celebrating the glories of eating in brooklyn. from the gut.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

3 Muggings in 3 Years, What Would You Do?

Occasionally I feel the need to vent about non-food related issues. What the hell. I guess I've got another existential crisis on my hands, though this one is more tangible than trying to figure out my purpose on this planet.

I don't know why, but I've always had a dream to own a brownstone on a tree-lined city block. Maybe I saw it as the antidote to growing up in a suburbia of strip malls and subdivisions. Or maybe it was the romanticism evoked by The Cosby Show or Moonstruck. Or maybe it was hearing about my mother's own experience growing up in Jersey City. Or maybe it was just a bad idea.

After 5 years in London, I moved to New York. I was instinctively drawn to Brooklyn. I had never been before, but I knew it was where I wanted to be. My mind imagined not only low-rise residential beauty and bohemia, but also distinct neighborhoods where the old New York still lived, and yes, those big, beautiful brownstones.

So three and half years ago (after a year on the Upper West Side), my partner and I took our profits from the sale of our London flat, family loans, and loose change and purchased a brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Our dream home was in near move-in condition and dripping with details. We'd find out later, just what "move-in condition" really meant. Outpriced in Harlem, Park Slope, Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, to me Bed Stuy was our last hope. Nearly four years later, we still await many simple amenities that make life easier, but change is in the air. More now than ever.

We moved in on a rainy October day in 2003. By the time we unloaded the last box from the rental truck, it was 1am. 1am and raining. The asphalt was shiny and slick and the street lights reflected yellow, red and green. Our block had the feeling of a movie set. It was picture perfect. Just as we closed the door to the truck with a thump, a passerby turned around and held us up. He ripped through my pockets frantically searching for cash. And I stupidly had $500.00 in my front pocket. I slipped a few singles off the wad of dough and gave it to him. He started walking away and came back with a vengeance as if the few singles I had given him were like spitting in his face. He ransacked my pockets again. Nothing. He never found the $500.00. Picture perfect and no one around.

We felt nothing but horror and panic later that night as we searched out the safest corner of the house to sleep -- the fourth floor front room overlooking the top of the sycamore tree. With our sleeping bags on pine floors, our hearts pounded and kept us up all night. We had spent our life savings only to be held up at gunpoint. We felt we had been had.

Our life in Bed Stuy from that point on was marked by paranoia. We picked up visiting friends at the subway station with our car, took cabs home late at night and called one another with our cell phones when walking home from the subway. "I'm just crossing Chauncey... Now I'm at Macon." We thought cell phones would help us be safer until we discovered that nearly everyone we knew had been mugged for their cell phones. It was hard to overcome the false safety of the cell phone, but we stopped using them in the open.

Fast forward to about 8pm on a day in February 2006. There was snow on the ground and teenagers outside the subway station decided to peg me with snowballs as I crossed their path. I had reached my limit. A block away I decided to call the cops. Next thing I knew one of the kids came up from behind and started pummeling me in the side of the head. Stunned and bloody, I fell into a stoop dropping my bags and cell phone. He continued to punch. I managed to kick him off me, grabbed my bags and ran home. Cell phone left behind.

Later that same night I canvassed the neighborhood with the police. Whenever they came across a group of teenagers hanging out, they lined them up on the sidewalk. Me, I was in the back seat of the cop car with ice on my wounded head and asked to identify the kids who beat me. There was no way I could. As the cops drove me home, they got a call about a shooting up the street. They were looking for a white Nissan Maxima. Of course the suspect car passed us. There I am still in the back seat. The cops whipped the car around and chased the white Nissan Maxima. They pulled it over. And I ran home for a second time that night.

Our existence in Bed Stuy continued to be marked by fear. Each time I came home from the subway, my stomach felt as if it was being eaten from the inside out. Again, I chalked this up. We stuck it out and miraculously as the year went on, things felt better in the neighborhood. What does it mean for a neighborhood to "feel" better? I don't know. It's an instinctual feeling. The tension wasn't as intense.

Like I said we stuck it out. We refused to be driven out of the place we decided to call home. A few months ago we decided to take out a loan to renovate. As far as renovations go, we're moving along slowly, but steadily. We've nearly finished the basement, the kitchen has been gutted, the wood stripped and the ground floor and parlour floor rewired and my favorite -- French doors to the garden installed. There have been frustrations along the way like the basement flooding from a broken pipe and a boiler dying on us when it snowed in April. We're over the hump and the excitement about the finished product is barely containable.

We're active in our block association. We know a lot of people in the neighborhood and very often bump into people we know. We have wonderful neighbors too.

