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.

Share this Story:
  • andy

    And since tomorrow night is Halloween, with many people coming in to the neighborhood, it is especially good to be alert and careful My daughter’s friends were severely beaten and robbed last Halloween right on Pierrepont St. You can’t do enough to be careful. Look around and down the street. If you think you see something suspicious …cross the street. Do it as many times as you can. Walk near other people. i don’t care if people think it looks weird. People need to trust their instincts

  • LA Slugocki

    And that’s exactly why I wrote this post. I trusted my instincts, knew I was in a potentially dangerous situation, and acted accordingly.

  • just me

    I really appreciate the post and thank Lillian for sharing her experience and providing a “heads up.” I’ve lived in the heights for 12 years – and in Park Slope for 25 before that… Over the years, have had 2 or 3 incidents including being held up at gunpoint (by a guy who asked me “do you have the time?”)… I’ve had no issues in the last 10 years or so and have begun to think the neighborhood is safe – and have even left my door unlocked as I run to the store for milk…
    I greatly appreciate Lillian sharing her experience – we can all use it however we like. I will use her info to ensure that my complacency is kept in check… Hey, this is New York, even in our semi-safe Heights enclave you can never be too careful and I thank Lillian for reminding me of that.
    Say, Wentling, can I borrow your .357? (just kidding.) : )

  • cat

    Lillian, thanks for providing more information on what happened to you last night and what you did to keep yourself safe. It sounds very scary. I used to live on Hicks and walked home from the grocery store many times down an empty Hicks Street. I’ve often felt there is a false sense of security in this neighborhood. Since I’ve been reading this blog, now I know I was right.

    I wish there were more beat cops in the neighborhood–esp. when the cops know this is Blood’s initiation week. You’d think they’d be a little more on top of this stuff.

    Thanks again for the warning.

  • since47

    After reading Lillian’s posting last night, I sent out an email to friends in the neighborhood who may not have been aware of what’s been going on here in the last month or who may not check the BHB. I received a quick response from one friend (a male) who told me that around 8:35 last night, after turning the corner of Willow Place and heading up Joralemon, he was approached by a group of kids, the shorter of whom asked him for the time (sounds like the same kids Lillian encountered). Remembering what I’d told him about the recent mugging sprees ‘from the Heights to DUMBO,’ he mumbled some approximate time, and ‘with attitude’ pushed through them and continued towards Hicks Street. He never saw a weapon, but felt this brief meeting could have turned into something worse had he actually stopped.

    This isn’t the first time the Heights has been plagued with muggings; this isn’t a gated community and we’re no safer here than anywhere else in the city. The Heights spells m-o-n-e-y, making it the perfect target. But we all have to be smart and not become victims (if at all possible). Walk with a purpose; don’t stroll down the street while talking on your cell phone; be aware of who’s in front of or behind you; walk WITH someone, if you can. There are so many things you can do – just don’t appear to be wimpy.

    And one more thing: Joralemon and Willow Place is SO DARK nowadays; you literally need a flashlight to get down WP. I know that Con Ed has been doing work on the street, but all calls to 311 (and Con Ed) have gone unheeded. It’s a dangerous spot now and perfect for muggings. So please – just be careful out there.

  • cait

    I was walking on State Street Wednesday night around 7pm between Henry and Clinton and a group of teenagers, some on bikes, started shouting at me asking me what time it was. I was immediately very scared — there was just a feeling about it, the insistence with which they were shouting at me, and the realization that even at that early hour, it was dark and I was the only other person on the block besides these guys. Plus, why the hell did they need to know the time? I’m sure they all had cell phones. I told them I didn’t know and kept walking, as fast as I could. I heard some more shouting in response but they then went on their way. Odds are they were the same kids.

    I have to say, I feel safer in my new Carroll Gardens home than I did living in Brooklyn Heights.

  • BH-guy

    To the author- I am so sorry this happened to you… thankfully you kept your cool and protected yourself. I’m not sure how I would have handled it… which scares me. As a husband and father, I appreciate you posting your story for our benefit. And I’m so glad you are safe!

