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.