Please be advised

Neighbors:  Please be advised at approximately 9:00 p.m. tonight as I was walking home on Hicks between Montague and Joralemon I was accosted by a gang of four boys, approximately 14-15 years of age.  I am certain it was a gang initiation [unlikely says NYPD – HF].  The same thing happened to me five years ago in Cobble Hill.   A young man said, Miss do you know what time it was— I stopped and the next thing I knew I had a gun to my head; with three others lounging in the shadows, laughing.  This time when they asked me what time is it, do you have a cigarette, why won’t you stop and talk to us, I just kept my head down and kept walking.  At the corner of Joralemon and Hicks, I saw a cab.  Knocked on  the window, and said, call the cops.  When the police arrived of course the gang was long gone.  But I put them on notice.  Told them what happened.  They said, you’re not giving us much of a description.  Whatever.  I was safe.


When I posted Please be advised last night I knew there was potential for error/confusion since I sat down to write the post after a long 14 hour day.  Even though I was exhausted, still shaken, I believe and still do it was my responsibility as a good neighbor to put everyone on notice.

I will now attempt to clear up any confusion:

This is my third experience with gang violence in Brooklyn in ten years.  I know what it looks like and I know what it smells like.  And because I have always trusted my instincts, I have always walked away unharmed— physically.  The first time was on an R train, coming up from Bay Ridge.  Four or five teens, aged  anywhere from 14-16 years old, got on the train, began swinging from the overhead bars, and at a pre-arranged signal began beating everyone up.  I kept my head down and wasn’t harmed.

The second time, in Cobble Hill, I was walking on Baltic between Clinton and Court.  It was about 7:00 p.m. on a Sunday evening, same time of year.  A teen asked me, Miss what time is it? Because I stopped to oblige, I had a gun to my head before I knew what was happening. He demanded money and jewelry.  I saw three other teens on the periphery, laughing and whispering.  I stayed calm, was completely respectful to my attacker, a child, and kept repeating that I didn’t have money or jewelry.  This was true.  I had just thrown a coat over my pajamas to buy milk at the corner store on Court.  If  had money or jewelry I would’ve gladly handed it over.  But I didn’t.  After a few minutes, I said, I’m leaving now.  Turned my back and slowly walked away.  Later the police said this was the wrong thing to do.  My reasoning: he had no reason to shoot me b/c I was giving him enough time to get away.  And I did.  The police informed me this was a gang initiation ritual.

Present day.   In addition to my usual course load at Lehman College, I teach a class in the South Bronx.  Everyone has been put on notice because this is Blood’s initiation week [Editor’s note: this is a well known urban legend].  Because last night was parent/teacher conferences, and I finished at 8:00, the school called a car service for me.  Instead of going all the way home, I got out at Montague to pick up some groceries.  I turned left down Hicks Street; weighed down with a book bag, a regular bag, and a bag of groceries.  At the corner of Remsen, on the periphery, standing just off the curb, in the street —were four teenagers, same age range.  One of them asked me, Miss do you know what time it is?

My instincts told me: Danger.  Baby-bangers.  Gang initiation.  Keep walking.  Don’t look at them.  They followed me: Miss, what time is it?  Miss, can I have a cigarette?  Miss, why won’t you stop? At that moment, I saw no one on Hicks.  But I knew I could get out of this if I stayed calm.  Kept moving.  At the corner of Joralemon, a cab stopped.  People inside were paying their fare.  I walked right into the street on Joralemon, knocked on the window, and said, Call the cops. Now.  The people inside, a young couple who have just moved here, complied.  I stood right there in the middle of the street, even though cars were honking and drivers were pissed. Too bad.

The woman handed me the cell phone and I spoke to the dispatcher.  My new neighbors whose names I’ve forgotten were kind enough to wait with me .  Thank you.  The police arrived about five minutes later.  I couldn’t give them anymore of a description b/c I didn’t stop long enough to look at them.  I trusted my instincts, learned my lesson from Cobble Hill.  Don’t stop.  Don’t look.  Keep moving.  The police said, You’re not giving us much to go on.  Yes, true, but I was safe.

I continued down Joralemeon, saw a father with two children, I told him what had just happened.  I saw another, man, Ernie, a neighbor, and he gallantly walked me home down Willow.  What a shame.  Too terrified to walk down my own street.  Too terrified to take my dog out for a walk.  But at least this time I was smart.  This time I spared myself the ordeal of another gun to my head.  I am 100% positive that had I stopped I would’ve been seriously hurt.  Again, I know what gang initiation looks like and smells like.  They want you to stop.  Ernie, a former military man, agreed.  Thank you, Ernie.

This all happened between 9:00 p.m. and 9:30 pm,  last night.  I walked in the door, sat down at my laptop, and wrote the post for this blog.  I would want you to do the same.  I would want to know.  And now you do.

