Only Three People Shot At West Indian Day Parade. This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, Crown Heights

brooklynlove.jpg
Only three people were shot during this year's West Indian Day parade in Crown Heights yesterday, which -- sadly -- is an improvement from last year. However, two people also were stabbed to death during yesterday's festivities, so don't wave the victory flag in the war on Brooklyn violence just yet.

Last year, at least five people -- including a cop -- were shot at the parade.

The Crown Heights section of Brooklyn is a cultural cross section that epitomizes what makes New York New York. Caribbean islanders coexist with Orthodox Jews in a cultural (ahem) melting pot that just screams "you stay out of our way, we'll stay out of yours." This unspoken agreement has only produced one noteworthy riot.

As a current Crown Heights resident, I can honestly say that it's a great place to live -- assuming you're into guns, gangs, violence, and the occasional sexual assault. Below I will submit to you a few of my favorite tales from the 'hood.

*Cocaine And Salad: How To Bulk Up In Crown Heights:

lettuce.jpg
James King
I opted to only go with the lettuce.


As a recovering "skinny-ass white boy," the first person I met after moving to the culturally rich neighborhood was a woman we'll call Karen, a 70-ish-year-old Caribbean islander, who -- after seeing my rather large black lab mix, "Jim" -- informed me that "Oh, hellll no! We don't need no cops in the building."

That's right, Karen assumed I was a K-9 cop sent in by the feds to do undercover work in the neighborhood -- which is exactly what she told everyone who lives in my building. Needless to say, I was not the building's most popular resident.

Karen proceeded to scowl at me and say "skinny-ass white boy" under her breath every time we passed each other in the building. This went on for months.

Then, a peace offering:

About 1 a.m. on a Tuesday, there was a knock on my door. It was Karen, who took it upon herself to tell me I looked skinny and needed to eat. She came back five minutes later with a bag of lettuce -- and then informed me that if I needed cocaine, she could get it.

Cocaine and salad might seem like an odd way to bulk up, but I interpreted the information as a test to determine whether I was the undercover narc she'd assumed I was. I passed the test -- to her surprise, I'm sure, she wasn't arrested, and I had salad every day for the next week.

Two weeks ago, Karen asked if I would lend her five bucks. I will never see that five bucks ever again.

*Weed and Hand Guns Don't Mix:

My next door neighbor is a 20-year-old admitted member of the "Crips" street gang, who -- like everyone else in my building -- was under the impression that I was an undercover cop.

Regardless, this supposed "Crip," whom we'll call Kevin, smoked weed right in front of my door -- where he often sleeps when his grandmother throws him out of his apartment -- just about every day. Throwing caution to the wind, I invited him in one day, and we became fast friends. He told me about life in the 'hood, I told him about being a skinny-ass white boy.

Kevin and my dog seemed to like each other, so -- this time hurling caution to the wind -- I told Kevin he could stay at my apartment while I went out of town one weekend if he would look after the pooch. My conditions: He could have a few girls over, but none of his gangster buddies.

Upon my return, the first person I saw in the elevator was Karen, who promptly told me that she'd seen Kevin in my apartment.

"Did he have any guys over?" I asked.

"No, just a few girls," she responded, before telling me that he took the dog outside several times while I was gone.

So while attempting to rat out Kevin, Karen inadvertently confirmed that he did everything I asked him to do. When I got back to the apartment, it was sparkling -- Kevin had done the dishes, vacuumed, and dusted better than I ever could.

Two weeks later, I was going out of town again, and made the same deal with Kevin. When I returned two days later -- slightly earlier than Kevin or I had anticipated -- the coffee table pictured below is what I found.

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James King
Just when you think you've found a trustworthy dog-sitter, he shoots himself in the leg while sitting on your couch.


When Kevin returned from playing basketball, I explained that -- given the amount of weed he smokes -- perhaps owning a gun isn't the best idea and asked that he not have it on him when he's in my apartment.

Two weeks later -- while I was again not home -- Kevin shot himself in the leg while sitting on my couch. I now have a bullet hole in my faux-leather sofa and am in desperate need of a dog-sitter.

Needless to say, I've been calling Kevin "Plaxico" ever since.

*Militant Marvin and the Power Of Love:

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One of Crown Heights' local treasures is a man I've affectionately dubbed "Militant Marvin."