Last night I got mugged again. One block from my house and in front of a church, a 6 foot, 200lb man wrapped his arm around my neck, repeatedly threatened to kill me and asked for all my money and my cell phone. I handed over about 60 bucks and my new phone. I went through the rigmarole with the cops again. I doubt we will find him.

I am mad at myself. I'm mad at myself for trusting, for not dressing tough enough, for letting my guard down and creating a window of opportunity, for not fighting back. I can't help but wonder if the muggings are a result of a series of stupid mistakes I've made. Or if I could've altered fate by walking a little slower or stopping in the bodega or catching the next train. I replay the events in my head often only with me winning. I never thought mugging would become routine in my life. It's so absurd I could laugh, but I also feel like crying and punching someone's lights.

I feel paralyzed. The rational voice says "Leave now." The voice of fantasy says "Stick it out. It'll be worth it in the long run." Maybe I was stupid for not having left three and half years ago. With the neighborhood in transition and deep into renovation and debt, what would you do?


Blogger Douglas Cress said...

horrible - do you live in an out of the way place, are you often alone when you're coming home?

for your own sanity, id attribute it to a run of bad luck. i had a friend in park slope who was mugged at gunpoint twice in two weeks.

its not going to get less safe, your home will only increase in value and the neighborhood will only get better. be safe.

7:58 PM

Anonymous Jake said...

I've come upon your website a couple times in the past couple years, and always enjoyed looking around. As a native Brooklyn-ite, I felt moved to comment. I really hope you'll think about what I have to say.

When you moved to Bed Stuy, you knew it was a bad neighborhood, didn't you?

Nobody makes the investment of buying a house without learning about the area. Yes, people get mugged there. Yes, if you are white, you will stand out. Yes, "Bed Stuy Do or Die" is the neighborhood's motto. But you know what? You said you had a dream of owning a home. Now you do.

Getting mugged sucks, but it sounds like you're taking it as a personal offense. Honestly, you need to suck it up and be a man. I'm not saying you should fight back. (The best thing to do is always to stay cool and calm and hand over whatever you have.) But you can at least do it with some kind of self-respect. Stop feeling so sorry for yourself, blubbering on the internet to a million strangers about rigamarole.

Think of this as nothing more than an emotional tax for moving into the cheapest neighborhood in the city, one that has ALWAYS resisted outsiders moving in. Didn't you see Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING?! You should. It's about your neighborhood.

If you decide to rent eventually, you have to at least finish renovating now. So don't carry $500 in cash and DON’T call the cops on any more kids for throwing snowballs.

Someday you'll look back at this time sagely, your house worth ten times what you paid for it.

3:58 PM

Blogger meresy_g said...

I just posted a long comment and then it disappeared. Crap. Anyway, I don't think you should leave. It can happen anywhere. Remember I was robbed, where I live, and that creep was in my house. Grrrr. I felt violated and unsafe for a year. What about a self-defense class? Or maybe a taser or something. Pretty satisfying to watch the next would-be attacker flop around on the groudn like a fish. I hope you feel better. Feeling vulnerable and angry is not fun. But it wasn't your fault. It is a random act and you just were in the wrong place at the wrong time. BTW, when are you coming home again?

4:59 PM

Anonymous pod said...


stick it out

if you've got this far.
nothing you could have done against a 6ft 200 pounder.

hell i was in the chichest hood in manhattan and got attacked by a random junkie and i was only there for just over a week.

10 years from now you'll be sitting on the millions.

never carry cash with you. and have a cheapo phone you don't give a toss about.

7:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is terrible and scary. I would encourage you to take an amazing self defense class called Prepare Impact (www.prepareinc.com). It helps you feel more Prepared (for real), and gives you more options in case you're faced with such situations in the future (the class let's you practice verbal and physical techniques and helps you feel less anxious or frozen in those situations). It really is amazing. I think everyone should take it!

11:06 PM

Blogger EFB said...

Thanks for the comments.

It certainly is an emotional tax and I don't see the point of brushing crime under the rug. Sometimes it helps people to share their personal experiences. Isn't that the whole point of a blog?

9:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Serves you right whitey. You think you could invade any hoods with your naive version of gentrification? Yeah, stay. Stay for the coming market correction and the relentless black karmic retribution.

10:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your house is probably already worth twice what you paid for it in 2003. Now that is insane... but it's the market. Of course you should sell -- you only stand to gain.

People act like gentrification is an inevitable boulder rolling down a hill -- once started it becomes a quick route to the next chic neighborhood with appropriate schools, restaurants and retail.

