Landlords Joel and Aaron Israel were arrested Thursday on criminal charges for allegedly intentionally destroying apartments they own in Greenpoint and Bushwick and lying to the court about it, the Times and many other outlets reported yesterday. The brothers have been in the news for about two years after reportedly destroying kitchens, baths, gas lines and hot water heaters of longtime tenants at several buildings in Brooklyn to force them out and increase rents to market rate for newcomers.
The cases have been winding through housing court. Criminal charges in such cases are unusual — but then so are the alleged actions of the accused. (more…)
Instead of helping the small businesses she was supposed to boost, a former director of the North Flatbush BID allegedly stole $85,000 from them. Sharon Davidson was charged Monday with making unauthorized withdrawals over a period of three years from funds reserved for promoting 150 businesses in Prospect Heights and Park Slope, The New York Daily News reported. She pled not guilty.
“North Flatbush” refers to the street, not the neighborhood, by the way. We wonder how the situation is affecting the business owners there.
We read with great interest today that the city plans to install a system to automatically detect gunfire in certain high-crime areas. (We suspect ours is one!) “The NYPD plans to install 300 audio sensors in 10 Brooklyn precincts and seven in the Bronx with the highest numbers of shootings as part of the one-year pilot program,” said DNAinfo.
The system will automatically distinguish between gunshots, car backfire and, we presume, fireworks and automatically dispatch officers without a 911 call. We have read about these systems in other cities and we know they pick up a surprising amount of gunfire that goes totally unreported! Most important, they also have been proven to reduce shootings, said DNAinfo.
The photo above shows bullets we found in our walls and a pocket door while renovating and also on our stoop New Year’s Day.
What do you think of this plan? And could this possibly be a more effective and efficient way to reduce gun use without having to resort to stop and frisk?
Also, a note for our regular readers who may be wondering: No, we do not plan on having a “Question” post every single day. Maybe a couple times a week. Like we said, we’re trying a lot of new things, and we’ll see what flies. Appreciate your constructive feedback. Thanks.
For years it seemed the murder rate couldn’t go any lower, but it just kept on dropping and dropping. Now the City reports it’s up 20 percent since the beginning of the year, vs. the same period in 2014. New York Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton blamed pot dealers, DNAinfo reported.
Here are the stats, released at a press conference Monday: There have been 54 murders so far in 2015, vs. 45 during the same period last year. Murders involving drugs ticked up 15 percent so far this year. Of those murders, 60 percent were related to marijuana specifically. The head of detectives said most of the drug-related murders are not turf wars, but rather robberies.
Most of the violence took place in only five of the City’s 77 police precincts, including three in Brooklyn: the 67th, 63rd and 75th precincts — aka Flatbush, Flatlands and East New York.
Shootings were also up 20 percent, reported the Daily News. There have been 149 shootings so far this year, vs. 126 during the same period in 2014.
But, the paper continued, crime is down 11 percent in other categories, including rape, robbery, burglary, grand larceny and auto theft.
Do you think this means we’re going to see a serious rise in crime in Brooklyn, or is this just a one-time statistical fluke that will even out later this year? And what do you think of the marijuana explanation?
The Manhattan D.A. Tuesday announced it has arrested 50 in a sweeping sting for bribery connected to construction and housing in Brooklyn as well as elsewhere in the city. Those arrested included 16 employees of the Department of Buildings and Housing Preservation and Development, 22 property managers and owners (many in Brooklyn), six expediters, two contractors and one engineer.
“Our investigation revealed a widespread network of corruption in the construction industry and among the city workers charged with keeping that industry safe,” said Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark G. Peters in a prepared statement. “We found that these 16 City employees, including several senior supervisory staff, took bribes to clear code violations, including some that presented real safety threats. Today’s arrests shows that the city and law enforcement have zero tolerance for criminal conduct that undermines the city’s mandate to protect its citizens.”
Many of the schemes involved unregistered expediters who paid off the Chief of Development for Brooklyn construction, inspectors and other DOB employees to dismiss stop work orders and other violations and make sure their buildings under construction passed inspections. Over at HPD, property owners and managers paid off city employees to dismiss an astounding number of violations at many dozens of rental buildings in Bushwick, Williamsburg and Bed Stuy. In two separate cases, HPD inspectors were bribed to evict tenants from two buildings with two separate owners in Bushwick under false pretenses of a nonexistent HPD vacate order.
You can read all the details with the names of the charged here, although unfortunately the document does not list building addresses. Above, the Brooklyn Department of Building at 210 Jeroleman Street.
Do you think the arrests will go a long way toward routing out corruption in Brooklyn construction and housing? Or is this just the tip of the iceberg? Is bribery in the building trades in Brooklyn the norm or the exception?
We were shopping in Crown Heights Saturday afternoon when we heard about the two policemen shot in their patrol car at Myrtle and Tompkins. A Facebook friend was sitting in a car behind them when it happened, her toddler asleep in the back seat. It seems the police killing that took place in Bed Stuy could have a lasting effect on the city. How do you feel about what happened?
Lark Cafe at 1007 Church Avenue in Caton Park is the latest to be hit in what appear to be a string of six related armed robberies targeting eateries and their customers south of Prospect Park. Thursday night, a masked gunman stole laptops from a group of writers holding a meeting at the cafe, reported The New York Times. The story said:
And now fear and concern are rippling through the normally quiet neighborhood…because the robbery at Lark was but the latest in an unusual pattern: Armed robbers in hooded sweatshirts and masks are hitting local businesses, not just for the cash in the registers but for patrons’ belongings, too — their wallets, their computers, their jewelry. Despite low robbery numbers citywide, and a drop in robberies in the [70th Precinct], the holdups — as well as a fatal home invasion on Rugby Road last month — have shaken the confidence of this community that is usually safe.
