, Montreal, or California and was eager for the next experience. We'll miss his spirit, knowledge, wit and dry humor and hope that he's having a nice meal and engaging discussion while working on a new script. "Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest ".

    • Doug,
      You have said this beautifully. I saw Arnold so seldom but miss him already. (Arnold's linguistic ability and the breadth of his knowledge were amazing!)
      Barbara (Walker)

  5. Well, yes, I am pretty sure that when I write that there has never been anyone quite like Arnold, I am not exaggerating. I think he was brilliant, FUNNY, and very caring. He was a good perceiver of human folly and behavior. Which, in my mind, is one of the main qualities that made him a very good writer.

    One day, after I had had brunch with him, and we went to attend a theatre project we were both involved in, he told me that I was taking everything to personally that day. And you know he was Right! And I was able to tell him, as I had many times before, about what was going on in my life that was making me so reactive to every little thing. As usual, he could call me on my "stuff", not in a mean way at all, but in a way that was calm and interested.

    He also was persistent, and I believe that, not in an obvious way, that he had enormous courage. His life was NOT an easy one, but he made the most of it.

    Because of these qualities, and many others, he was a unique friend, and I admired him enormously and I shall miss him more than my heart and words could possibly express.

  6. To Arnold Slater's friends and loved ones:

    I was a witness to the tragic hit and run accident that took Arnold's life and wanted to relay my deepest condolences to all who cared for him. Please know that Arnold was not alone in his final moments. As soon as he was struck, many strangers rushed into the street to see how they could help and make sure that oncoming traffic was diverted. A passing cab followed the car that struck Arnold and was able to provide the license plate number to police, as well as a description of the car's occupants. People did what they could for this man whom they only knew as a fellow New Yorker.
    I have enjoyed learning a little more about Arnold through his friends' tributes. He sounds like a witty and very interesting person and I am so sorry that his life was taken so unfairly. I hope it provides some comfort to know that people cared and reacted quickly to reach out to a person in distress. The overwhelming humanity evident at the scene made me, once again, proud to be a New Yorker. I'm sure Arnold is in a better place, may he rest in peace.

    • Thank you, Joanna for your post. It eases my heart and mind to know he was surrounded by care and concern for justice. We all hope the driver will be made accountable for this terrible deed. Meanwhile, I still try to come to terms with his loss.

    • Thank you Joanna. I can only repeat what Suzanne has said. I'm a part time New Yorker and the actions of the people caring for Arnold in those last minutes is reason I keep coming back to New York. Angelina

    • This is good to know, Joanna. It makes everyone feel a little bit better, despite the horrific event. Thank you so much, MHB

  7. Michael Simon Hall

    Thank you Joanna. I had heard rumours that this was the case. It’s very consoling and heartening to know it was indeed true. Michael

  8. Anybody have an update on the case? I hope the police is still investigating. It's been about three weeks at this point!

  9. I worked with Arnold at D&B Int'l 25 years ago and we have remained friends ever since. Arnold was a true cosmopolitan and accomplished speaker of at least five languages who possessed a remarkably deep intellectual understanding of European cultures and politics. His company and friendship was a pleasure as much as it was educational which I very much valued and enjoyed over the many years. Rest in peace my friend!

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