That isn't true. Bed Stuy is dangerous. It's going to be dangerous tomorrow and it's going to be dangerous ten years from now. Look at West Philadelphia for comparison -- not Park Slope. If you're venting about getting mugged on the internet you probably can't stand the heat -- so get out of the kitchen before you finish installing those cork floors.

10:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My heart goes out to you. Sometimes it is a matter of random luck. I know people that have lived there without incident for a few years and feel safe. After 3 incidents I don't think I could stay, no matter how much the house will be worth in the future. For me a it's about what the home is worth and not what the house might be worth. Life's too short.

11:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nobody can tell you how to feel here. we can mouth stats or tell you what we'd do but it won't really matter. i think to most of us comparing your ordeal to the rushkoffs, you have way more reason to get out than they ever did. but for some reason i hope you can tough it out.

11:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a bed-stuy resident too. I'm up near the Marcy houses which I think is a much worse area then near the A train.

But I'm not white, I'm hispanic and I'm 6'1" and 220 lbs. I grew up in Brooklyn and knew about Bed-Stuy's history before I bought in. My size and race was definitely part of what made me comfortable buying in.

My opinion is you should stay. It gets better every year here. My first year was unbearable. Actually my first night here was met with about 100 people having a party in my front yard. The party had started across the street, spilled onto the street and then onto my front yard.

My opinion is that getting mugged three times means that you look like a good victim. Look at yourself beyond the fact that you are white and not 200lbs.

For example:
1. Do you have two free hands when you walk around the neighborhood? That means using a backpack. This way its harder to grab you from behind and if they face you, they know you can fight back to some degree.

2. Take that self defense class that someone pointed out above. For example, if someone grabs you in a choke hold, run backwards into them! You may never use any of it, but you will always feel better if you know the basics. Self-defense is a learned skill and not an art form so a good class is a good idea.

3. Realize that there are better ways to deal with kids.. They usually will test you before they do anything to you..

In the case of the snowball thing... I would have thrown a few back. Hit one of them but don't hit them in the face. That's the street way of saying "I'm not a push over!".

Another example: A couple of months ago, three teenagers saw me walking across the street. They figured that I was trying to get away from them (they smelled fear) and crossed the street with me. I saw this but knew to stay calm and just keep walking towards them, we just stared at each other as we got closer until I walked right into one of them and we hit shoulders. I didn't put a swing into my shoulder and neither did he (remember he was just testing me, not trying to break my shoulder) so we just both got turned a bit. And that's it they all left me alone.

Yes it helps that I'm big for the last situation-- but the same thing applies-- you prove that you are going to stand up for yourself. And that alone will get you out of a lot of situations on the street.

Good luck and be well.

11:49 AM

Anonymous A. Wyatt Mann said...

Just click your heels and repeat three times: 'Diversity is strength', 'Diversity is strength', 'Diversity is strength'

12:04 PM

Blogger nick said...

I feel bad for you, but it's not random. No matter how hard you try not to, you probably stand out as a "mark" in Bed Stuy. Thugs can smell a mark a mile away, and you will probably always be a target. Sorry, but that's life in the big city. There's always Forest Hills.

1:17 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sucks to be you... It's a shame that people rob and steal. But the truth is... you knew about the dangers of this neighborhood before you moved in. Being a resident of BS for 13 years and also being white I have never even been approached. So, look your self in the mirror... Are you a mark? Walk with your head up and look everyone in the eye. Know where you are and who's around you. Good luck in what ever you plan to do. Either way you already doubled your money, minus what the crooks took... emotionally and beyond.

1:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's a horrible story. But I TOTALLY know where you are coming from. My husband and I were newly married in 2000 and bought a cute house in Fort Greene. Right before we began renovating, someone broke in and stole all our fireplace mantles. Bye bye details... Then my husband was mugged around the corner at 8pm on a summer evening. He chased the mugger and the police eventually caught him. Then, a year and half ago, I came home with my toddler son only to find a robber leaving my house with some very choice possessions. I handed the baby to my sister-in-law and chased him down the block, cornered him in a garden and then the police came and got him. This was getting a little too routine for my taste. And one can only be do-it-yourself policewoman for so long.
So, we moved. Not out of Brooklyn, just to a safer neighborhood in Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens. Since then, no muggings, no thefts, no hassle. My whole psyche has improved dramatically. Bed Stuy is a gorgeous place. My great grandmother grew up on Hancock Street. I looked at places to buy there myself in 2000. But I always went back at night to see what it was like. Too scary for me. I give you a lot of credit for sticking it out as long as you have. But hey, the next time you may not be so lucky. Living in a gorgeous brownstone is a nice life, but only if you are actually living.

2:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Move. As someone who's been there/done that... MOVE. It will feel so good to live somewhere safe, where you can once again enjoy life and not feel so anxious all the time. Move now! And good luck to you. And oh, for the commenter who told you to suck it up and be a man: let me be the first to say that he/she is an idiot.

3:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Jake. Just suck it up and quit whingeing.
Do not carry a lot of cash, a twenty is fine, or a pricey phone/crackberry.
It happened to me 24 years ago in Ft Greene and to my boyfriend, who lived there, and is white, twice in that neighborhood as well. He called it "affirmative action mugging". Don't lose your sense of humor.
And do see "Do the Right Thing".

4:57 PM

Blogger EFB said...

Let me get this out of the way before another person tells me to see "Do the Right Thing." I've seen it 3 times.

I learned the first time around not to use a cell phone and carry a lot of cash.

If you read the post, I don't see how you could interpret it as whingeing. It's an account. I'm relaying a personal story.

If by suck it up, you mean shut up, then I won't. If you mean stay, well I'm considering.

5:11 PM

Anonymous Please Leave - Quickly said...

...to all of you gentrifiers and ignoramuses - I am Bed-Stuy native, I grew up there, and now own a brownstone right around the corner from where I grew up. Never in the entire time that I've lived in the neighborhood - have I ever felt anything close to the fear and paranoia described by both the author and posters.
Here's the thing - I have no desire to persuade you that your safety will be assured - please leave and do so quickly, taking all of your hipster, gentrifying paranoia with you.

5:12 PM

Blogger judy said...

I can't believe all the crap people are giving you. People love to blame the victim, but the fact is, it could happen to anyone. The only apartment I've ever had successfully broken into was on the Upper East Side.

Before that I lived on the Lower East Side (this was the 80s) and a big guy tried to jump me at four in the morning on my birthday. Unfortunately for him, my first reaction to being threatened is to go on the attack, so I had chased him, screaming, halfway down the block until we both realized I was half his size and a woman. Oops.

Another time a kid tried to mug me in broad daylight on a Williamsburg street. Again, I went into screaming crazy woman mode and chased the brat down the street. He was on his bike and escaped my clutches, but barely.

Reacting the way I did was stupid and I could've gotten hurt, but I was lucky. I'm really sorry you've been having such a hard time of it.

5:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You became a victim in Bed-Stuy the first day you moved there because after the initial mugging you got scared (understandably) and started walking around YOUR neighborhood locked to your cell phone and emanating fear. It's not your fault, but you became a target. To the extent that you haven't already, you need to say hello to people on the street, be as friendly as NYC allows, become friends with your neighbors and local merchants, etc -- these people will come to know you as their neighbor and look out for you. I moved to BS 3 yrs ago and am white. Luckily, I have had no problems and have been touched by how friendly everyone is. When I sweep my front stoop, people thank me. When I double park my car waiting for parking, my neighbors ring my doorbell to say they are pulling out. The neighborhood is definitely getting better - stick it out.

6:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I gotta say dude, I dont feel sorry or even sympathize with you. And the seeing "Do The Right Thing" is not going to get you a Bed Stuy pass, or deeper understanding of the place where you are living. As a native New Yorker I gotta say that getting mugged three times in three years is really not that bad. As someone who was born and raised in Bed Stuy, I have to tell you that it will more than likely continue. You move into an economically depressed area true, but you also moved into a community. Your house was probably in someone's family for years, or maybe it wasn't but more than likely the neighbors knew them. Have you tried to get involved in the community, and I dont mean a block association that is full of people just like you. Do you speak to your neighbors, the ones who put more than three years in in the Stuy? Somehow I doubt it. And do you always do dumb things like finish moving in at 1 am?

6:12 PM

Blogger EFB said...

It's so easy for anonymous posters to sit in judgment. I'm glad if you never got mugged or beat up.

What I wanted to do was tell a personal story with all my dumb mistakes and all. I could've edited out that stuff, but I didn't. I wanted to tell a story. I'm not looking for sympathy. I'm not indicting the neighborhood. People draw strange conclusions and extrapolate selected information to fit their political agenda. Well fuck you. Nobody's perfect and sometimes you find yourself unpacking at 1am in an unsafe neighborhood.

We started moving that morning, but by the time we finished it was 1am. We were left with the option of leaving our stuff in the truck with no lock or finishing the job. We chose to be done with it. Shit happens.

I have a great relationship with my neighbors, not only on my block but throughout the neighborhood. The guys at my corner bodega know me. At the same time, doesn't anyone see a problem with not being able to be who you are in your own neighborhood?