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  • hickster

    cant wait till the libs come out and make you into a racist, colonialist.

  • cat

    I’m glad you’re safe. That sucks. One evening a week I walk home from the subway around 9:30-10:00 pm, and I don’t feel very safe anymore. I am on my guard and walk very fast. I usually try to walk within 10-15 ft. of someone else who has gotten off the subway and is going in my direction. We need a buddy system in this neighborhood nowadays.

  • matt

    Perhaps you could provide us with a basic description of the criminals.

  • Curmudgeon

    I am sorry for what happened to you, Miss and I am glad you were not hurt. Thanks for letting us know.

    Note to hickster,

    Your sympathy for what happened to this person is touching. You could have made an unnecessary cheap and political remark, but you took the high road. Now go back to watching FOX with the others of your ilk!

  • B

    Wow. And I thought Bed Stuy was rough.


  • andy

    Well Curmudgen, your comment about waching Fox was certainly tolerant.

  • Billy Reno

    Way to go OG, Lillian, and call their bluff. I did that 2 years ago on the corner of Sidney and State.

  • huh?

    Wait – Am I reading this wrong? You had a gun pulled on you years ago… but this evening some kids asked you for a cigarette and you called the police?? I fail to see how this is a story and wonder if you’re maybe overreacting.

  • Curmudgeon

    huh? Read the post again:

    “I stopped and the next thing I knew I had a gun to my head”

  • Sam

    Curmudgeon, I think huh? is right to be confused – the way it is written, it is unclear if the gun was pulled on Lillian in this incident, or the last one. Lillian, I’m so sorry to hear you were frightened. Could you give us a clearer account of what happened last night so that we can all be on alert? Was there a gun involved in last night’s incident?

  • AEB

    Terrible! And so’s the partisan bickering. NB: hickster’s instant “sensitivity” to color….

  • Kim

    Hi All! I’m glad that you got away safely but, wow am I concerned for everyone. My husband is there full time for work and my children and I on weekends ( until the end of this school year ). We decided on Brooklyn Heights because it seemed like a safe and positive environment for our kids. I’m realistic in knowing that crime has no boundaries but, are things just getting a bit out of control or is this normal seasonal crime sprees?

  • Josh

    Kim – It is a battle zone here. Stay in the suburbs where it is safe

  • Suzy

    Thanks for the info. I walked that way last night at 9:30 and there were many cops on the corner of Joralemon and Willow. I often walk home at that time and you really have to pay attention no matter how tired and rushed you are.

  • Jane

    I agree with Sam, this was confusing. I didn’t realize there was no gun yesterday until the comments. Look, a group of kids at night can be scary–that’s their goal. I have had similar things happen and not just in this neighborhood. 9 times out of 10 it’s nothing We got mugged in the Heights in the ’70s more than once or twice; but overall, it’s safer now. That being said, I watch my back, occasionally walk down the center of the street and have my keys ready.

  • Kim

    Thanks for the heads-up. We’re Urban dwellers who don’t go out much after dark…kids go to bed early, we’re lazy… but, we do enjoy the every now and then walk to bakery for cookies after dinner. It’s such a lovely walk down Montague. We’re careful but, I have three kids in tow and that kind of makes me a target. Oh well, I guess that’s life in the big city. Has anyone told these thugs they are not welcome in our neighborhood? By the way, is there a neighborhood walk with the police? A citizens on patrol? We’re always out walking.

  • Sam

    Kim –

    Until we get some clarification from Lillian, I think calling this a “crime spree” is a bit premature and also potentially hysterical. The two incidents described occurred 5 years apart, and on its face, the incident last night appears, at worst, harassment. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t be careful and vigilant, but the neighborhood is hardly a “battle zone” (although I suspect @Josh had his tongue in cheek there).

  • John Wentling

    Brooklyn Heights has a long history of attracting criminals from surrounding neighborhoods (mainly the city housing projects), and you have to face certain facts, Nabe residents are typically easy prey – far easier than say another resident of a city housing project, and far more likely to have something of value. The problem with robbing a resident of a housing project is that they might actually fight back – the odds of a Heights resident doing so is virtually nil. Criminals choose victims that are more likely to have something of value and less likely to resist, or potentially do them harm.

    Fact is, you’re sitting ducks, and you seemingly prefer it that way given the types of people you elect to office. Someone fights back and you immediately label them a “vigilante” – and Hickster is right on the mark. Your sensitivity is your undoing, and you’ll forever be cast the victim for ignoring reality and wishing something so that never was, and never will be. To quote Malcolm X, “it’s criminal to teach a man not to defend himself”, and isn’t that exactly the case? “Don’t resist, give them your belongings, call the police.”

