Photos and story by Stacie Joy
On Sunday night around 11:15, a 39-year-old man from the Bronx was shot and killed on Third Street and Avenue D.
In the wake of another murder in a well-known location for drug sales, I talked with four residents who live nearby.
Everyone I spoke with reported being intimidated and fearful. Most called for increased surveillance and NYPD presence, although the residents also felt that the police were not inclined to assist them.
I walked the area where the shooting happened approximately 12 hours later. Aside from some leftover crime-scene tape, you wouldn't have known a deadly shooting took place.
These four residents live in buildings close to the shooting:
• “CR,” a single, older man who has lived on Third Street near Avenue D for five years.
• “G,” a male professor who has lived on Third Street near Avenue D for eight years.
• “G7,” a female musician who has lived on Third Street between Avenue C and Avenue D for 32 years.
• “CT,” a married woman with children who described herself as somewhat active in the community and lived on Third Street between Avenue C and Avenue D for 15 years.
What are your experiences on the block? What has changed since you moved in?
CR: I have come to know many of my neighbors and have loved living on the block. I like the colorful nature of the block…not much of that left in Manhattan. The prevalence of drug dealing and crazy drug abuse has been increasing steadily.
The dealers feel that they can carry out their dirty business with impunity, and they seem to be correct about that. One of them does most of his dealing in front of a security camera. Perhaps he has paid the landlord to shut it off? As far as I understand, the police would rather let this go on unabated rather than spend hours doing the paperwork.
G: This block has gone from lively and occasionally raucous to utterly drug-infested. Drug addicts and other troubled people were always around and often hanging out on the corners. But about two years ago, a drug dealer ... set up shop in front of the laundromat at 324 E. Third St. He and his crew holler up and down Third Street starting in the early morning and intermittently throughout the day. Most days, I’m woken up by their shouting. They love to announce their presence — it’s an intimidation tactic that says, Yeah, I’m here; I dare you. I never hear the addicts’ voices. They rush off in the daytime, though at night, they linger to do their drugs and leave their empties.
G7: When I first moved here, there was some drug action close by and the needle exchange was around the corner. But I never feared for my safety like I do now. I’m a recovering addict who ran these streets in the late ’70s when the area was a bustling heroin market. We didn’t experience the amount of gun violence that we are seeing today.
We need to get guns off the streets! Should drugs be legalized? Perhaps. That may save lives and permit people to make an honest living. We are always going to have drug dealers and addicts, unfortunately.
CT: When we [arrived], the block was a very mixed community in the best sense. We loved Ryan Nena, Henry Street Settlement, all of the churches, plus some new development that was already in the works. It was a spirited community.
Fast-forward to the present, and it feels very scary. My kids have a degree of independence now, and I worry about all the bad actors on the block. I think the issue is that this block, specifically the corner of Third Street and Avenue D, provides a safe harbor for criminal activity such as drug dealing. And that has accelerated during the pandemic. You have so many rehabilitative populations in the two- to three-block radius, and you have these dealers who are working unimpeded by NYPD.
Can you speak about what you have seen in the area regarding crime?
CR: Crime is mostly theft, driven by the need to purchase drugs and get high. Amazon packages are regularly stolen. I was also in the street at the time of the assassination of another drug dealer in January of 2021. It just seems like this will get worse.
G: Daily, many many drug deals. It’s a veritable parade of drug dealing on Third Street.
G7: We’ve seen at least four shootings, two resulting in deaths in the last month alone. There are drug dealers stationed in plain sight who do not respect the citizens, nor do they fear the NYPD.
CT: In terms of crime, I see dealing going on starting early through the late morning until a new crew shows up and then into the evening. Based on the buyers, they seem to be selling hard stuff. The drugs are on them; they’re doing cash deals — sometimes there is a line like three deep as if you’re at a bar. Crazy! Many of us have videos.
The reason it’s accelerated in the last two years is the business owners on the south side: the Dollar Plus store and the laundromat. It’s not their fault — they’re scared and they’re intimidated. The laundromat used to be owned by Kevin, who sold it right before the pandemic. He always kept his place clean and did not allow any action. [The new owners] are very nice and were totally walked over by the whole dealer group. The [dealers] play loud music, are extremely loud, have started arguments and have a threatening manner with many of the residents on this block ... The main guy also started to use his own stuff so he’s particularly volatile these days. We all felt something was going to happen. So the shooting, though sad, was not surprising.
