Three gun incidents near Harlem park ignite fear of return to neighborhood’s rough past
The NYPD beefed up its presence on Morningside Park on Sunday.
A Queens teenager visiting his aunt in Harlem heard the chilling words “It’s time to get lit” before bullets suddenly pierced his right thigh and right foot.
The 19-year-old told cops he didn’t know what was happening until he was on the ground bleeding.
Two women, ages 21 and 25, strolled through a huge crowd toward a barbecue in Morningside Park before a gunman sprayed half-a-dozen bullets, sending hundreds of people running for their lives. The younger woman was hit in the left foot; the other woman was hit in the right thigh.
In all, seven people were wounded in three separate shootings within an hour in a two-block area near 116th St. and Manhattan Ave. in Harlem on the night of June 24.
Though the shootings did not happen in the park itself, they have thrown a chill into what has been a renaissance of the storied 122-year-old greensward — which stretches from 110th to 123rd Sts. and was once known as one of the most dangerous in the country.
Back in 1992, thousands of crack vials and syringes littered the park, and locals feared going in there at night. Today, the park is an idyllic place with strollers, packed playgrounds and kids playing hoops. There’s even a pond packed with turtles and its own waterfall.
“It’s a beautiful moment for the city that folks have returned to these parks,” said City Councilman Bill Perkins, who lives in the area. “It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve seen any beef. This broke the paradise and brought us back to the bad old days. The gun situation is out of hand. There’s too much weaponry out there.”
Perkins said he looked out his window and saw a sliver of the aftermath of one of the shootings.
“It’s scary that that is already taking place and the season is still young,” he said. “That’s a wound to the community that resonates throughout the neighborhood.”
Victoria Michaelek, 65, said the shootings shook her up, but won’t make her change her patterns.
City Councilman Bill Perkins said the recent shootings brought the community back to the bad old days.
(Howard Simmons/New York Daily News)
“I was worried at the time, but we’ll still come to the park during the daytime, just not after dark. This is still our park,” she said.
John Smith, 47, a 14-year resident of the neighborhood, said it’s just part of living in New York.
“This is New York City, there’s crime everywhere,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that we had shots go off here, but before that, crime here hasn’t been that bad. So my family and I aren’t any more concerned.”
The shootings appear to have stemmed from fights that started in the aftermath of the eighth annual “Dear Summer” party, which was originally scheduled to happen in St. Nicholas Park, but moved to Morningside at the last minute, sources said.
A crowd of about 2,000 flooded into the park and left behind piles of garbage as the party broke up after 10 p.m.
The event had no permit, Parks Department officials said, and had been booted from St. Nicholas Park earlier in the day, sources said.
“The shootings didn’t take place in the park, but certainly the fact that there was a huge gathering in the park and it wasn’t dispersed earlier in the day could be a factor,” said Brad Taylor of the nonprofit Friends of Morningside Park.
Gunfire first erupted at 114th St. and Manhattan Ave. just outside the park after two men fought over a woman at 10:37 p.m., sources said. Cops were already in the area at the time monitoring the gathering.
Five people were hit, including the two young women. The three other people hit included two gang members, sources said. One of the victims was shot in the wrist and a second was shot in the right foot and midsection.
People enjoy the day in Morningside Park near W. 116th St. on Sunday. There is an increased police presence after recent shooting in the area.
(Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)
Then, an hour later, about 11:35 p.m. bullets struck a 23-year-old man from Hackensack, N.J., right after he chatted with a young woman near W. 116th St. and Frederick Douglass Blvd.
He told cops a man in a black baseball cap and a white T-shirt walked up and pulled a gun. The victim took off and ran north and almost made it to 118th St. when he was shot in the right buttocks and right arm.
Ten minutes later, near W. 114th St. and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd., a 19-year-old Queens man visiting family heard someone say, “It’s time to get lit!” He heard gunshots next. He ran west on W. 114th St. as bullets slammed into his thigh and right foot.
In a period where shootings citywide are at historic lows, the number of shooting victims through June 25 in the 28th Precinct is up to 13 compared with seven in the same period in 2016.
During a community meeting Thursday, Deputy Inspector Chris McIntosh of the 28th Precinct told members of the Harlem community that detectives have identified several people they want to speak with about Saturday’s shootings.
One cop at the meeting said the size of the crowd took police by surprise.
“It was just unexpected,” Officer Nerys Ramirez said. “To have 20 or 25 officers trying to safely get hundreds of people out of the park, it’s too much.”
The precinct plans to increase patrols for the July 4 holiday and throughout the summer. McIntosh said four extra cars will be on patrol on Independence Day to prevent violence and the use of illegal fireworks.
On Friday night, the NYPD stationed a mobile command post at W. 116th St. and Morningside Ave. It remained there throughout the weekend. A floodlight was also set up at the cookout area near that intersection. At least six vehicles were seen in the park Saturday night.