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Crime History: Joseph Bonanno snatched from Manhattan neighborhood?

22 Oct

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On this day, Oct. 21, in 1964, notorious Mafia leader Joseph Bonanno was supposedly kidnapped off the street in front of his Manhattan apartment.

Bonanno was there at the creation of the American Mafia in the 1920s, and established the Bonanno crime family in Brooklyn.

Bonanno, who despised his nickname Joe Bananas, had fallen from grace in the 1960s for trying to become the boss of bosses in what became known as “the Banana War.”

He claimed other families grabbed him in a move to force him out of the mob.

He was released after being held in a farmhouse for six weeks.

Authorities suggested Bonanno staged his own kidnapping to prevent him from having to testify.

He retired to Arizona. He died in 2002 at age 97.

Woman, 65, slain in Coney Island

21 Oct

A 65-year-old woman was shot dead in Coney Island Thursday, cops said.

Alla Kamenev was shot several times in the torso near West 2nd Street and Sea Breeze Avenue.

Police found the woman, who lived on Surf Avenue near West 8th Street, three blocks from where she was killed, lying on the ground at 11:50 a.m.

She was pronounced dead at Coney Island Hospital.

Cops said they don’t know whether the victim knew her killer, who fled the scene on a mountain bike.

DA wins battle over Harlem gang bang slang

21 Oct

Manhattan prosecutors were the winners today in a war of words with a slang-slinging Harlem gang banger.

A jury sided with the DA in convicting 20-year-old Jaquan “Jay-Cash” Layne on drug conspiracy charges that can cage him for 25 years to life.

Layne had argued that he was just “fronting,” or puffing himself up, when he boasted on Rikers pay phones about his drug dealing prowess.

And when he used the word “yak,” he meant cognac, not crack, as lead prosecutor Christopher Ryan claimed, Layne had argued. “Scud” meant an unattractive women, not marijuana, he also argued.

“I never thought he was part of a conspiracy,” Layne’s lawyer, Frank Rothman, said after the verdict, promising to appeal. “He was just a guy who got sunk by his own big mouth.”

Jurors convicted Layne of continuing to run his 137th St. drug operation from jail, and convicted four of his co-defendants of an assortment of conspiracy and weapons charges.

Layne’s brother Jahlyl, 18, is among them, and now himself faces 12 and a half to 25 years prison.

Layne’s girlfriend, Afrika Owes, was a 16-year-old boarding school student when she admittedly conspired with him to deliver firearms among gang members. Her case sparked headlines when the Abyssinian Baptist Church — which had complained personally to DA Cyrus Vance about the nearby drug gang — posted bail for Owes, whose family turned out to belong to the historic house of worship.

The prep-schooler-turned-gun-moll pleaded guilty to conspiracy and weapons possession and spent the summer in jail.

The Laynes and co-defendants Jeffrey Brown, Habiyb Mohammed and Jonathan Hernandez are due to be sentenced before Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Edward McLaughlin on Nov. 29.

Manhattan man gets 18 to life for killing ex-girlfriend

21 Oct

I hope you stay caged until you die, a Manhattan judge told a monstrous young Inwood strangler today.

“It is the opinion of the court that you should serve out the rest of your life in jail,” Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Ronald Zweibel told Andre Velez at an emotional sentencing today.

“Saying you’re sorry certainly is not going to bring her back, and it doesn’t make up for the horrific crime you have committed,” the judge said.

Velez, 25, will serve at least 18 years prison for choking the life out of his beautiful teenaged girlfriend, Glendalyz Pagan, the mother of his toddler son.

Pagan was only 14 when she began dating Velez, and would spend her teen years in fear of him until her death at his hands at age 19. Her body — bagged and stuffed in the closet of a vacant Inwood apartment — would go undiscovered for five days.

“I hate you so much with all my heart,” Pagan’s sobbing little sister, Annel Tio[cq] railed at Velez in a victim impact statement. “

Velez had beaten and choked Pagan repeatedly throughout their relationship, even throwing her down a flight of subway stairs just two months after their son’s birth, said Assistant District Attorney Nicole Blumberg.

Pagan so feared further injuries that at least twice she stopped cooperating with authorities despite serious injuries, including a blow to the head with a hammer.

Velez choked her to death in June of 2009, two months after he was released from prison for a previous assault against her.

In a post-sentencing statement, Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance noted that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and cited four domestic violence presentations the office would hold in the next two weeks.

Youth Violence on the LES: A View From the Front Lines (StreetReport)

21 Oct

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The murder of a Lower East Side teenager this past weekend has, understandably, shaken a lot of people who live in, or have ties to, the neighborhood’s public housing developments. For now, friends and family are focused on tomorrow’s funeral of 18-year old Keith Salgado. But when the mourning is over, Salgado’s killing Saturday night at the Campos Plaza complex, three blocks from his home on East 9th Street, is sure to renew an all-too-familiar debate about youth violence in this community.

