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Robberies at fancy Flatbush eateries stoke fear, split reactions

Stop right there: Activist Gabriella Radeka joined others at a community meeting who questioned the need for a ramped-up police presence following a string of robberies of high-end eateries.
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A string of armed robberies has Flatbush residents freaking out.

Five stick-ups have hit neighborhood businesses in the past month, including at least two at eateries in which the bandits targeted customers in scenes pulled straight out of “Pulp Fiction.” Locals packed a Nov. 20 meeting on the rash of robberies, and offered sharply divergent views on how to address the problem. Local pols and police reps called for unity and vigilance on the area’s bustling commercial streets.

“If we want safe streets, the NYPD can’t do it on their own,” Borough President Adams said. “We will not stand for crimes like this. Not while I’m Borough President.”

The trouble began in late October when a lone gunman held up the Israeli dinner spot Mimi’s Hummus on Cortelyou Road, the neighborhood’s increasingly upscale restaurant row, bagging $100 from the register, an employee said at the meeting.

Then, in early November, two desperados hit the Ox Cart Tavern on Newkirk Avenue at Argyle Road, stripping patrons of jewelry and cash and leaving with $700, according to reports.

And on the evening of Nov. 13, a single raider stormed into Lark Cafe on Church Avenue between E. 10th Street and Stratford Road and forced members of a writers group to fork over three MacBooks and an iPad Mini, then took off running down Coney Island Avenue towards Prospect Park, per police and reports.

Robbers also struck a T-Mobile cellphone shop and a deli in that time period, but the three heists targeting upscale businesses that opened in the last five years are connected, police said. And the brazen quality of the heists is eerily reminiscent of crime-ridden decades past, one victim said.

“I’d like to know what has emboldened criminals to go back to the crime that we haven’t seen since the ’90s,” said Anya Shiferson, who was working the register the night Mimi’s Hummus was robbed.

Police have deployed foot patrols to the affected commercial strips, and sent in undercover cops as well, an officer from the neighborhood’s 70th Precinct said.

“We flooded the streets. We’re doing everything we can to assist the community,” said Lt. Jacqueline Bourne. “Unmarked officers are out there. You may not see them, but they’re out there.”

The pledge did not set Shiferson or her colleagues at ease.

“All of our employees feel extremely unsafe,” she said.

The back-to-back stickups have sparked fears that the crooks are honing in on pockets of affluence in the predominately Caribbean and African-American neighborhood where the median income is $40,146, below Brooklyn’s median of $45,215. Racial and class tensions have flared up there during the past year, with a dedicated vandal repeatedly scrawling anti-white-gentrification messages at the Church Avenue subway station. And, according to a New York Daily News report, two women robbed three tenants of an Ocean Avenue apartment, then forced them out at gunpoint and squatted their place. The crooks said they didn’t like “that white people were moving into the area,” per the News.

Members of a housing-activist group at the community meeting said the crimes should not be used as an excuse to ramp up what they called “racist policing.”

“Increased police presence puts pressure on black and brown people, increases harassment, and makes people uncomfortable in their own communities,” said Uliya Yshtaal, of Equality for Flatbush. “We want to work together to find ways to keep the community safe without more police.”

Several commentators who criticized impulse to throw more police at the problem were met with applause, but others demanded more cops on the streets, now.

Despite the high-profile string of holdups, the rate of robberies in Flatbush’s 70th Precinct is actually down substantially, from 324 this time last year to 274 so far this year, according to NYPD data.

Adams, a veteran cop before he went into politics, said there is often an uptick in robberies and thefts around the holidays.

“Some people believe it’s faster to take from people than to earn it like the rest of us,” he said.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
“If we want safe streets, the NYPD can’t do it on their own,” Borough President Adams said. “We will not stand for crimes like this. Not while I’m Borough President.” Unfortunately in NYC law abiding citizens are not allowed to protect themselves and the catch and release plea bargain heavy 'justice' system does little to discourage criminals. A well placed slug in one of these bums would go a long way...
Nov. 21, 2014, 6 pm
Bob from Brooklyn says:
^^ Wheee, let's have the Wild West in NYC!
Nov. 21, 2014, 10:51 pm
Michael from Concerned says:
Instead of more police, why don't we have fewer criminals?????????????????

