A Bottle Scavenger by Choice Is Killed by a Hit-Run Driver
By MATHEW R. WARREN and AL BAKER
Published: April 8, 2009
In the mornings, Virginia Montalvo threw her 71-year-old body behind a shopping cart and thrust it out onto the streets of Woodhaven, Queens, where she filled it with the neighborhood’s emptied bottles and cans. At night, she did it again.
The New Yorkers who scavenge recyclables for the nickel deposit normally do not have much farther to fall, but those who knew Ms. Montalvo said she did not need the money. She was married, lived in a home owned by a daughter and had seven children with the means to support her.
Her reason was simple, said Esteban Cobos, 44, her son-in-law: “She went and did her collections to keep herself busy, so as not to be bored sitting at home.”
At 10:24 p.m. Monday, Ms. Montalvo was pushing a full cart across Jamaica Avenue just east of 98th Street when a van traveling east hit her, the police said. The van kept going; paramedics took Ms. Montalvo to Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.
Detectives interviewed several people who saw the accident, which left bags of bottles and cans strewn on Jamaica Avenue under the elevated tracks of the J and Z trains. Investigators believe the van might have been speeding, but they had not found any videotape from a nearby store showing the impact. The vehicle, possibly a dark blue or gray cargo van, had not been located as of Tuesday afternoon.
The police asked any other witnesses to call 1-800-577-TIPS.
In addition to her seven children Mr. Cobos said, Ms. Montalvo had at least 10 grandchildren. She came to the United States from Peru about six years ago, he said, and was thinking of traveling back there in June.
One of Ms. Montalvo’s shopping carts was chained outside her home on 96th Street, about two blocks from where she died. Mr. Cobos said that Ms. Montalvo’s husband sometimes went with her on her collections.
She would redeem her cans and bottles at neighborhood Key Food or C-Town supermarkets. It was not clear where she was headed when she was hit; she was by the C-Town but crossing to the other side of the Avenue.
A neighbor, Virginia Chavez, said Ms. Montalvo often visited the convenience store where Ms. Chavez’s husband worked and talked about Peru. “She was from my country,” Ms. Chavez said. “What a pity.”
Miguelina Ramos, owner of Miguelina’s Beauty Salon, a few doors down from Ms. Montalvo’s house, said, “I saw her every day, in the morning and at night,” she said. “She would pass with her cart. For her, it was a job.”
This makes me so very sad. She was keeping herself busy and cleaning up her community in the process. My heart goes out to Mrs. Montalvo's family.