Other businesses to be hit in recent weeks include Ox Cart Tavern, Stratford Deli and Mimi’s Hummus. We’re not sure what the other two businesses are, but locals already held a meeting with local Council Member Mathieu Eugene and police from the 70th precinct even before Lark was hit, as Ditmas Park Corner reported at the time.
Business owners told the Times the robbers might be targeting gentrifiers. “Worst-case scenario,” said one, “the robberies are a pushback against the new people in the neighborhood.”
That might be, but it also could be the case that the robbers feel these sit-down eateries are easy targets. The robberies are certainly brazen. We can’t recall anything quite like this, even in the 1970s. Do you?
Former District Leader Renee Collymore has organized an emergency town hall meeting with school principals, residents and business owners to discuss safety in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill after an incident last month when 20 or 30 “unsupervised students from local schools began a terrifying brawl outside a quiet coffee shop,” on Vanderbilt between Dekalb and Lafayette, according to a flyer we spotted in the neighborhood. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Council Member Laurie Cumbo are expected to attend.
Collymore witnessed the fight on October 9, and said police did not show up when called to break up an earlier fight on October 5, according to a story in DNAinfo. The meeting is set for Wednesday, November 19 from 6:30 to 8 pm at P.S. 20 at 225 Adelphi Street.
We debated whether to ignore or call out The Post’s story on crime in Bed Stuy and Bushwick, which reads like something written by an Internet troll circa 2008. It even has the requisite gentrifier who says “More people like me are moving in and changing the neighborhood. So that’s comforting.” Newsflash: Violent crime is less than half what it was in the early ’90s, thanks to the efforts of people who have been living here all along, including community boards and Neighborhood Watch groups.
Bed Stuy does have a problem with young black men shooting each other, and it’s horrifying and needs to stop — as people in the community recognize all too well. That’s entirely different from saying white gentrifiers will be preyed on by black bogeymen, which is the implication of the story — but not supported by facts.
“There has also been an uptick in burglaries and muggings targeting the gentrifiers who move in,” said the story, but it did not give any evidence to support that. Crime is down across the board. In the 81st Precinct, for example, which covers part of Bed Stuy, violent crime to date this year is down in every category, including burglary and felonious assault, except rape.
We hope violent crime will continue to decrease, including rape, for the sake of everyone who lives here, not just the newcomers.
Clean Society cleaners at 307 Grand Avenue has been shut down by court order. The spot has been a notorious hotbed of suspicious activity for years, as we wrote in April when the owner was shot (but not killed). At the time of the shooting, a tipster told us he saw DEA agents taking cash and drugs out of the storefront.
A week later, the police claimed the owner and a customer got into a “verbal altercation about clothes” and the shooting was not drug related, according to DNAinfo.
Now there are two signs on the door, as you can see in this photo a reader sent us today. One says “Closed by Court Order.” The other is a restraining order that specifically prohibits removing anything from the premises. It also says “The following activity is prohibited: use and occupancy.” And then it just says “marijuana.”
Quite a day on Grand Avenue. As we reported this morning, there was a shooting at the Clean Society Cleaners at the corner of Grand and Clifton Place yesterday and DEA agents were seen carrying money and drugs out of that location. Now we have received a tip that there are ambulances outside 417 Grand, between Gates and Putnam, after a drug raid happened in which officers were injured. A neighbor wrote in to say that it was a “siege (with) SWAT teams and everything.” Cops have cleared the street.
Looks like law enforcement is stepping up its game after all!
It’s been a rough spring on Grand Avenue in Clinton Hill. In mid-March, longtime Grand Avenue resident Gilbert Kelly was shot dead on one of the stoops where he often spent the night between Gates and Putnam. The police wire yesterday announced the arrest of a suspect in the March shooting, an 18-year-old kid who’d already been arrested and released last year.
And yesterday, according to emails we received from neighbors, there were several shots fired at the Clean Society cleaners up the street at the corner of Clifton Place, a longtime hotbed of suspicious activity. From what we gather, the owner was shot several times but not killed, escaping to the community garden next door. One tipster said he saw DEA agents taking cash and drugs out of the storefront.
We’ve been living on this stretch of Grand Avenue for almost a decade and have been hearing the excuses from law enforcement that entire time about how hard it is to crack down on the drug trade that is obviously at the root of much of the violence in this area. Like most residents, we suspect, we feel this has become a pretty tired line when everyone in the neighborhood knows the problem spots and has witnessed plenty of illegal activity themselves.
In the end, we don’t believe it is a question of whether the drug trade and the culture of violence around it can be stopped. It’s a matter of resources and political will. Back in 2009, former D.A. Joe Hynes teamed up with the Brooklyn North division of NYPD to put Operation Grand Slam into effect. (This followed a similar blitz in 2006.) They ended up arresting a couple of dozen people and indicting 11 but were not able to keep the pressure on, and new bad guys simply stepped in and filled the void. We need sustained pressure to adequately address this situation and we need it now.
We would humbly suggest that now would be a great time for new D.A. Thompson to put his head together with the new captain of the 88th Precinct, Peter Fiorillo, and clean this area up once and for all. Platitudes at community meetings aren’t getting the job done.