In the three precincts that make up the Lower East Side, there have been five murders so far this year (not including the Salgado case). Compared with the bad ol’ days, (60 murders were recorded in 1990), the statistics don’t seem so alarming. But lots of people believe the numbers (which have always been suspect) don’t come close to telling the whole story.

The neighborhood has seen its share of high profile violent crime in the past couple of years. In June, a 21-year old man was fatally shot on Pitt Street. Police suspect the crime was related to drugs and gangs, but no arrest has been made. In February, longtime LES resident Jomali Morales was killed at the Baruch Houses; a 19-year old man will soon go on trial for her brutal stabbing. And two years ago, 21-year old Glenn Wright was fatally stabbed, also at the Baruch Houses, in an apparent case of mistaken identity. Many other smaller incidents go largely unreported. Just this week, shots were fired on Rivington Street, leading to a major show of force by the 7th Precinct.

For us, telling the neighborhood crime story (beyond the headlines) has not been easy. For obvious reasons, no one is very anxious to talk on the record. But several weeks ago, three youth counselors who grew up on the LES and have a lot of experience working with at-risk kids, agreed to sit down with us for a candid conversation. They talked on the condition that their names and the program they work for be kept out of the story.

The counselors have the respect of the kids they work with because they’re “of the neighborhood.” They’ve walked in their shoes, personally confronted many of the same problems and continue to live in the community.

The first thing that needs to be understood, they told me, is that this neighborhood is deeply divided. Kids strongly identify with the housing projects in which they live. Rivalries among the different developments are intense, and local gangs are a major factor in all of them. They talk about different sections of the Lower East Side as though they’re really separate neighborhoods. There’s “The Ave,” as in Avenue D, where the Wald and Riis Houses are located. “The Hill” is made up of the developments south of Houston, including the Vladeck, LaGuardia, Rutgers and Smith Houses. The Baruch Houses are thought of as “the middle ground” between the two main areas.

The counselors said a lot of kids fear traveling back and forth between different parts of the neighborhood. “I think for awhile it was changing for the better,” one of them explained. “You could cross neighborhoods safer. I think now we’re sort of regressing for some reason. We’re like going back into the 80’s.” Maybe it’s the economic downturn, or something else. But the bottom line, they said, is that tensions are rising:

We have a young man. He gets jumped repeatedly. He cannot step outside the (edited to remove specific location) area. The swimming pool that all the kids go to is on Pitt Street. He can’t go there because he has to go by the Baruch projects. He comes and lets us know he’s getting jumped. If you can’t cross the street because there’s someone from a different project waiting for you, that’s a problem.

Even as gentrification has taken hold, there’s a sense in some parts of the neighborhood that time is standing still. People talk about the city’s notorious anti-crime sweeps of “Alphabet City” 20 years ago, as though it was just the other day. In some ways, we were were told, very little has changed:

In the early 90’s, especially on The Ave, they did a huge sweep. Everybody got arrested. Now they’re all coming out of jail. Or their kids are now teenagers and all they know is the street life, the drug life. So they try to follow in their footsteps. And the ones coming out of jail, because they have no other skills, go back into “the street system.” There are no options when you come back, so all you can do is come back to what you know. There’s no re-introduction into society. You got discharged. Someone picks you up and the second you’re out, you’re pacing all your old stomping grounds… They’re selling weed and they’re all in competition for the same clients because no one from this neighborhood leaves this neighborhood. All of the parents here are from the crack cocaine-dope era. So half of (the kids) are products of drug users —their community is completely built on that. This is what they know. This is what they’ve been taught.

The trio we spoke with said they try to show the kids there are better options:

It’s about exposing them to a different lifestyle, introducing them to culture, showing them that Manhattan goes beyond 12th Street. It doesn’t stop at Houston… For us, it’s not about changing a life. It’s about —how can you process a thought in this young person’s mind to at least give them the option to think beyond what they know?

One of the challenges, they said, is that most of the college readiness programs (SAT classes, college application counseling, etc.) are located on “The Hill.” Since teens from Avenue D are reluctant to cross Houston Street, they’re cut off from the kind of aid that could lift them out of “the hood.”

[Others in the neighborhood's human services community downplay the idea that kids interested in college prep programs are unable to travel from one part of the LES to another. The real problem, they suggest, is that the drug trade on Avenue D provides kids with easy money, and very little motivation to seek other opportunities]

The more fundamental issue, the counselors argued, is that no one – not the police department, not the political establishment – wants to admit there’s a problem. In public forums and during interviews, NYPD officials have rejected the notion that well-organized drug gangs are operating on the Lower East Side. Instead, they have suggested, violent incidents are the result of localized feuds among a few “bad kids.”

I asked the three youth counselors what they thought of this argument:

Isn’t it a problem if police are only identifying large gangs and not the local group if they are involved in all kinds of activities that are not legal, whether it be with gun play, whether it be with drugs? If the focus is just on Bloods because they’re more well known, what happens to groups like (gang names removed)? If they continue to turn a blind eye to what happens it’s going to continue to fester. You can’t put a band-aid on an open wound. That is just not realistic.. A lot of crime is not reported. We see it. We get the texts. We talk to the kids. We see their Facebook posts. Other People are not seeing it because they’re seeing what they want to see.