9:50 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your story pisses me off. Your way of protecting yourself is to have the police harrass teenage boys in THEIR neighborhood. Money doesn't mean you own your home. You may own the property, but it should be obvious to you that there are many people in the neighborhood who have seen Bed Stuy at its best and worst, who dont want you here. You can get mugged, shot, raped anywhere in the city. The fact that it is happening where you live is that you are not wanted. Just because you may have a few black neighbors who you may be friendly with doesn't mean you are part of the community. There is too much history in Do ro Die and this racist country for gentrification in Bed Stuy to not happen violently. If you want to be part of that, it's your choice.

10:40 AM

Blogger grumpygirl said...

i'm actually a little sickened by a lot of the nasty comments here.

i don't care if you look like a mark, didn't think it through, were naive, whatever.

there's really one question: do you feel safe? if you don't, and you can afford to leave, do it. your life is worth more than that house. and if you want to stay, make that work with the suggestions from the peanut gallery. if you feel scared, you will be a target. i don't know why that's something to be nasty to you about.

i'd leave. i don't like feeling scared. nobody should feel this way in their own home--regardless of whether other people think they should be there or not.

10:52 AM

Blogger EFB said...

you got to be kidding me. what would you do if you got beat up by teenagers? you wouldn't call the cops?

the level of blame the victim is staggering.

11:12 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yah, I totally agree with the anonymous commenter at 10:40--because people were in Bedstuy at its best and worst they have all the right to use violence to stop new comers based on the color of their skin. That is how I feel at my workplace: they have brought in affirmative action which I believe is total horseshit--I, and all my other white, male colleagues, were there through the tough times, so all these Others have absolutely no right to try and gain access to the formal economy. Just because the secretary is nice to you when you hand in your application, it doesn't mean you are wanted in OUR workplace!

In solidarity with 10:40,

12:20 PM

Anonymous Mike said...

It seems that some of these native Bed Stuy commenters reflect the neighborhood's attitude that is to your detriment. I don't think you deserved any of the bullshit you've so far dealt with, but at the same time I don't think I'd expect it to cease at any time soon. Yes, this investment will financially pay off but yes, you'll probably get mugged again and yes, it could be worse next time. It would appear that a)there is a resistance to newcomers and b)that stand-out arrivals like yourself present an easy target for criminals. Ask yourself if your "dream" is really attainable both in terms of the change that will be necessary in the neighborhood and your well being in the mean time.

The hate-filled comments you received in response to your posting were disgusting. You did nothing wrong besides being idealistic and maybe unprepared. If "hipster, gentrifying paranoia" is what people in your neighborhood consider your reaction to being robbed and assaulted to be, then they are indeed assholes.

12:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, would you mind posting your street/block/intersection so I don't go over there?


12:50 PM

Blogger Sarah said...

Wow--you have my sympathies. After three muggings, I'd be out of there and into a smaller place in a safer neighborhood...but then, I'm a wimp when it comes to that stuff. Good luck.

4:46 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What nonsense! Because you're white, have more money than some, you're "displacing" family from their beloved home? THEY SOLD THE HOUSE, idiot posters, and I bet they made a nice profit. Stop blaming people for paying whatever they have to to buy a house for "raising prices" and "gentrifying neighborhoods." It is the SELLERS of those houses that are raising prices and gentrifying neighborhoods.

Bed Stuy is not the cheapest nabe in Brooklyn, nor is it neccesarily more dangerous than others. What do you all consider "safe?" Japan? Well, I was assaulted in my home in Japan in the 80s. How about Park Slope, where a man was murdered in broad daylight in 97? Or Prospect Hts, where that young woman was killed a few years ago? Or Bensonhurst, wasn't that where Son of Sam struck? why don't you just move to the 'burbs? That's safe, it's not like they go around shooting up schools and post offices!

Guess you could do what the other half of Americans do and get a gun!

6:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I read comments on neighborhood blogs, especially with any question of "whom does the neighborhood belong to," I get more bad vibes than I ever do in the neighborhoods.

I wish y'all peace & love.

6:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am truly sorry you went through all of this. I had a conversation with a friend about you and he said you should leave. I don't know.

I lived in the 90's on 1st Avenue in Manhattan throughout the '70s and early '80s when this was a transitional neighborhood. After my landlord rented the store below me to drug dealers, (grocery store front for major metropolitan drug operation) I was buglarized 3 times and within a pretty short period of time. The first time I was asleep in my apartment and I have lunatic impulses so I went running and screaming after them as they went out the fire escape. The second time, someone smashed in my door and stole my money and stuff and the last time, it was around Christmas in 1883 and the bastards stole everything I had of value -- money, all the Christmas presents I bought for people, Christmas presents bought for me, money, all my jewelry (I didn't have much of anything in those days, but pearls my old boyfriend gave me were stolen). That last time (the third time) I flipped out. First, I walked back and forth in my tenement railroad apartment and cryed. No I was hysterical, crying, yelling, utterly defeated, furious and distraught. Then I went down to the drug dealers and flipped out, although flipped out was probably an understatement. I was out of my mind with fury, because it was THEM I screamed that brought all the criminals into my peaceful life. I will never ever forget that night and psycho furious I was. Up until that time, I was keeping my distance from these crooks and dealing with the police since there were ongoing things happening there.

