Avenue C Shooting Sparks New Concerns About Increasing Violence

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The victim was shot as he left this bodega on 12th Street & Avenue C

On Sunday, we noted the local TV coverage of a shooting on Avenue C, near 12th Street. A man was struck in the chest about 5am, shortly after buying a sandwich inside this bodega. We now have a few more details. Apparently, the violence spread across the street to the Villagio pizza shop.

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A bullet hole is still visible on the front door of the Villagio pizza shop, across from the bodega.

There's a bullet hole and shattered glass in the restaurant's front door. An employee confirmed that the damage was a result of the Sunday incident. According to word on the street, the shooting was a continuation of a fight that started earlier in the day. The victim was apparently a resident of the Campos Plaza Housing Project, next door to the bodega.

Unlike some other recent incidents, it doesn't appear this past weekend's violence was drug or gang-related, although some of the people involved may have been gang members. In the past several days, however, community activists, youth leaders and NYPD officials have stepped up their efforts to find a way to reduce the simmering tensions inside the neighborhood's housing projects. Earlier this week, counselors and parents from the Campos Plaza community center led a group of children, some as young as nine, over to the pizza shop to look at the aftermath of the shooting. Among their top priorities now — preventing gangs from recruiting more kids.

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Police officers were stationed outside Campos Plaza this morning.

Officers from the NYPD's PSA4, which covers 23 housing projects, have met with community leaders and counselors in the past week about combating the problem. Residents believe the lack of recreational and extracurricular programs for youth have made kids even more susceptible to the lure of gangs and drugs. The New York City Housing Authority slashed the funding for its community centers. The Boys' Club shuttered its facility on Pitt and Houston Street, several years ago, saying gentrification had reduced the need for the organization's services. A second Boys' Club center on 10th Street suspended its summer programs, apparently due to budget difficulties.

In a recent interview with The Lo-Down, Damaris Reyes, the executive director of the community organization, GOLES, talked about the youth violence issue and the lack of programs for teens:

What GOLES is focused on is trying to look at
alternatives to violence by creating spaces and opportunities for young
people to do something positive and productive and be engaged in
something that's meaningful that could be recreational, that could be
summer jobs. It could be all kinds of things. We do work as part of the
POP Coalition, which is the Power of Peace. For example, on August 15th
at the Generation X Garden (4th Street between B & C) we are having
our second day of programming for the GO LES Summer Fest, which will
include open mic for young people from the community, to come share
their talent with us. It is a way to encourage them to come do some
positive things. So there is need for concern, there is activity that
is happening, there's more than meets the eye and … to
some extent, there is a lack of a focus on that age group – and
positive activities and resources that will help them, steer in another
direction.

We stopped by this past weekend to check in on the Summer Fest event, which included remarks from City Council member Rosie Mendez, who is helping sponsor the series. You can see our video from the Generation X Garden here. Mendez provided funding several months ago for security cameras at Campos Plaza. But residents say, NYCHA has not installed them, due to budget constraints.

Another City Council member, Alan Gerson, has given the Chinatown YMCA (on Houston Street & the Bowery) funding for summer programs for kids in the neighborhood. After this past week's violence, there's talk about extending those programs beyond the end of this month. Dereese Huff, president of the Campos Plaza Residents Association, is trying to organize a "stop the violence" event, to be held in the early fall.

Police Investigate Shooting on East 12th Street

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An early morning shooting on Avenue C was covered by Channel 2 and New York 1. There are conflicting reports. But it appears the incident happened somewhere near 11th Street, in spite of this screen grab from WCBS that identifies the location as Avenue C and 10th Street. A 25-year old man was shot in the chest – and taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he is in stable condition. Police are investigating whether the shooting is linked to a feud between gangs at the Campos Plaza Housing Project and other neighborhood gangs. Earlier this summer, after the arrest of LES rapper "Tru Life," we reported about the growing fears about worsening violence in the area.

Beyond Tru Life’s Arrest: Growing Fears of a Violent Summer

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In the trendy bars and restaurants along Avenue B, last week's arrest of Lower East Side rapper Roberto Rosado (aka "Tru Life") was barely noticed if it was noticed at all. The Times and the Daily News ran their obligatory stories– only on account of "Tru Life's" one-time status as protégé of rap music mogul Jay Z. But a few steps away down 13th Street, inside the Campos Plaza Housing Project, the story was anything but trivial. Street-smart kids, moms and youth counselors all knew the violence that had erupted a few days earlier was a bad omen, at the start of a long, tense summer.

It would be easy to dismiss the events of the past two weeks as an isolated incident, the conclusion of a long-simmering argument between a hot-tempered rapper and some guys from the neighborhood. But it's become clear that they hint at much larger problems: a pattern of escalating violence, a burgeoning drug trade and the prospect of a full-blown gang war.

Here's what we know.  "Tru Life," is being held without bail on Rikers Island, having pled not guilty to charges of second- degree murder and gang assault in connection with a knife fight that ended in the murder of a 20-year old man, Christopher Guerrero.  Tru Life's brother, Marcus Rosado, and, possibly, two other men are also being held.  Police believe the trouble began hours earlier at a Midtown nightclub, where gunfire erupted and a suspected drug dealer, Michael Slater, was shot in the stomach. There are many conflicting accounts of what happened. But it seems clear the night's violence was fueled by a bitter feud among rival drug gangs based in New York's housing projects. The tensions have apparently been escalating since the early spring, perhaps even earlier.

At a recent community meeting the NYPD acknowledged they've seen an up tick of violence in the neighborhood.  But they resisted suggestions that they have an "organized gang problem" on their hands. Captain Edward Britton, responsible for policing 23 housing developments and 40-thousand residents, emphasized that violent crime is still quite low, historically speaking. But some mothers in attendance made it clear a series of incidents over several months have them more than a little worried.  These include the pursuit of a teen by men in SUV's brandishing guns, a shootout on Clinton Street and a murder last year at Campos Plaza. 

Reports of increasing violence are not new.  Late last year, residents demanded more police protection after several shootings at the Alfred E. Smith Houses.  Community newspapers and blogs have taken note of several violent episodes at Tompkins Square Park.  Police have been investigating the death of a woman who was reportedly attacked in the park two months ago.  While they're not convinced she was murdered, some park regulars believe a major gang in the area, the Money Boyz, was responsible.