Danger on East Broadway

| 02 Mar 2015 | 05:00

Questions about safety in the Lower East Side neighborhood after massive brawl leads to stabbing

A street fight involving 30-40 men on the Lower East Side last Monday resulted in a 17-year-old being stabbed and has prompted the question of whether the neighborhood around the F Stop on East Broadway is safe. Police confirmed an arrest has been made but declined to offer any more details.

The fight, which occurred at the intersection of East Broadway and Rutgers Street, left more questions than answers.

"Nobody really knows what happened," said Charles Hanson, owner of the nearby 169 Bar.

Hanson said men carrying what looked like rakes and other gardening tools started running down the street and one even tried to get into his bar after his bouncer saw what was going on and locked the door. The group gathered at the intersection and began fighting before dispersing. Hanson said nobody he's talked to, including the police, know why the fight occurred.

"We just saw people running down the street," said Hanson. "It looked like it was a gang thing."

Hanson said he doesn't think the area is a bad neighborhood, but the subway stop at the corner of East Broadway is "not a good subway." The platform is deep underground with no 24-hour MTA booth and no visible security cameras. In February of this year, local blog Bowery Boogie wrote about a fist fight in the station that resulted in one teenager falling onto the subway tracks - he was thankfully pulled to safety before a train arrived - and cited it as "yet another example of how this station is harbinger of criminal activity. It's a deep tube with no station attendant or police, and little in the way of surveillance system."

One of Hanson's customer's took a cell-phone video of the brawl in which a group of young men seemed to be crowded around the intersection, pushing and shoving. At one point during the video one of the men is seen lying face down on the pavement.

When asked if he thinks the neighborhood has a gang problem, Hanson said, "I don't know, probably a little bit."

Hanson said undercover police looking for information on muggings and drug dealing frequently approach his employees. However, he was quick to add that he doesn't think the neighborhood has a problem with violence.

"Not on this street, not in this bar," said Hanson.

Casey Downing and David Giroux are law students at nearby NYU and live a couple blocks from where the brawl happened. They said they feel safe in the neighborhood and don't feel that crime is much of an issue.

"I feel safe as much as anywhere," said Downing, 30. "If you have your wits about you you're fine."

Giroux, 28, said he recently saw a woman get her phone snatched while she was sitting on her stoop. Bystanders gave chase but he didn't know if they caught the perpetrator.

Regardless, he feels safe walking in the neighborhood. "There's so many people out and about now," said Giroux.

Neither has noticed any gang activity in the area.

The proprietor of a fruit market at the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers Street said she doesn't feel safe in the neighborhood and has seen at least two fights where the brawl broke out last Monday.

Joe and Elaine Czarnecki, who have lived in the area for close to a year, said they feel safe. They don't see a real police presence but said there are so many people around that safety isn't an issue to them.