Then something just changed inside of me. I knew what I had to do. I had to stick up for myself and decided to move out and to buy a beautiful coop apartment in peaceful Brooklyn. I moved to Brooklyn Heights and it was a wonderful wonderful thing to do for me. I must say that it isn't that I never was bothered by crime ever again (a friend and I were mugged at gunpoint on the promenade by two kids a year later).

I don't think of myself as a victim, never did, have always been very athletic, I have attitude, a mouth, etc. and yet I suffered this. Many other people have too. Crime has dropped dramatically in NYC, but Bed Sty is still a tough area and what I suffered in what was then Lower East Harlem is what you are suffering to some extent in Bed Sty.

Give yourself a break my friend and do what feels right to you. And do not under any circumstances, feel that in any way you are to blame. You have a right to your peace, your happiness, your hard earned home, your assets, and your life. Just make yourself happy.

And the best of luck to you.

7:20 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The aforementioned teenagers should probably never have been born, and will more like than not end up in jail, and then back in Bed-Stuy. Later they'll be 6'2" and 200 lb, and not any nicer.
I don't think you did anything wrong, I do wish the posters talking about people staying out of their neighborhood would keep in mind that it wasn't people like them that built those brownstones. Someday they'll leave, change or get pushed out. But, unfortunately, that may be a long way off, so in the meantime, I agree with advice you have gotten not to stay. Either the neighborhood is bad, or you're a target, whichever it is, I wouldn't bet its going to change soon enough for you to be sure you're going to be safe.
As a newcomer to a neighborhood like that, you're always vulnerable, that's again, not to say you should accept being abused, or accept teenagers or low lifes. If you move into a building with roaches or rats, you don't feel bad because its their neighborhood, you either get rid of them yourself, or call the exterminator - you're not doing anyone a favor by letting them be.
A teenager who's punching you in the head isn't going anywhere, and certainly isn't doing anything for the neighborhood, its interesting that some people would rather see you beat than discipline the teenager. Its no wonder those kids turn out that way.
But, you should carefully weigh wether or not its worth your safety to stay in a neighborhood just because you love the house. And your friendly neighbors aren't around much to help you out, it seems.
I grew up in DC myself. My family wasn't from there, but since they were in the military and Department of Defense, we were in Washington. There were plenty of teenagers doing shit to people, and there still are.
In the neighborhood in live in in Brooklyn, there are a couple of guys who walk around with pit bulls. The kids who don't belong here don't walk down our block much, and I'm glad for that. At the same time, I keep an axe handle by the door, I have a wife and kids, and I'm basically always ready to pound somebody's fucking brains in. And I'm only 5'6" and 150. Nobody's ever fucked with me so far, but you know, it could happen any day.
But if you're white and gay in Bed-Stuy, to be safe, you need to be ready to beat somoeone's head in, and it doesn't seem to me that's the way you want to live your life.

10:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to leave you a word of support. You sound like a really decent guy and I'm sorry that you're on the receiving end of so much violence in your neighborhood AND hate on this blog from people who have their own agendas. I hope it all works out for you. Even if you decide to sell now you'll probably make a nice profit, but surely it would be hard to leave a place you've invested so much time and effort in. If you stay I hope you will do as other posters suggested: take a self-defense class. Make eye contact and say hello to everyone you meet on the street. It's easy for me to say because I've never been mugged or had a gun pulled on me. At my subway stop (Nostrand&Fulton) there are always gypsy cabs driving by late at night who will pick you up and drive you the few blocks home so you don't have to walk; if they have those at Utica, then maybe it's worth spending 5 bucks on that once in a while.

8:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck to you, my friend. Ignore the haters, and take strength in those that support you.

Now, close the comments on this section!

3:26 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand why there is debate on this topic. Even if you are the rudest most hateful person to set foot in BS, you should not have to fear being beaten or robbed. Its not acceptable but sadly its likely that until the bigger issues to do with poverty and race are addressed in this nation it will continue. Best of luck. I would be cashing in and running for the hills of Westchester by now.

