‘Sucker-Punch Attacks’ in Morningside Park Have Neighborhood on Edge

Photo by Chris Hill.

Several attacks in Morningside Park in recent weeks — some allegedly committed by children between the ages of about 12 and 15 — have raised concerns among neighbors in the area. Friends of Morningside Park has sent around a notice about the attacks, and a vigil is set for Thursday, May 9 at 6 pm to call attention to the violence.

In the past two weeks, three robberies were committed by a group of young people that appear to fit the same description, according to Captain Aneudy Castillo, commanding officer of the 26th Precinct. Castillo says that the suspects may also be responsible for other recent assaults.

“Two females and five males, very young,” he said. “They range in age from 12 to 15. Over the previous two weeks, they’ve committed three robberies. One robbery we can definitively say is them. We will shortly have arrest warrants for their arrest. The other two, we’re very confident it’s them, but we still have to do some work to establish probable cause. We expect to arrest them by the end of the week. We have their addresses, their names, we have everything we need to pick them up.

“We’ll bring them and interview them and, usually, especially with kids that are this young, in the presence of their parents, they admit to other things they’ve done.”

“None of victims can identify perpetrators, because they snuck up and attacked them,” he added.

“I want the community to rest assured that they’re identified, we know where they live, everybody in this precinct knows who they are, and we’re keeping an eye on them, and we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” he said.

The officers “looked at other reports in recent weeks to see if there’s any connection between several assaults in and around Morningside Park and these individuals,” he added. “There are five or six assaults that we believe they’re responsible for, that fit the modus operandi.”

Among the more devastating attacks in the park was an assault on April 17 on a man named Bob Lederer, a longtime AIDS activist and former producer at radio station WBAI. Lederer sustained serious head injuries in the attack, according to John Riley, who is setting up Thursday’s vigil.

Captain Castillo said police had not linked the attack on Lederer to the other attacks, in part because they hadn’t been able to talk to him when he was unconscious. They plan to re-interview him to “see if the investigation leads in that direction,” he said.

The notice below is from Riley’s Facebook page about the vigil:

“On Wednesday, April 17th, Bob Lederer, a long-time LGBT and AIDS activist was attacked and beaten at 4:30 in the afternoon in Morningside Park. He spent 8 days in the hospital with a traumatic brain injury, and is now in rehab to work on regaining his memory and his physical strength, he is steadily recovering.

Since this assault, we’ve heard of at least four other recent attacks in Morningside and another local park. The targets have included queer, straight, Black, Asian, white, immigrant, men and women. Some attacks are by groups young people including school aged kids who seem to target people walking alone and who appear vulnerable. Some attacks include sucker-punch attacks.

We see this as a community safety issue-both for people using the parks, and for kids headed for incarceration and lifelong trauma themselves. We’re looking for restorative justice that addresses the causes, not more policing. Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities. (http://restorativejustice.org/restorative-justice/about-restorative-justice/tutorial-intro-to-restorative-justice/lesson-2-values/#sthash.OxviWFTf.dpbs)

On Thursday, May 9 at 6 pm we’ll join Street Corner Resources, a Harlem-based non-profit organization, to have a SPEAK-OUT against violence in our community and to demand restorative justice. ( http://amsterdamnews.com/news/2016/dec/22/street-corner-resources-gets-new-headquarters/ )

We will meet in Morningside Park at West 113th street and Manhattan Avenue. We need everyone there-Bob’s friends, Harlem community members, and New Yorkers working for shared justice, please come out with us.

Directions: Take the B,C, or 1 train to 110th Street. From the B or C train, walk west on 110th Street to Manhattan Ave., then North to 113th Street. From the 1 train, walk East on 110th Street to Manhattan Ave., then North to 113th Street.

NEWS | 22 comments | permalink
    1. KatieInNYC says:

      We rarely if ever heard about attacks like this under Mayor Giuliani. We can all thank DeBlasio for this kind of uptick in these types of crimes. The police stats say that violent crime is down somehow how come I keep reading about this kind of crap day in day out now and we just did not, as a city, under Giuliani?

      • Dan Cohen says:

        What are you TALKING about? In 1999, the last year of Giuliani, NYC recorded almost 600,000 crimes, of which more than 100,000 were considered “violent.” In 2016, the most recent year statistics available, crimes were down to under 400,000 and “violent” crimes were about 74,000. Without QUESTION we live in a safer era, this isn’t a partisan question, it is just a fact. These attacks in Morningside Park are horrible, but across the city crime has been going down for years.

        • AC says:

          At Dan, reporting methods on how crimes are categorized have changed since 1999. I have friends in NYPD nearing 25 years, and they too agree that crime prevention was carried out more effectively back when “quality of life crimes” were cracked down on. A good example is fare beating. Its been on the rise over the last 5 years. And only now is City Hall realizing that its something to tackle.

        • Sherman says:

          @ Dan Cohen –

          As the old saying goes there are lies, there are damn lies and there are statistics.

          There are a lot of ways to massage numbers to fit a narration.

          You are also incorrect in your comment. Giuliani’s last year in office was 2001, not 1999.

          Even so, you can’t compare crime in the 1990s to the current period. The early to mid-1990s was a pretty dangerous time in the city and yes, Giuliani’s tactics reduced crime (even if liberals are loathe to admit it).

          So the end of Giuliani’s tenure saw crime fall from very high levels from the beginning of his tenure.

