The ‘Ripper’ explained

Park Slope is being plagued — or saved! — by a mysterious ripper who is pulling down people’s illegal fliers.
The Brooklyn Paper / Allison Bosworth

Leave “The Ripper” alone! That’s what the sister of the so-called “Park Slope Ripper” — the man who tears down people’s stoop sale, “Help Wanted” and “man with van” signs from neighborhood lampposts — is begging the people of Park Slope, some of whom are increasingly angry about the man’s neatnik vigilantism.

“The public needs to understand my brother, that he does this because he is autistic,” said the sister, who requested anonymity because there have been threats against her brother as he’s walked his flier-removal beat throughout Park Slope and nearby Prospect Heights.

The Brooklyn Paper got in touch with the woman after she responded to a story last week about the activities of the so-called “Ripper.” That story recounted that some people in the neighborhood are angry that he is pulling down signs, which are actually illegal, though others defended his activities as a public service.

She also posted a long letter on the Web site Brooklynian that asked her neighbors to “please leave him be.”

She signed it, “Concerned Sister 11215.”

In a subsequent interview with The Brooklyn Paper, the sister said her older brother’s sign-removal campaign started about five years ago and is directly related to his autism.

“He’s not doing this to be an a—hole or a killjoy or to inconvenience people,” she said. “It is something that his mind believes he absolutely must do. My mother often describes that he thinks of it as his job, his mission. He is compelled to do it.”

She said the family has long tried to get him to stop — mostly out fear that someone who has posted a sign will harm him — but he continues to keep his daily schedule of tidying the neighborhood.

“He has been confronted many times,” she said. “He gets upset and comes home and relates the incidents to my mother and to me. There’s a specific group of people from a moving company who have threatened him physically. But people have to understand that he is absolutely not violent and not a threat to anyone.”

The sister was angered by a widely distributed physical description of the man that suggested that he had a “weasly” face “that makes you immediately dislike him.”

“Some of the bloggers say he appears angry, but it’s really just social awkwardness,” she said. “The fact is that he has so much difficulty even interacting with people that he doesn’t even try anymore. People perceive his look as one of anger, but he is not dangerous!”

She also objected to the suggestion that some residents have become “Ripper hunters,” hoping to confront her brother and get him to stop tearing down local fliers. Others have said they want to punch out the man.

“You have no idea what it felt like to read that,” said the woman.

“He is an incredibly vulnerable person, not some monster to be hunted down. He has suffered his entire life. He has suffered enough.”

She and her husband, who works with autistic children, said they have tried to channel the man’s crusade into something with an official capacity, perhaps as a Park volunteer that could offer an element of protection, but their efforts have come to naught.

“The problem is that low self-esteem makes him reluctant to interact with people,” she said.

The good news is that sometimes people do offer encouragement, she said. But he’s ill-equipped to receive it.

“If you want to say, ‘Good job, keep it up,’ that’s great, and he may even manage a reply, but don’t expect to have a whole conversation with him,” she said.

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