• 2008-04-12

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    Car pins man on steps of Manhattan courthouse

    BY SETH FIEGERMAN, ALISON GENDAR and DAVE GOLDINER
    DAILY NEWS WRITERS

    Updated Friday, April 11th 2008, 9:39 PM

    Rescue workers survey the damage at the scene where a car careened into the steps of Manhattan Supreme Court, pinning a pedestrian. Rescue workers survey the damage at the scene where a car careened into the steps of Manhattan Supreme Court, pinning a pedestrian. Hermann for Daily News.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The steps of a lower Manhattan courthouse - made famous in the TV show "Law & Order" - starred in a real-life drama Friday when an out-of-control car jumped the curb and barreled up the stairs.

     

    Careening wildly after its driver had a seizure, the runaway sedan clipped a coffee cart, raced across a sidewalk and hurtled up the steps of the century-old Supreme Court building, authorities said.

     

    One man was pinned beneath the car and others scattered out of its path.

     

    "There was a big impact and suddenly my stand was tumbling and I was tumbling in it," said coffee vendor Jaweed (Joe) Naseri, 26. "It was chaos and I thought I was done for, so I started praying."

     

    Naseri, an Afghan immigrant from Queens, suffered hot water burns and a broken nose. But he said, "I'm definitely a lucky guy," and vowed to come back to his location as soon as he can "for my regular customers - they're great."

     

    Cops arrested driver Lorenzo Bello and planned to charge him with felonies for driving with a revoked license.

     

    Bello, 33, of Queens, has a long history of traffic infractions, and his license was yanked for good last summer. His wife told cops he has a history of seizures and shouldn't be behind the wheel.

     

    The landmark, 100-foot-wide steps on Centre St. are familiar to millions of viewers from the "Law & Order" TV show. Robert Redford was filmed there in the movie "Legal Eagles."

     

    Cops said Bello had a seizure and lost control of the 1999 Nissan as he and his wife rode north on Centre St. near the famed steps just before 11 a.m.

     

    He hopped the curb and flattened a fire hydrant before sideswiping Naseri's cart, which was left dented.

     

    Hot dog seller Tony Poullos said he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the car heading straight for him. "It was like a time bomb," said Poullos, of Brooklyn. "I don't believe in luck but I feel blessed to be alive."

     

    The car pinned pedestrian Max Verline, 32, of Manhattan, against the ornate brass railing that runs up to the imposing court entranceway, framed by fluted Corinthian columns.

     

    Ashish Kapur was walking down the sidewalk when he "heard a boom."

     

    "I thought maybe there was an explosion," said Kapur, 26, of Jersey City. "I'm grateful to be alive."

     

    Just after buying a bagel with cream cheese, Gloria Atkinson heard the car roar up behind her - and jumped to safety.

    "I heard the rubber of the tires," said Atkinson, 39.

     

    Coincidentally, a pedestrian crossing Centre St. was struck by a taxi four hours later - right in front of the spot where the car jumped the curb.

     

    "It's one of those days," said Poullos, calling it "black Friday." "I can't wait for it to end."

     

    agendar@nydailynews.com

    With Kerry Burke, Mike Jaccarino and Ethan Rouen

     

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