Wednesday, October 26, 1977

Brooklyn Terror: Youth Gang Takes Over Apartment House

A neighborhood gang has seized a six-story apartment house in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, terrorizing the more than 100 tenants by ripping out the building’s pipes, punching out its windows and smashing its furnishings. Only two tenants remain, and the gang has boasted of plans to burn the house down. As of late last week, the police seemed unaware of what had happened.

The building is in a neighborhood where gangs seeking plunder, clubhouses and turf have seized tens of other buildings, robbing some of the tenants not only of their possessions but of their homes. The residents have been forced like refugees to flee from building to building. The gang follows.

Marauders, armed with machetes, baseball bats, guns and chains have terrorized the community, battling in the middle of busy intersections, vandalizing cars and apartmentw, mugging elderly couples and finally invading entire buildings and forcing the tenants out.

For the building at 396 South Fourth Street, the problem began about a month ago when the superintendent, Freddy Espada, ordered members of the gang, called The Love Brothers, to stay away from the apartment house. He was beaten and his life was threatened. He fled, the gang moved in, and the building began to deteriorate rapidly.

“We had to get out of there,” said Manny LeBron, who fled last week with his pregnant wife Lucy. “They broke the pipes, the broke the windows, there was water all over the stairs, people were screaming in the halls and one night they started shooting bullets out the window from one apartment into another.”

“I have to stay because I have no place to go,” Mrs. Celestina Rodriguez (63) said the other day as she huddled nexxt to two pots of boiling water on the stove – the only source of heat in her ground-floor apartment. Night had fallen and a damp chill seeped through her three-room $105-a-month apartment. Several friends offered to store her things until she finds a place to live.

“I never saw myself like this,” Mrs. Rodriquez said, weeping. “I’m scared. I’m so scared.”

The police seem to have made no effort to curb the gangs activities at the building.

“We sell them to the landlords across the street,” said 16-year-old Nelson Vasquez who rattled off the going prices for a stolen refridgerator ($25); a steam radiator ($3); a stove ($35) and a sink ($10). He is the stepson of the former super.

“My father used to deliver seltzer to Bushwick. Now there’s no one left in Bushwick, it’s all burned down. We’re next.”

excerpt from Dena Kleinman NYT 10/26/77

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