    To certain commentators (huh?, Sam, Jane, Beth) who are confused and/or are accusing the author of jumping to false conclusions or overreacting–
    What are you missing here? You are confused because a gun wasn’t pulled on her last night? Perhaps you have trouble distinguishing thugs from harmless teenagers, but there is a BIG difference. These guys were clearly up to no good… it was nighttime, they outnumbered her 4-1, they followed her in a menacing manner asking multiple questions. Do you really need a weapon to be pulled before you realize that you are in a dangerous situation? By the time a weapon is pulled, you’ve just gone from a dangerous situation to a truly life-threatening situation.

    This isn’t a matter of skin color, clothing, profiling, or having a hunch. Their behavior was threatening, pure and simple. It doesn’t even matter whether he had a gun or a knife, or how much worse it could have gotten, because the idea is to diffuse the situation and never find out.

  • RAH

    We still feel safe in CH after more than 20 yrs, but the rule of thumb, no matter where you are, is ALWAYS look around, be aware if someone is too close, etc. We see lots of stuff all the time on the local police blotter, and then I try to ignore it. But after being accosted by a group of kids while walking our dogs one evening (they hit me, but then ran when I started yelling and the dogs barked) I now have the 76th precinct number on speed dial on my cell. But overall, I do feel safe in my neighborhood. That must have been so frightening, Lillian. Very sorry that happened to you.

  • The Where

    Gangs are stupid cults just like Scientology. Member are weak minds fooled by oppressors. What time is it? Time to say no to the system that keeps you down. Joining a gang is like entering slavery voluntarily. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

  • No One of Consequence

    TW, who is that directed towards? Certainly gang members are not regular readers of BHB.

  • Jane

    BH Guy, I think you missed the point of my comment and the others mentioned as well. The confusion was as to what exactly happened last night. Which, frankly, is pretty important. Now, thanks to additional posts, we all have a clear picture of what is really going on in the neighborhood. Further, as I stated in my original comment, any group of kids who starts talking to you like that is clearly trying to scare you. Whether or not there is a weapon is irrelevent. I further said that notwithstanding the decreased level of crime in 2009 as compared to 1979, it makes sense to stay alert, walk down the center of the street if you have any concern and have your keys ready, no matter what time of day it is.

  • Eason

    do gang members read?

  • suchandsuch

    I think NO CONSEQUENCE is a ringer from out of the nabe who’s posting anywhere and everywhere their insane gun “control” rant can be injected. Less guns = less crime. Proven, true, period. That’s one thing Bloomberg’s done very, very right.

    Anyway: NC should just please stay away from BH, armed or not.

  • BH-guy

    Thanks for clarifying Jane… sorry if I was aggressive… your original post seems much more reasonable as compared with Huh? (fails to see why this is a story… she is overreacting), Sam (this was at worst harassment) and Beth (this doesn’t merit a warning to the community)

  • No One of Consequence

    I do and have lived in BH for 12 years. You?
    “Less guns != less crime.” Gun control only guarantees that only 2 factions are armed. Criminals and police. So they have taken away your ability to present a deterrent, and the police presence is nil.
    It’s almost a wonder crime rates aren’t higher. Must be due to human nature to be good.

  • beth

    Ok, so, I’ll refine my statement that this doesn’t warrant a warning. I’ll say it warrants sharing. Objective information sharing is never a bad thing. And being alert, aware, and informed is a good thing. I do think the way the story was originally presented was in an unintentionally alarming manner because of some clarity issues. That was what made me most uncomfortable with it.

    But I still feel uncomfortable with two things: 1., anyone here defining these young men as gang members or being certain of gang activity just because of their actions, numbers, and appearance in the situation described, and 2., any of us being certain that they would have committed violence. Fact is, we can’t know these things. You’re welcome to jump to your own conclusions, of course. But acknowledge that that’s what you’re doing.

    Again, be vigilant, be aware, and above all, be safe. I am just not going to indict any young men of crimes that I have no evidence beyond assumption and imagination that they are guilty of. I’ll stick to considering them guilty of what they did do to Lillian (which I do not defend, at all) and not what they might have done.

  • Kim

    Bottom line is that we “All” need to be careful. Crime is all around us and yes, sometimes it’s in our face. If you feel threatened then there’s probably a threat. There’s no harm in being cautious. I will say that a gang/group of teens on bikes roaming the streets ( anywhere ) puts me on alert.