Marvin spends his days marching up and down Utica Avenue -- dressed in flashy, bright clothes -- screaming at cars while carrying several large flags.

About two months ago, Marvin had put himself -- and his flags -- in front of a police van that was trying to drive north on Utica.

"What's the black and white password," Marvin screamed at the officer inside the van.

Not knowing a password was required to drive down Utica Avenue, the officer yelled for Marvin to get out of the way. When he refused, the officer started preparing for what I figured was going to be some good ol' fashioned police brutality.

Clutching his baton, the officer got out of the van and again told Marvin to move. Marvin, however, wasn't going anywhere without the password.

As the cop appeared to reach his breaking point, a local business owner came running out of a store to give the officer the password, which is -- simply -- "love."

After winning the battle by forcing the officer to repeat the password, Marvin retreated to the safety of the sidewalk.

Moral of the story: Marvin will not shake your hand, only your foot (as I learned one night while walking my dog), and if you find yourself stuck in traffic on Utica Avenue, "love" is the answer.

So for any potential new residents of Crown Heights, this is what you can expect: geriatric cocaine peddlers who think you're a cop, in-house shootings by your dog-sitter, and traffic delays caused by a militant love machine -- but that's only when you're not dodging bullets at the West Indian Day parade and avoiding potentially fatal stabbings.

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24 comments
torass
torass

This article is disgustingly classist and racist and hiding it under the guise of "humour" doesn't erase your bigotry.

Mferra
Mferra

rofl. i lived in crown heights for a while and have never experienced anything remotely like this (and i'm a couple blocks east of franklin). it's seems a bit over the top but at least you got the funny marks down. 

i like that people think it's hood - keeps rent down

ladyann11203
ladyann11203

Everyone has a story to tell. He's only telling his.  Thank you James for sharing yours. I took it as just another day in Brooklyn, from your prospective. And it was a funny story with pictures. Again Thank you.

sugarplumfairy32
sugarplumfairy32

jeez, people, lighten the fck up..   it was pretty dam funny.. especially the headline.. and karen could be white, from arizona.. kevin could be white, from arizona.. ok, marvin's def black.. but he sounds like a sweet guy.. the point isn't feeling uncomfortable around black people.. i think it's about feeling uncomfortable around incapacitated armed people..

gregoryabutler
gregoryabutler

James,We get it.You feel uncomfortable around Black people.You know, you can always go back to Nebraska or whatever square flyover state you are originally from. This is a majority Black and Latino city - we are the majority here, not you or your race and you are free to leave at any time. Please do so.

ainttelling
ainttelling

[[[[NEWSFLASH, JAMES KING!!!!]]]] You. Are. A. Mark.

mnasser
mnasser

jgstanley90:  thanks for smiling at us while you take affordable housing away for an already overcrowded community so you could have some tales of being a 21st century Dr Livingstone.

We know what you are and we hate you.

 

JuliaMasi
JuliaMasi

You'll never be bored living on that block!   

Go_Home_Sshole
Go_Home_Sshole

 

 

I- as a native New Yorker and longtime Crown Heights resident- want to say this sincerely: you actually deserve to be writing for the Voice.  Because you fucking suck just as bad as this rag has since like 1999.

 

Go the fuck back to Arizona, asshole. 

 

 

 

jgstanley90
jgstanley90

As a skinny ass white boy myself, also new to Crown Heights (and yes, east of Franklin Ave) I have never felt threatened, insulted or made uncomfortable by any of my neighbors regardless of race/ethnicity. I go out of my way to go to local stores, make friends with the shopkeepers, smile and say hi to the people around my block, and have the common sense not to be on the street, especially on residential blocks between avenues, after 2am.  That strategy will work in just about any neighborhood it seems--from Greenwich Village to Crown Heights, as far as I know. 

 

Be a little more accommodating, buddy, and stop making it seem like a nightmare to live in this wonderful and diverse neighborhood. 

 

notbadatall
notbadatall

This was actually pretty funny, but I've already seen the type of white person who thinks it's their job to defend black communities against any negatives whining about it on twitter. You know, the types who go to Franklin Park and say they hang out in Crown Heights, but they're too scared to park more than a block away. Oh, save us bloggers, with your patronizing defense of black people because we can't defend ourselves. 