They are the ones committing the crimes!!!!!!!! Not the police!!!!!!!
Nov. 22, 2014, 6:59 am
Scott from Boro Pk says:
Grew up in Brooklyn,saw neighborhoods change, often times for the better, than not so good, then better again. The worst feeling to have is one of lack is lack of safety and security. If the NYPD is offering this solution, I welcome it. It won't be forever but will stem the current issue. Ditmas Pk is a wonderful place.
Nov. 22, 2014, 8:51 am
jjm from c. hill says:
This what happens when you have affluents living side by side with have-nots. The have-nots don't want you there driving up rent prices. Same situation in crown heights, PLG, etc. so they're gonna do what they know best to drive you out and/or instill fear, plain & simple.
Nov. 22, 2014, 10:45 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
Flatbush was a fantastic area that was destroyed by block busting, welfare and drugs. It is not being gentrified is being reclaimed.
Nov. 22, 2014, 11:04 am
jjm from c. hill says:
Shamiqua I am black 1000%. How could I even think of doing that?
Nov. 22, 2014, 4:10 pm
@directed @ old time brooklyn from park slope says:
So the Indians, africans and every race/country that has been exploited by westerners should be able to RECLAIM what was once theirs too? Wait..If that was allowed to happen, flatbush would not even be yours to claim, huh.
Nov. 22, 2014, 11:36 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
@ directed - yeah all the street crime the whites do in Flatbush - take a walk down Ditmas Av and e 23 at 2 am and let me know how that works out - mazel tov :)

It is being reclaimed apt by apt - I have a friend whos daughter is now in the apt of a family I grew up with. clean out the stretch between Ocean ave and Flatbush ave and restore a once vibrant community.
Nov. 23, 2014, 8:48 am
jjm from c. hill says:
@oldtime, "clean out the stretch" would also mean whitening as well, am i right?
Nov. 23, 2014, 9:09 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
well la dee da jjim - you are the one assigning definitions - get rid of the welfare and gang bangers - and yes Flatbush had a minimal crime problem prior to the late 60's. by the mid 70's daylight muggings on newkirk plaza were not uncommon and of course we all know the muggers were white lol - now be a good lad and stop the race baiting. why don't you take a walk down e 21 street from newkirk to church a 3am.
let me know how that works out - mazel tov and have a nice thanks giving.
Nov. 23, 2014, 11:18 am
ty from pps says:
can't we be friends?
Nov. 23, 2014, 10:03 pm
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
The cops need to divert their resources to foot patrols and less time on ticketing cyclist.
You can have safe streets but cops have to make a presence.
Nov. 24, 2014, 8:57 am
leroy from flatbush says:
I want more police on the streets. Flatbush has always had both whites ands people of colour going back to the 1960's.
Nov. 24, 2014, 11:23 am
jjm from c.hill says:
More police isnt the answer. If you give these youngsters more initiatives like after-school programs, jobs, etc. then maybe things will get better. But if you think building trendy bars & high-end housing will make things better with alot of havenots around then things like this will happen on the regular.
Nov. 24, 2014, 12:43 pm
Dillon says:
Jim - This generation of "youngsters" has been offered education from Head Start through high school with all kinds of job training programs available. They were simply not infused with any sense of morality at home. Rich and poor have been living side by side in this city as far back as I can remember. More cops on the streets are necessary to compensate for these young thugs' parents failures at home..

We don't need high end bars but if that's what the hipsters need, let them have therm in peace.
Nov. 24, 2014, 1:57 pm
Demi Monde from Prospect Heights says:
Spike in crime? Of course the proper response is a heavier police presence, esp foot patrols. How is this remotely controversial?
Nov. 24, 2014, 2:16 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
If you noticed, most people in the hood arent robbing each other anymore because they know that they're in the same position as the next person around the way. Why waste time robbing someone in the PJ's when you've got newbies with loads of valuables creeping in?
Nov. 24, 2014, 2:32 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Dillon. yes, rich & poor have been living together but these kind of "rich"people coming in are totally different then the ones from the 70's, 80's & 90's. They're from small town, middle america. They dont possess the urbanesque of those from decades ago.
Nov. 24, 2014, 2:36 pm
Jack Klompus from Bushwick says:
Activist Gabriella Radeka takes Activist Gabriella Radeka VERY seriously. She has a sign. And a scowl. She's a very serious person.
Nov. 24, 2014, 4:46 pm
Vinny Polack from Greenpoint says:
"We don't need high-end bars in Brooklyn"

"We" and "what we need" has nothing to do with it. If I want to go to a nice bar, I'll go to a nice bar. New York is part of America, not some leftist Old World utopia where bleeding-heart community utilitarianism trumps the free market.
Nov. 24, 2014, 5:47 pm
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
The thing is these criminals didn't just wake up one morning and decide they are going to start a life of crime. They have been preying on people that look like them for years, racking up arrests and going through the revolving door of the "justice" system because there is a disparity in sentencing for criminals based on their victims. The one bright spot is that now that they are choosing non minority victims, people are finally taking notice and hopefully proper sentencing will follow. For example in Crown Heights Roodly Loiseau gets up to 14 years for raping a 12 year old AND gets bail AFTER the conviction while in Prospect Heights Carlos Hairston gets 37 to life for raping a 22 year old.
Nov. 25, 2014, 8:46 am

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