    Again, I want to thank everyone for sharing. Things like this are very important…Thanks, Jane for your quick thinking and taking the time to post.

    And yes, we are residents

  • No One of Consequence

    I wanted to remind you that at LEAST two of the greatest crimes committed in this country this century were committed right across the river and neither involved ANY guns.
    Bernie Madoff
    (there are some other great crimes that occurred over there, but are more open to be subjective than these two)

    In the end, posts like this, even if somewhat alarmist, are important to staying alert and abreast of crime trends.
    But, until we get our beat cops/regular patrols back and/or an organized neighborhood watch, the criminals will continue to prey upon the wealth that this neighborhood represents.

  • PJL

    Beth, please feel free to stop and look at your watch if a few kids ask you the time and share with us the conclusion. I think most of us will heed the warning. Lillian, we’re happy you’re ok.

  • Eddie Wilson

    4 people… a GANG.

    My, you know the city has been SUPER gentrified when the bloods can only get 4 people together.

  • Eddie Wilson

    “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”

    OK, now I just smell bs.

    Four or five 15 year olds beat up an entire train? Methinks this person just watches too many movies.

    Btw, I’ve *actually* been robbed at gunpoint. So, I’m not saying that can’t happen… but this just sounds like a bunch of baloney.

  • Eddie Wilson

    BTW, the bloods initiation thing… yeah, its just another urban legend. A lie.

    Try your made up story somewhere else.

  • anon
  • bklyn20

    Lillian is my neighbor. If this were a 1940s film noir, she’s what the detective (played by the male lead) would call “one cool customer,” after which he would take a long drag on his cigarette. She is neither paranoid nor hysterical.

    Her story about the subway was not too far from some things I saw in the 80s; luckily I was only a witness and never the target.

    Gang or no gang, if groups of kids are targeting people and attacking, or even trying to attack, it is a serious problem! Everyone should call 311, their elected representatives and the 84th Precinct and complain until there is a renewed police presence in the South Heights.

    Hicks Street between Montague and Joralemon is VERY dark. What’s more, the west side of Hicks between Remsen and Grace Court has basically no window onto the street — it’s all a long 6′ high wall. A very nice-looking wall, with no way for anyone to see what is happening, as would be the case with houses or apartments facing the street. Perhaps there should be an additional street light mid-block on that side of the street?

    There has been an increasing number of gun-related crimes in the neighborhood lately. Isn’t the possibility of being shot much more worrisome than the possibility of being punched, painful as that may be? Everyone please pay attention, look out the window if you hear trouble on the street, and watch out for each other.

  • x

    I agree that most of the area between Montague and Atlantic Avenue lack sufficient street lighting.
    Maybe instead of new lampposts, we can get more street lighting instead??

  • anon

    bklyn20, you missed the fact that there was no gun.

  • AEB

    Racist bullexcrement, Conrad.

    PS, is “outbreeding” anything like outsourcing? What the $%#$#@ are you talking about?

  • nabeguy

    Holy moly, there really must be a full moon out tonight. I don’t mean to diminish Lillian’s genuine fear at her predicament, but the responses to this thread, running the gamut from arming the citizenry to eradicating miscegenation, scares me a hell of a lot more than a bunch of punk 15 year-olds.
    John, I find it ironic that you quote Malcolm X in defense of your positions, given the way the man met his demise. And the Tex Antoine line is offensive, no matter which way you look at it, unless your perception of “reality” is so warped that rape is an acceptable mode of behavior. Chances are you’d be reaching for a .45 if a member of your own family suffered such a fate. Sorry to say, but that was a really bad reference.

  • MermaidAveTwirler

    “OK, now I just smell bs.
    Four or five 15 year olds beat up an entire train? Methinks this person just watches too many movies.”

    I remember frequent incidents like these throughout the 80s: a handful of teenage girls with razors ducking in to slice the faces of train riders seated by the door, 2 guys walking through subway stations giving every person they passed a fast shot to the face causing broken noses, groups of 8-10 bursting out into a whirlwind of fists pummeling everyone in their path (saw this MANY times). Wasn’t it called Wildin’ back then?

  • The Where

    Mr. Wilson lives under a bridge. He is an infamous troll. Homer must pour salt on him now.