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. (https://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. ( https://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.