So what would make a difference? I asked what they’d tell the neighborhood’s elected officials and community leaders if given the opportunity:

I need people to give a shit. I need politicians to get off their ass and come down here at 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock, 1 o’clock in the morning and see what’s going on. I need all of these community leaders to stop glorifying all the good and take a realsitic look at what’s happening in this neighborhood. We are not the East Village. We are the Lower East Side. I need people to start volunteering and giving back to their neighborhood. Don’t just come here for a photo op. Come here to help. And tell everyone in your office to help, too. Become a mentor. Implement some kind of program you will be proud of.

There’s definitely a need for more youth programs, especially above Houston Street, they said, but also programs to help families improve their economic situations:

Our parents need a lot of help. We may have the kids for 4 or 5 or 6 hours. But the parents have them the rest of the time. If these parents are not feeling good about themselves, or do not have the resources they need because they don’t have the education or they can’t find a job and they’re out there selling drugs or whatever they gotta do, everything we just did with a kid for three hours just goes out the window. It goes out the window the minute they walk in that door at home and your mom is smoking weed or your dad is doing crack. So in order to help the kids we have to have programs that support the parents. Parents are not involved in their childrens’ lives. It’s very hard to get them involved, especially for the teenagers. At 15 or 16 you had to fend for yourself. You can’t blame the parents because they’re doing what they know. In the aftermath of Keith Salgado’s murder, more than a few people were heard declaring the time had come to “get out of the hood.” But at least one of the youth counselors said leaving the community is not the answer:

I think that’s the mentality that’s been pushed on everyone. They say “I want to do good so I can get out of here.” Why? Why can’t you do good so you can stay here and keep helping the neighborhood. Go to college, and then come back and make the hood better.

At the same time, the current environment is obviously far less than ideal. As one of the counselors put it, “We don’t live in this community. We survive it.”

NYC Rooftop (2000)

20 Oct

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NYPD investigating after Queens man found dead in bathtub with two puncture wounds to head

20 Oct

Detectives are investigating the death of a Queens man who was found in his bathtub Wednesday with what police described as two puncture wounds to his head.

The 62-year-old Woodside man was discovered Wednesday morning after a friend became concerned when he could not reach him, police sources said. The friend went to the apartment building on 39th Dr. and then contacted the super, who let him inside the flat.

The man’s name has not been released by police.

Investigators believe the man’s death may have been accidental. A police source said it appeared the man may have slipped while bathing and hit his head on a faucet.

Neighbors said the victim used a walker, had been sick recently and had not been seen for a week. It was not clear how long he had been dead before he was found.

Police said the city medical examiner will perform an autopsy to determine how he died.

Shots Fired on Rivington Street Last Night; No One Hurt (NYC)

20 Oct

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We’ve received several inquiries about a major police presence on Rivington Street between Ridge and Pitt streets overnight. Residents there reported hearing three gunshots around 1:30 a.m., which occurred outdoors near 206 Rivington St. No one was injured, but police responding to the calls arrested one person and are investigating the incident.

D-train killer jailed

19 Oct

The man who stabbed a total stranger to death on a D train two years ago — because the person wouldn’t move his bag from the seat — was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in jail.

Gerardo Sanchez, 59, pleaded guilty in September to first-degree manslaughter for the death of Dwight Johnson.

NYC is looking into claims a woman had to sit in the back of a Brooklyn bus

19 Oct

Rosa Parks must be spinning in her grave!

A Brooklyn bus contracted by the city to operate a Williamsburg-to-Borough Park route — catering to Orthodox Jews but open to the public — is under investigation for allegedly forcing women to sit in the back of the bus, authorities said yesterday.

The B110 looks a lot like any other city bus on the outside — with a lit-up sign broadcasting its official route number.

Inside, however, is like taking a trip to the pre-Civil Rights era South.

“That’s reserved for men,” the bus driver told a female Post reporter when asked if she could sit in the front rows.

 

Signs written in Hebrew and English direct women to use the back door during busy times.

 

That edict is presumably to avoid men and women from coming in contact, which in most cases is prohibited by Hasidic tradition.

 

Several passengers also told the Post reporter that the front was reserved for men.

 

However, no one told her she had to move to the back.

 

It was a different story when Melissa Franchy boarded the B110 last week.

 

A reporter with the New York World — the news Web site of the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism — asked Franchy to ride the bus to investigate whether women had to sit in the back of the bus.

 

They had their story almost immediately.

 

Franchy plopped down in front and was told by several male passengers to move to the back, according to the Web site.

 

She questioned why and was told by one man, “If God makes the rule, you don’t ask ‘Why make the rule?’ ”

 

At no point did the driver intervene to stop her from being moved.

 

The city’s Department of Transportation is investigating the incident after being alerted by the reporter.

 

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