Did you see or hear Sunday night’s shooting?
CR: I heard the shots and saw the police response from my window.
G: I heard the shots and saw people cowering behind parked cars on Third Street, a man running down Avenue D, yelling, “He’s dead.” Then the police came.
G7: My boyfriend saw the police cars when he left my house close to midnight. If he had left moments earlier, he might have been caught in the crossfire!
CT: I did not hear or see the shooting; I slept through it but woke up to multiple text alerts from fellow friends and residents on the block.
In your experience, what, if anything, is being done to address the concerns of the residents?
CR: Nothing. Sometimes they put a patrol car near the scene of a shooting, but only for a few days.
G: Absolutely nothing. I call in 911 drug deals and 311 noise and crowd complaints pretty much every day, just to keep a record. Police do respond, but they usually say that they don’t see a problem or that they’ve addressed it. But nothing ever changes. Criminal packs intimidate everyone. I feel especially sorry for the people who run the laundromat. The dealers use their bathroom. I’m sure it is not a comfortable relationship.
G7: I have spoken to police officers who are frustrated. They say when they make arrests, the criminals are out on the street within hours. We have a block association and have made numerous complaints to City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Assemblymember Harvey Epstein and now Mayor Adams.
CT: The Ninth Precinct has been very responsive to our safety concerns. Our NCOs are in touch with us ... They tell us to call 911 anytime we see something happening. The problem is the lookouts warn the dealers, and they walk.
We believe an ARGUS NYPD camera should be installed on this corner. Ninth Precinct Commanding Officer, Deputy Inspector Clement, told several residents at a safety meeting last year that we should lobby Councilwoman Carlina Rivera to release funds to install said camera, that any block that has this high-definition zoom flexible camera has low crime rates.
And the problem is it’s not just the dealing: package theft, Rite Aid and Walgreens shoplifting theft [both shops are now closed]; it’s all connected. It’s those who are stealing for resale so they can buy daily. It’s the woman on Houston Street in the wheelchair with no legs who is buying, it’s a lot of the people in the halfway housing on Pitt Street who are buying, it’s people who are trying to get better who are buying.
What do you think the city could do differently to mitigate the situation?
CR: As much as I would hate to live in one of those neighborhoods with an ARGUS camera, it would be preferable if it drove these scumbags away.
G: Cameras! Surveillance is needed. East Third is a lovely safe hideaway for criminals. It’s their happy place off the avenue and away from NYCHA. Let the dealers know they are being recorded.
Police should WALK THE BEAT. They don’t live here, so they don’t care. Nor do they understand the perspective of neighbors. They seem to have the attitude that poor people deserve crime and filth. They complain of being demoralized by deBlasio-era constraints on policing. But I for one don’t want to see the dealers arrested and in jail. What I want is a police presence that can support the majority of the neighborhood in its quest for clean, respectful public culture.
Bring back alternate side of the block parking enforcement. It’s like loitering for cars! People start to think they own a spot. Same with allowing corner loitering. The worst elements claim public space and they think it is their right to create filth and chaos. The police need to enforce this norm. Enforce street cleaning. Give tickets to dirty storefronts. Avenue D is absolutely disgusting and landlords are to blame. Ticket double-parkers and illegal parking at the pump (on the southwest corner of Third and D, which is often used by drug dealers). Basic civic policing would go a long way toward building a law-abiding, respectful neighborhood.
Assign a marked car to the corner. On the day of the murder, I had just sent in my second 311 (in addition to a 911) call about the morning drug deals, warning that the crew hanging out on Third was neither benign nor normal and that it indicated trouble brewing. The police responded, saying they saw no evidence of a problem. Then the shots rang out.
As you can tell, I’m very frustrated — and scared. I’ve been threatened by the dealers — they know everyone who lives on their turf. They are so flagrant in their actions that it is a message: We are helpless against them and have no allies. They have no fear of the police and we have no faith in policing. The dealers were out this morning, as usual.
G7: NYPD needs to be on the corner of Third and D 24/7 until the drug dealers go away!
CT: I’m a bit surprised that this has been allowed to fester because of the location: parents need to know that when their kids come up Avenue D at lunchtime and sit on a stoop on Third Street, that heroin is being sold 20 feet away from them.