2:59 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Move. Living the American dream does not include being in the ghetto. People work hard so they can move out of Bed-Stuy, not in. 10 years from now, the neighborhood will be filled with overpriced million-dollar brownstones but you will still be afraid to walk the streets in broad daylight by yourself and there still won't be a decent coffeeshop, or dry cleaner, or supermarket within a 5 minute walk from your house.

3:37 AM

Blogger Backyard Chef said...

Hey there, EFB....

So sorry to read about your troubles in Bed-Stuy and the negative reactions here in the comments. People are so resistant to change in their neighborhoods.

I moved into Williamsburg in the early 90s and the first night there, someone was shot right up the street from us. This was my first apartment in the city. For the first few years we were there, the threat of danger was palpable many times, but we stuck it out.

The area has undergone a rapid, but painful, gentrification. Many of the old-time residents were pushed out and were angry, but we had made many friends in the community and with the business people.

Oddly enough, since I've left, I've heard about more muggings and gun point trouble-- maybe people know the money is there along with easy marks.

No one owns Bed Stuy or can tell you that you are welcome or not. Stick with your heart and your gut, and if you can hold out, more power to you. It sux to feel like a prisoner in your own home....your sanctuary.

11:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all you gentrification haters, have you ever considered what it's like when it happens in reverse? When the beautiful city block you grew up in turns into a ghetto? When the friendly corner grocery store is turned into a drug corner? When the beautiful park becomes too dangerous to even go into during the day? And what do normal rational people do when that happens? We don't mug the new neighbors, we don't hate the new neighbors - we get the hell out. Whether we want to or not. Because we don't want to live like that. It's a shame to have to bug your 80 year old ailing father to move. How much fun is it to get a realtor, look for a new home, pack up and move when your a sickly 80 year old?

I'm just venting against all the idiots who told you to get out because you don't belong. What bullsh*t. They're just a bunch of thugs. As far as you are concerned, you did NOTHING wrong. You tried, but I think you should move. This is no way to live. You sound intelligent enough to realize that. Otherwise you wouldnt have posted this story. I give you all the credit in the world for trying, but again - YOU DON'T HAVE TO LIVE LIKE THIS. Everyone deserves to feel save in their own home. Good luck and get some mace for heaven's sake!!

9:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How strange that you have to live with jungle instincts just to walk around a neighborhood. Then again, look at the people in that neighborhood.

4:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of the posts here REEK of RACISM...by blacks against ‘whitey” moving into “their neighborhood”. I’m laughing out loud at that!

Some are basically saying, in short, that the man deserved to be mugged because he's white & a Yuppie.

As a white woman of Italian & Irish descent who grew up in Bushwick, in the early 1960s, when it was mostly white: Germans, Irish & Italians with some Puerto Rican families living on the peripheries....I find it quite ironic that the obviously racist black posters here are claiming that Bed/Sty is THEIR neighborhood.

Well, they are completely wrong....Bed/Sty was originally an all white, mostly a Jewish & Waspy area. Those elaborate brownstones were owned by ppper middle class and wealthy white professionals, NOT poor black people!

As another poster here commented, black people certainly weren’t the ones who built or originally lived in those brownstones! True.

Sure black people were also ‘pioneers’ there when THEY moved in, but they know damn well that they also drove OUT the white population when they started moving in, need I go on?

Now the black population of Bed/Sty are quite angry because white professionals and “hipsters” (who are mostly out-of- towners with trust funds) are “taking over THEIR area”. The mind BOGGLES at the irony!

MORE irony, is the fact that many of the black families of Bed/Sty aren’t even originally from New York either, they migrated from the South!

IF you are going to chide “whitey” about where they should live in Brooklyn....get your goddamn facts straight!

Because Bed/Sty was NEVER a ‘black neighborhood’ to begin with! Yes, “Do the Right Thing” indeed! Start with welcoming people into your neighborhood who can improve it.

Some posters here act as if the black kids mugging new people to the area should be tolerated? Are they serious? Brain dead, ignorant thought processes such as this are what keep black people down....

Why are those kids even hanging out and mugging to begin with?

It’s NOT the affluent white people moving into ‘your’ neighborhood who are ruining it, it’s the constant negativity, lame-ass repetitious excuses and the blaming of others by the black population which continues to keep black people down, NOT gentrification.

Basically, black people are doing it to themselves, the whites aren’t keeping them down. Now they are physically attacking whites for moving into ‘their’ neighborhoods?

Those mugging teens need some marketable skills to get jobs...not to be hanging out from generation to generation.....robbing and blaming “whitey” for their stake in life.

Of course, it’s so much easier to blame someone else for your non-productivity, than do something with your life, hmm?

