Merchants want more police presence in Gowanus

Gowanus merchants fear for their lives after a gun-toting robber held up the owner of a Third Avenue pie shop in broad daylight — and they say they need more police patrolling the neighborhood’s increasingly commercial streets.

Business owners called for greater enforcement and more lighting on the strip in a meeting with 78 Precinct brass following the scary Thanksgiving mugging.

“I’m concerned for my safety. It’s scary that something like this could happen,” said Dylan Goodrich, the manager at the Pilates Garage on Third Avenue near Eighth Street.

“We do need more police patrol,” she said. “There’s a lot of riff-raff around here. There are some vagrants and drug addicts, and there’s prostitution.”

Worry spread quickly around the neighborhood after an armed mugger confronted Emily Elsen, the owner of Four & Twenty Blackbirds at the corner of Eight Street, as she got into her car at 4:30 pm after one of the most lucrative days of the year for her business.

The perp yanked open the driver’s side door and pointed a gun at Elsen while an accomplice grabbed her laptop from the vehicle’s unlocked trunk.

“I could see the weapon. He showed it to me. He said, ‘Don’t say anything, don’t move,’ ” said Elsen.

The gunman grabbed Elsen’s cellphone from her hand and fled in a getaway car, according to cops.

More than a dozen Gowanus merchants called for greater NYPD presence on Wednesday at the Third Avenue bar Halyards in a forum organized by the Eighth Street Block Association and the Gowanus Alliance.

“We’re not a very busy strip — it gets quiet down here,” said Elsen, who plans to install security cameras in and around her shop after the stickup. “It’s important that [police] increase patrols. Even if they are just driving through, the presence helps.”

Neighborhood boosters say cops should know that Gowanus is transitioning from a sleepy industrial area to a lively retail corridor — but it can still feel desolate at night.

“Although Third Avenue is starting to see more businesses, there is still that element of isolation in the evening and at night and we need more police involvement so that these people are not going to be easy targets to criminals,” said Paul Basile, president of the Gowanus Alliance.

Deputy Inspector Michael Ameri of the 78th Precinct, who attended the meeting, called the robbery an isolated crime in a generally safe neighborhood.

“We haven’t seen any of those kinds of incidents prior to that, or since then, in and around the Park Slope area — which is positive in that it is not a chronic problem,” said Ameri.

The neighborhood’s top cop offered commonsense answers to the merchants’ concerns, saying they should always be aware of their surroundings, walk with a partner, and never fall into a routine where a criminal can peg them as an easy mark.

“You shouldn’t always take the same route. You have to change it up a little bit,” said Ameri, who urged shopkeepers to call the precinct’s crime prevention officer with any questions and attend monthly community council meetings to voice their concerns.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.