Thursday, September 17, 2009

Looking at "Fear in Alphabet City"

Matt Harvey's cover story this week in NYPress -- titled "Fear in Alphabet City" -- provides a more detailed account about the murder of Eric "Taz" Pagan on Avenue A this past Aug. 23. For instance, according to the article, Louis Rodriguez, the man police have charged with the murder, had been tossed out of Forbidden City by Pagan, a former bouncer there, earlier in the evening. (Someone from Rodriguez's East Harlem neighborhood describes him as "a cold-blooded fucking idiot.")

As the article points out, the shooting shouldn't have been a surprise: "Bullets are more common in the neighborhood than most people want to believe."

Craig Lopez, one of the first people who came upon the murder scene, has lived in the East Village since the early 1990s.

Back then the moniker for the 45-square-block area south of 14th Street and east of First Avenue sent shivers down middle-class spines, conjuring up images of drug zombies and muggers. During the last decade, the term fell into disuse as wealthy new arrivals arrived, along with college bars and bistros. When the term finally ceased to register any fear, the rich claimed the Alphabets for themselves. In its 2007 Best 'Hoods issue, Time Out awarded Alphabet City the dubious honor of being the "#1 Best Hood."

Here's more from Lopez:

Despite the turnaround, Lopez says he preferred the lonely streets and coke bodegas to the loud "frat boy" parties that have invaded his neighborhood. "On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, it's really bad," he says, before breaking into an almost-apologetic smile. "I prefer the old way. I felt safer."

Lopez's crack about frat boys, however, masks darker fears. "Was I concerned that someone got killed?" he asks rhetorically, then shrugs. "Yeah. But I can’t say I was really surprised. There are shootings around here all the time."

Other highlights from the article include an interview with Bob Arihood, who has chronicled the East Village longer than anyone.

Arihood paints a perfect storm of social, economic and political factors, which combine to insure that successive waves of incoming NYU students, and upper-middle class tenants, remain ignorant of how bad things are in the 'hood — thereby continuing to splurge on tuition and "million-dollar condos."



Mykola Dementiuk said...

In the late 80s I used to go to the East River Park and write in the park overlooking the river. The highway that skirted the park was like a protective shield from the dangerous Lower East Side. One day someone stabbed and killed a man right in the park. I never went back.


esquared™ said...

Yeah, I did feel safer walking around Alphabet City/The Village back then. Nowadays, when I'm around this neighborhood, I find myself hugging myself -- like I'm in fear, and looking for some sort of security blanket. Tried to explain this to the newbie transplants acquaintances, but they just don't get it.

Barbara L. Hanson said...

Back in '81, there was a dead body (well, it would be) stuffed in a trunk across the street for weeks. Everyone knew but the cops. My block was a heavy dealing one--and I felt safer then.

esquared™ said...

* and I'm not in fear of the increase number of shootings today; I'm in fear of the frat boys, the NYU kids, and the riches that have invaded the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Please shut up, Anonymous 10:28, and stop telling people how they feel.

A recent increase in EV gun violence or not, I still always assume that anything can happen. Yes, the neighborhood has grown more affluent and seems safe to the NYU crowd, but it's still NYC. Walking around late night drunk out of your mind, or obliviously texting or listening to music, is STUPID. I think if you grew up here, or spent a lot of time here in decades past, this attitude remains with you (at least at 4 a.m.) no matter how upscale a neighborhood becomes.

I indeed felt safer in my upper Avenue A building 10 years ago when the building had old ladies and yes, a drug dealer or two, because 1) people knew one another and 2) at least the drug dealers didn't prop open the front door all f*cking day while they hauled in their 32" flat screens and lacrosse equipment, unlike the rude, fratty dipshits I live with now.

Anonymous said...

yeah, i don't see how it was "safer" back then. actually - that is just a ludicrous comment. it was obviously NOT safer back is clearly becoming more and more safe and obviously quite safe for the past 7+ years.

you may have liked it better back then and today's EV may be different...but it is clearly safer now then it ever has been.

like people don't get mugged / shot / etc... elsewhere in this city?!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 11:09: "like people don't get mugged / shot / etc... elsewhere in this city?!"

What is your point?

And did you even read Matt Harvey's piece in the NYP? There has been confirmed gunfire all over the neighborhood as of late. It is NOT "clearly" becoming more safe. Just because no one has been shot up at Superdive (or that bars like Superdive even exist) doesn't make the neighborhood safe.

You said it yourself, "you don't see how it was 'safer' back then," so AGAIN, with all due respect, shut up and stop telling people what they feel, because you weren't here and you DON'T know.

Anonymous said...

It definitely wasn't safer back in the early 1990s for those of us who lived in buildings run by the drug dealers. Now I feel safer, but the quality of life has gone down due to the influx of bars and frat types. I feel like I'm in the middle of a college party.

Anonymous said...

Haven't you all heard of "safety in numbers"? You're much safer when traveling with large groups of people -- drunk or not.

prodigal son said...

A better way of putting it was that when you have a bunch of people in the neighborhood for along time, they know how each other will behave. Things become predictable. There is a belief that criminals just go around killing people randomly, which isn't true. You could stay out of the drug dealers way.

Now there is no predictability -you can't even walk down the street and know that someone won't veer into, or that you won't get hit by a red light running SUV or taxi. So things are less predictable and there is a feeeling that anything can happen.

However, violent crime is way down, apparently for demographic reasons. But alot of the hidden social structures that got the city through past problem eras have eroded. I'm not even sure that things will be OK if (when?) we have another blackout, since there has been so much churn in the population since 2002.

Jill said...

Anon 2:41 - safety in numbers is bullshit, unless you are all carrying guns. The only time I was ever attacked or robbed I was with 9 other people. The other 2 guys had guns. Guns trump a big group every time.

Don't fool yourself, the city has been a dangerous place this whole time, it's just more shiny so you feel safe, but that doesn't make it safe.

EV Grieve said...

I lived in a building that didn't have a front door for some time... Weird thing, no one was ever robbed.

Anonymous said...

What really threatens the safety of a neighborhood is the transient people, such as students, only here for limited quantities of time. The fiber of a community is built on families growing together knowing one another and caring about the neighborhood, together.
It is obvious that the NYU half wits do not care as they have no problem literally trashing the neighborhood.
I guess their helicopter parents were too busy giving them material goods to teach them about throwing away trash, sorting recycling and not throwing doggie waste on top of recycling .
And yes, it did feel safer- to all the mouths that don't believe it. Go away, you ruin neighborhoods, and are annoying.