Lastly, seems it's perfectly fine to be racist when black people are doing it. Get a clue!

5:51 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cry me a f****** river (violin strings being played in the background). This blog reeks of "whoa is me", i want to vomit. Are you that greedy that you will put a price on your safety?

10:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, people's true feelings come out behind the computer, huh? How does someone get directed to a pleasant and innocent blog about food in Bklyn, only to leave "serves you right, whitey" comments?
I agree with the poster that said the sellers and developers are to blame for a lot of this "gentrification", and noone deserves a beatdown for walking around. Muggings happen, but it doesnt "serve" you right. A lot of already-there 'hood residents dont realize most "whiteys" that move to their 'hoods don't want to "take over", and do respect what's been there already and its history, and just want to co-exist. The developers, etc.. want to price out the neighborhood folks, not the whites that find ok places to live there.
Best to you --

11:33 PM

Blogger D.W. said...

Holy Mother Mary - What the hell is in the tap water in Bed-Stuy? I come to the NYC area to visit with friends who live in Jersey, Staten Is. Greenpoint, Williamsburg & Park Slope, and we often head up to St.Nicholas'in Harlem for their mind-blowing jazz. I gotta say, any time I'm in the US, I do extra work on the body language and costume. I always watch my surround because it can be bright and sunny on Bedford, you have a coffee, life is good... but some little bastard has been looking for a mark. Doesn't matter, it's not just you, it's the criminal thought process. All these idiots who have a chip on their shoulder about you moving into "their" place? Well they apparently have time to be on the web, looking at blogs and whinging. If they cared about the rate of getrification, did they organize community meetings? Approach the Borough's planners? Well, such rhetorical dead ends kind of answer themselves.
Whether or not you made it easy, some other guys make it their business to steal and rob. That happens lots of places nicer than Bed-Stuy, as far as I know. Like, any city over a million people, you can count on muggings.
Can I offer a tip? Buy a cheap cell phone (pawn shops buy them to sell them...), carry a dummy wallet with a token amount of cash.
Save yourself the grief of re-filing for all your ID and losing contacts or privacy with your phone.
Make a go of it - what you love and work for makes it worth while. It's like a lot of relationships, right?
And if you leave, you know you weren't really in love with Brooklyn as it can be. Just the way you wished it was.

I wish you good luck and good instincts.

12:27 AM

Blogger moog8008 said...

The assholes laughing at someone for getting robbed three times only shows your immaturity and lack of respect for decency.

I work in Coney Island - a wonderful place if it were cleaned up - but poor folk have to live somewhere. Right? People who can invest or buy into an area to exploit its potential can't be welcome if SOME of the current residents don't or won't.

The same applies to SOME who DON'T own. No respect for what's NOT yours. Unless you step on someone's sneakers or 'look' at them 'wrong'.

Like all bullies - it takes violence to justify their lack of success AND feelings of inadequacy.

Having my apartment and two cars robbed (apt by kids, cars by WHITE men - its a degenerate nature for anyone who wants to steal) I'm sympathetic to EFB, but if he's not black - he's a mark in Do or Die.

If he were a successful black man, would he deserve the same? "Of course not!" Maybe a couple of assholes kids who have no hope of ever making anything of themselves would rob this black man.

The United States is a racist, chauvinist, anti-semitic, narrow-minded society. Yet, two of the most popular candidates for President challenges those characteristics.

Bed-Stuy is a once-and-future model neighborhood of Brooklyn's unique personality. Too bad a bunch of assholes (and the one's who condone their behavior), keep it in the long suffering present.

12:02 AM

Blogger Averia said...

I have moved to Bed sty and feel safe so I am surprised this has happened to you so many times. I see the police walking around the neighborhood doing basically NOTHING. Maybe this is because I live near the police precinct? My roommate, however was robbed by 2 females who took her credit cards and $20. She got everything turned off but was shaken up a bit.

If this is your home-stay! I love Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Park Slope, Greenpoint, Fort Green, Brooklyn heights, DUMBO, etc. but Bed Sty is 1 of the last cheaper places to live is moderately safe and with a gentrifying culture-like the new bookstores and cafes that have opened and the new Y down the block from my house.

Get a knife-my friends have them. You can legally carry several types of knives w/you or hell, carry mace. People in NYC have been robbed and murdered in ever borough.

My roommate that was robbed last year had to deal with a rapist attacking women in the east village on the same block that she lived and I have a friend that has been robbed and her car attack on the upper west side which is a nice area so.....?!

5:46 PM

Anonymous heating systems said...

Wow!!! I live in the south and you've got some of us beat down here. Looks absolutely fabulous!!!

8:44 AM


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