Will Van Dyke Street become Altamont? • Brooklyn Paper

Will Van Dyke Street become Altamont?

Some residents are blaming the violence on a local motorcycle club.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

For bikers at a Red Hook motorcycle club, the secluded waterfront neighborhood may seem like hog heaven — but some living nearby are bracing for Harley hell.

The fear is that the club, the Filthy Mad Dogs, will be a rowdy addition to an otherwise quiet block, Van Dyke Street off of Van Brunt Street.

But the reality on the block has been more like the tame aging boomer film “Wild Hogs” than Marlon Brando’s classic “The Wild One.”

We visited the block twice, plus talked to police, merchants and the bikers themselves — it’s all is quiet on the waterfront — save for the periodic roar of a motorcycle engine.

Capt. Thomas Kamper, an executive officer with the 76th Precinct, said he hasn’t tracked any felonies being committed in and around the Dogs’ club. “I don’t see an increase in robberies, no homicides, no shootings — nothing like that associated with them,” he said.

Area businesses said that so far it’s been a smooth ride.

“They don’t cause any problems,” said Richard Corn, co-owner of Uncle Louie G ice cream shop on Van Brunt between Van Dyke and Coffey streets. “I don’t understand — if there was a problem we would call the police, so whoever is saying stuff like that is crazy.”

Corn said one past Sunday, a few bikers came into his shop. “They were harmless. They were just buying ices,” he recalled.

Over at Rocky Sullivan’s bar on Van Dyke, bartender Tony Ferrara said he’s seen no problems in the bar. “Once in a while you’ll hear them go by and they are a little loud,” he added.

On Friday night, this newspaper visited the Dogs’ headquarters, a leased spaced carved alongside a commercial building and protected by a steel gate adorned with the club’s imposing emblem — crossbones and a bulldog, blood dripping from its toothy mouth. During the initial visit, nothing unusual was encountered.

The next day, the paper returned and met members, who were guarded but eventually agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity.

They said they are considerate of residents, will enhance the neighborhood, and are simply getting a bad rap.

“I think people just stereotype because we’re a motorcycle club. There’s no noise, and there’s no problems,” said one member.

“They see us with the bikes and they feel there’s danger, because that’s the way we’re portrayed on television — but we’re not like that.”

Another member said the Dogs’ are “family oriented” and are planning a cancer benefit in June, and block parties in the summer. “Right now, this is probably the safest block in Red Hook,” a member declared.

But some people don’t feel safe at all.

“They have huge parties, throw trash on the streets and fight,” said one area resident who requested anonymity out of fear of being targeted by the bikers. “We are basically afraid about what is going on.”

Residents claimed the problem has emerged over the past two months, and is usually at its rowdiest on Friday and Saturday nights.

“They are intimidating,” claimed another area resident, who also wished to remain anonymous.

John McGettrick, the co-chair of the Red Hook Civic Association, warned that as the weather gets warmer, the problem could heat up.

“Quality-of-life violations should be addressed forcefully, especially when issues of traffic safety are potentially involved,” he said.

Capt. Kenneth Corey, the commanding officer of the 76th Precinct, said he’d keep a close watch on the club — even as none of the claims could be substantiated at press time.

“They find a place to hang out that’s comfortable — we’ll make them uncomfortable,” he said at a recent meeting of the 76th Precinct Community Council, an civic group that meets with cops.

Bikers are not a new phenomenon in Red Hook, whose geographic isolation and comparatively sparse population make it an ideal stomping ground. In the 1970s the neighborhood clashed with the Ching-A-Ling Nomads, which started off as a street gang and evolved into a motorcycle club.

“We spoke to them and once we got to know them, we saw they were just misunderstood,” recalled Ray Hall, the co-founder of Red Hook Rise, a youth organization.

Today, things seem to have gone full circle. According to the Web site classicnystreetgangs.com, the Filthy Mad Dogs were founded in 1980 by the son of a respected member of the Ching-A-Lings.

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