WestIndianResident
WestIndianResident

I am West Indian, own a home in Crown Heights, and have never encountered such people. I think you're given to hyperbole. 

unknown_vector
unknown_vector

 @sugarplumfairy32 "ok, marvin's def black.. but he sounds like a sweet guy." so he's a "sweet guy" except for the black part? maybe you could watch james king's dog the next time he's out of town? sound like a perfect match.

sugarplumfairy32
sugarplumfairy32

oops.. correction.. karen could be white, from a carribean island.. i've been to one carribean island.. they had white people..

JamesKing
JamesKing

 @gregoryabutler Nope. From New York. Born and raised. Lived in Arizona for six years, but other than that I'm all New York.

Pretty sure I didn't mention race once in this entire article. Nor did I say I felt uncomfortable about any of it (well, a guy shooting himself on my couch made me slightly uncomfortable). But feel free to draw your own conclusions (based on literally no facts), Gregory.

ainttelling
ainttelling

 @Go_Home_Sshole aaaand the winner is..... Love the research on this half-assed, cop-loving, hyperbole-enamored sorry excuse for a journalist. Yet one more exhibit in the case for local ownership of the Voice. Get Ortega, King and practically everyone but Graham Rayman outta there. Send em to Vice where they can hate on people of color for their readership of coked out trustafarians (both real & wannabe) and pretend like they're doing something else other than selling ridiculous outfits for a sex offender whose cookie-cutter neo-gap stores blight every "happening" neighborhood in the city.

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JamesKing
JamesKing

 @jgstanley90 Be more accommodating? Tell me, how much more accommodating can I be? I let gang members sleep on my couch when they get thrown out of their apartments -- we used to have "Taco Tuesdays" on my dime. Both of these things would continue had someone not shot a hole in his leg/my sofa. Maybe I should have loaded the gun for him -- ya know, just to make sure I was being completely accommodating.

Living here isn't a nightmare -- and that wasn't the point of this article. I like Crown Heights -- it's a very interesting place and I know/get along with all of my neighbors and business owners. But don't try to tell me it's safe -- even before 2 a.m.

Cassidy
Cassidy

 @WestIndianResident Um, so where do all these people come from every year -- shipped in direct from the Caribbean just for the parade??

sugarplumfairy32
sugarplumfairy32

@unknown_vector Certainly not intended that way.. Pretty sure I meant something along the lines of he seems sweet despite being a crazy, traffic-directing street person.. I actually had to go back to the pics to check and see if he was back or white cause I couldn't remember.. But I can see how you could take it that way so sorry if I caused you any unnecessary angst..

gregoryabutler
gregoryabutler

 @JamesKing You didn't have to mention race out loud (that's considered crass these days). The dog whistle was quite clear throughout the article.

jgstanley90
jgstanley90

 @JamesKing I am not attempting to invalidate the absurdity or difficulty of your experience. I don't frequent your part of Voice's metro coverage (and maybe it should stay that way), but your ridiculously didactic tone, even if ironic and hyperbolic, is not really useful. Glad you get along with most of your neighbors, I guess--maybe direct me to a piece that talks about that more positive element of your life? 

 

That might sound overly academic, but whatever. Point is your last graf telling people that "this is what you can expect" in Crown Heights is absurdly one-sided, creates a stilted negative perception of the neighborhood to the casual reader, and alienates actual Crown Heights residents--white, black, brown, whatever--that haven't shared your extreme experience. Further, it could be used as fodder by long term residents against "white gentrifiers" like me who just want to enjoy living in this neighborhood and not write scathing "reviews" of it like you have. 

 

I don't know if this is a new Voice editorial strategy--removing the "o" from your name and acting like that publication, perhaps? James, you're probably a guy I'd enjoy grabbing a beer with, but this narc-style piece is pretty grating. 

 

 

 

 

sugarplumfairy32
sugarplumfairy32

@Cassidy but well below both in terms of intelligence and sensitivity.. twit..

Cassidy
Cassidy

 @jgstanley90  @JamesKing I'm between both of ya: most people are okay, and the girls are especially easy to score with here (surprised y'all didn't mention how chill and down-to-earth black girls tend to be: very useful to whiteboys everywhere), but it's annoying to hear all that shouting and carryin' on most hours of the day and night, and the boom-boom-boom "music" that's as repetitive as a retard with an overdoes of testosterone...so, yeah, I'm between the both of you in terms of my experiences....

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