    Reminds me of that former NY weatherman who said “if rape is inevitable, lay back and enjoy it.” Despicable statement, but on the same token, it rings of reality.

    Go ahead and attribute crime to poverty, injustice, sub-standard housing, Republicans, the economy, etc., the truth is, bad people predate any of that (remember Cain and Abel?), the only thing that inhibits their behavior is the likelihood of becoming victims themselves.

    BTW, fully 50% of Fox News viewers are Democrats. Hickster, you rock.

  • Kim

    Thanks, Sam. I did re-read the OP and believe the two incidents are isolated. I am by no means trying to say our neighborhood is dangerous or becoming so. By “spree” I meant it’s getting close to the holidays and crime usually picks up or starts around this time of year. We’re from Baltimore and it’s rough here year round…no matter how desirable the zip code. I will say that I have always felt safe in Brooklyn Heights and I appreciate the feed back so we can be cautious.

  • AEB

    Oh, please, John: one can decry victimization and at the same time remain alert and guarded.

    You paint, as they say, with too broad a brush. By your lights, concern for the downtrodden is automatically an expression of weakness–too frequently interpreted as the refusal to fight.

    But the problem, in this case is an expression of that very aggression.

  • No One of Consequence

    This is the net effect of gun control. Now only the criminals have guns.
    I’m with John on this.
    If there was a prospect that you would fight back, or better yet, be armed, you would no longer be the easy target.

  • Mookie

    Were they white?

  • Sticky

    Sorry this happened to someone. It shouldn’t. Just to agree with john here, there are times to be nice to people, and there are times when you should not. That is one of the times you do not talk to anyone.

    If this happened at 4 am I would not be surprised, 9:30 is unacceptable. I do not think this should be looked at as racism. Everyone who lives here know the heights is full of discrimination. Nevertheless there are African-American punks as there are white punks. It does not matter. African American Thugs approach me at night? I would be scared also. Are you kidding? In suits and with women, not so much. Same goes for a bunch of white trash hoodlums.

    Racism is not the issue.

    To quote the Simpsons:
    “Springfield Heights: We discriminate becasue we can.”
    (just wanted to fit that in somewhere. been making me laugh for a long time.)

  • nabeguy

    John, given your 35-odd year distance from BH, you’re viewpoint is a bit dated. I don’t know how things are in Arizona, but the old badlands of your youth have changed quite a bit. To wit, Dumbo.

  • Eason

    Look if you see a bunch of 15 year old kids at 10pm in any area by themselves, on a weeknight, just hanging around, light bulbs should go off that they probably aren’t up to any good. If you think something isn’t right with the way they are acting call the police. Seriously, the cops are looking for anything to do on a slow weeknight, they wont mind, and the neighbors wont mind. The kids might mind but they are 15 and will get over it by hanging around somewhere else. If you are wrong, who cares, you did the right thing. Just tell all your neighbors about all the recent crime in the area and tell them to call the police if anything looks out of place after 7pm. This is an easy problem to solve.

  • beth

    Wow. I’m sorry for what happened to you five years ago, but I don’t think what happened last night warrants a warning to all of the community, unless you’re leaving something out. How are you certain it was a gang initiation?

  • John Wentling

    No doubt Phillip, but some things never change – in particular, the criminal element. We had our homegrown variety as we both know, but invariably, they came from outside the nabe, because it was, and still is, considered a prime “hunting” ground. I know Concord Village has changed considerably, but has public housing on Sands or Nevins Street, or for that matter, the Red Hook Houses? Last I checked (2000), those were still “badlands” and I’d wager, where much of the criminal activity originates.

    Not really my point though, and while I’m a pacifist at heart, I refuse to be victimized, and have no expectation that the cops are going to miraculously rescue me. They rarely if ever do. There are things you can do to help minimize the problem – for instance, is there any concerted effort at Block Watch?

  • kh

    Thank you for alerting us all, I think we should be happy to have a neighbor who thinks of others. I am sure there was a perfectly good reason for her to suspect they were not innocent kids, I am certainly not afraid of my neighbors teenager and she’s lucky she followed her instincts. It feels safe here because it’s attractive and we have nice neighbors but you have to remember a few blocks away is a completely different world and you have to stay alert.

  • Eason

    Warning the neighborhood is never a bad thing, warranted or unwarranted.

    But why doesn’t Lillian have a cell phone?

  • Sam

    I’m not sure if many of you commenting on this currently live in the neighborhood or not, but if you’ve been paying attention to this blog, the news, or community papers, you’d know that there have been multiple muggings in our neighborhood over the past months and many people have said that they have been approached by some kid asking “what time is it?”.

    There is nothing wrong in being cautious, being passive, or putting a blogged warning out there. My cousin is a cop and he specifically told me that if this happens, to do exactly what Lillian did – keep walking. It’s better to be safe than sorry.