          And I personally see an uptick in crime and quality of life issues on the UWS. Opening new homeless shelters in the neighborhood is unlikely to help matters.

        • BeBest says:

          I’ve noticed a decrease in quality in the typical inhabitant of the upper west side. People move in, don’t like things about the city, and do everything but move.

      • Clyde Frazier says:

        I agree. It seems like crimes that were prevalent in the 1980’s are making a come-back. I know crime statistics over all are down – but somehow I suspect De Blasio and/or the NYPD may be “massaging” the numbers downward. I’m hearing about muggings in Central Park, Morningside Park, and on the Upper West Side that I hadn’t heard about since the early 90’s. I have two teenage daughters and for the first time in their lives I’m warning them about being much more vigilant when they’re in the park or they’re walking home at night.

        • Josh says:

          I am sure back in the 90s Giuliani and the NYPD were inflating crime statistics (kidding). No way they would’ve massaged the data. We can see what a beacon of honesty Giuliani is now.

        • chuck D says:

          Wait…for the first time in their lives your warning your teenaged daughters to be vigilant alone…pretty sure this has more to do with your children BECOMING TEENAGERS NOW than DiBlasio or Guiliani. After all, they weren’t even born under Guiliani, and under Bloomberg you Or a caregiver probably were with them all the time. It’s like saying “since we moved to Manhattan from Iowa, I’m having to warn my children about swimming in the Hudson River.” Thanks, deBalasio.

      • Survivor says:

        Under Giuliani, it was the police who were doing the attacking. He should be locked up for all of the civil rights absuses perpetrated by his thuggish administration.

      • Vince says:

        Comparisons are not legitimate since many crimes have been realigned. Would love to see a true comparison of crime statistics taking into account crimes which are now considered misdemeanors.

      • Thought so says:

        Nice try, but you fail to consider the overall decline in civility that has marked the US over the last few decades. To attribute crimes like these to the mayor is just absurd. It’s like saying that the frequency with which subway seats are offered to those who need them is based upon who’s in office. Instead, the decline in humans’ respect for one another is the result of our creeping junk culture and the uptick in self-absorption. Do you really think a mayor can singlehandedly effect these trends, or do you just oppose DeBlasio? Answer’s clear to me.

        • Mark P says:

          Thought so, what do you mean by “creeping junk culture”? I’m genuinely curious.

      • Mark says:

        Giuliani attacked plenty, for you to feel comfortable people like Abner Louima and Sean Bell were casualties of that approach to city living. I’d take a long hard look at yourself before you start throwing the G word around. There are valid points to be made about safety in our neighborhoods but that god awful man should never be a part of them. Crime was low under the caliphate too but was it really worth the price?

      • chuck d says:

        Remember “wilding?” That was straight up Guliani hysteria.

        • dannyboy says:

          It was “wiling”.

          My wife taught in the school where some of the “wilers” attended” and got her facts straight.

    2. Katherine Weber says:

      Violence in our neighborhood is frightening and unacceptable. My heart goes out to the victims who have sustained injuries and psychological trauma. AND, kudos to the neighborhood leaders who are notably seeking a restorative justice approach, especially given the young age of the apparent offenders. Another headline for this article could have been “Neighbors call for restorative justice alongside policing following attacks in Morningside Park.” Thank you for showing us another direction to consider.

      • dannyboy says:

        I too support seeking a restorative justice approach. Justice need not be a bloodsport.

        But I find your kindness naive when you write:

        “Another headline for this article could have been “Neighbors call for restorative justice alongside policing following attacks in Morningside Park.” It is intentional that the WSR entitled their story instead: ‘Sucker-Punch Attacks’ in Morningside Park Have Neighborhood on Edge’

    3. NYWoman says:

      Police are not covering this area as much as the more populated Central Park. Don’t know if there’s not enough budget/staff. This is a Precinct/Community Board issue. It’s a beautiful park.

    4. I googled “ny ny hate crimes” this morning and saw a news video in which a man of orthodox Jewish attire & hair, walking so innocently down the Brooklyn street, suffers a punch from behind from a total stranger who then ran. Those search results say that NYPD classifies such acts as hate crimes, because of the religious belief element. I also notice in those results that NYPD reports recent violent crimes (rape, burglary, etc) as steeply down while hate crimes have simultaneously soared!

      Bullying, insulting, displaying anger to and making racist remarks about innocent bystanders plagues our society nowadays. When I see bits of it on UWS, I notice that whoever committed it works here but possibly does not live here (though more than once over the years even long before Trump, I’ve seen some residents agitate offensively in a vocal manner against on-the-job postal clerks).

      Surely, it’s the image our current President casts that has a lot to do with this trend, but then, what’s the status of his presidency, according to, say, this week’s New York Times?

      Our courteous, sweet and very literally lovely community is partaking of its share of a national burden of displays of bullying, hate and of anger management failures. Hopefully, it will all recede in the near future.

    5. Glen says:

      I have been on the Upper West Side since the Wagner administration. I have seen this neighborhood go down and up. Be assured we are now on a downward trajectory and picking up speed. I can also attest that it takes far less time to go down into the “dangerous in the afternoon” phase, than it takes to achieve “safe 24/7.” The sooner the pestilence that is the DeBlasio administration passes, the better we will all be.

      BTW, did anyone catch that DeBlasio’s new Buildings Commissioner, Melanie LaRocca, is a 34 year former City Council staffer with a degree in Poly Sci from Fordham?