Volume 19 • Issue 7 | July 7-13, 2006

Local teen crime up in Tribeca, police and neighbors report

By Ronda Kaysen

Sharon Hershkowitz is frightened. She has been harassed inside her W. Broadway shop, Balloon Saloon, twice by a suspicious man. When the police came, they found a knife on him.

And a group of rowdy young adults has been harassing her and other shops on the block.

“I don’t know how to handle someone who’s belligerent, who’s nasty,” she said at a recent Community Board 1 meeting. “I don’t want to get stabbed. Nothing in my store is worth that much.”

Hershkowitz is not alone. The doggy treat dispenser outside Yvonne Fox’s Tribeca pet store, Dudley’s Paw, has been vandalized three times. Each time she fixes it, it’s destroyed again by the same group of young people. “They’re destructive,” she told board members at the Quality of Life Committee meeting on June 29. “There’s not very much money in it, but they destroy it anyway.”

The owner of a Greenwich St. restaurant has repeatedly had trouble with a group of young people loitering in front of and inside his business, harassing passersby.

“I seem to be right in the path of that group of kids,” he told Downtown Express recently. The owner said he feared retribution from the group and requested anonymity. “I seem to have been caught in the middle of that.”

The group frequents his restaurant, lingering outside without buying anything. Recently, he told them all they were not welcome anymore and they haven’t been back since.

Some residents and local police say the incidents are all related — that the same group of young adults has been harassing residents and local shopkeepers in recent years. Many of them live in the immediate area, residents say.

“They’ve been identified, we know who they are — the patrol officers have been informed of who they are,” Captain Keith Cunningham, executive officer of the First Precinct, said at the meeting. He said many of the suspects were identified by the narcotics division.

On May 29, the petty disturbances escalated when five people beat and robbed a teenager on Duane St. between Hudson and Greenwich Sts. Edward Gordon, a 19-year-old Duane St. resident whose birthday was on the day of the assault, was arrested on June 9 along with Joseph Begley, an 18-year-old Battery Park City resident and Reginald Greene, 20, a Smith Houses resident. Police said the investigation is still active.

Ken Dunn, an Independence Plaza North resident, worries the group will affect quality of life in the neighborhood. “They do what they want, they have no respect for themselves or the neighborhood,” he said at the meeting. “They’ve overrun the neighborhood. It’s not a good scene, it’s scary.”

The rough element near Greenwich and Duane Sts. is nothing new, say some longtime residents. But lately, it seems to have escalated and the Memorial Day weekend mugging has heightened local concerns. “We’ve always had an element on Greenwich St. with varying degrees of violence,” said board member Diane Lapson at the meeting. Lapson is also president of the I.P.N. tenants association. “It seems that they’re getting a little bit more brazen because they’re not being stopped.”

Tribeca is a rapidly growing neighborhood — two luxury residential towers are under construction on Greenwich between Warren and Chambers, two blocks south of where the mugging occurred. Some residents wonder if the neighborhood is in need of a larger police presence. “They keep telling people to move down here, but we’re not getting the infrastructure necessary to make it work,” Pat Moore, chairperson of the Quality of Life Committee, told Downtown Express.

Captain Cunningham said the First Precinct was recently given word that 19 new officers would be joining the precinct “We’re thrilled about that,” he said. The precinct would consider adding a beat cop to the area. “I don’t see why we can’t have someone assigned,” he said.

Some shopkeepers have begun to take the matter into their own hands. Hershkowitz of the Balloon Saloon said other shopkeepers on W. Broadway have had problems a large group of young people who enter the store en masse. The local shopkeepers created a phone tree to call one another if they see the group. “As a woman, I need help,” she said, describing her efforts to organize as “grass roots.”

Cunningham offered to hold a meeting with First Precinct officers and the shopkeepers to give them advice and tips.

Although three people have been indicted in the Memorial Day weekend mugging, if they are convicted of a crime, Cunningham doubts they will face much jail time. “Mostly, in a situation like that, they can plead out to a misdemeanor or a violation,” he said, and serve little or no jail time.

—With reporting by Albert Amateau


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