Ilya Marritz covers business for WNYC.
Business Suffers in East Flatbush, Following Shooting
Friday, March 15, 2013
East Flatbush is a neighborhood on edge after the shooting death last weekend of a young man by police led to unrest along Church Avenue. The street is also a shopping hub, and the tension there has been bad for business.
The shops that thrive on Church Avenue sell the essentials – like groceries or clothes – and small luxuries for working people: there are plenty of nail salons and places selling DVDs and music.
Early evening is the time when many stores do the most business. This week, however, people are staying away.
“Very slow. Nobody comes in the store," said Andy Jung owner of Andy’s Cleaners. "People stay home.”
Jung's business is down by about half, since young people vandalized a nearby Rite Aid Monday night. But he said he feels secure.
Outside his store were two police officers and another office across the street. Four more were on horseback down the street.
Despite strong police presence, Church Avenue Hardware isn’t taking any chances.
“We have extra people hanging out in the front, watching, overseeing for us. And then basically we have all our cameras on, and we have a DVR running all throughout the day so we can check other spots,” said manager Tanya Dumornay.
Inside the store, the atmosphere is changed. Demornay said everyone wants to talk about one thing only: the shooting.
“Do they really believe he had a gun? Didn’t he have a gun? Why did they shoot him so many times, was it necessary? Was he part of the gang or not? And the police presence - That it’s crazy out here,” Dumornay said.
Thursday night, Dumornay closed shop around 6:45, instead of 8:30, just to be safe.
Merchants in East Flatbush took a lot of precautions long before the shooting. There’s a hair salon where the door is controlled from a button at the back of the store. A cell phone store and a Chinese takeout each have bulletproof glass, which makes it difficult to communicate with the cashier.
As the sun went down on Church Avenue, Camille Johnson (pictured at right) had a different worry – would anyone show up at all? Johnson owns a shopping plaza that looks more L.A. than Brooklyn. Police were cordoning off the whole plaza, while Johnson watched from inside her restaurant.
“What I’m seeing is two layers of barricades. Cops everywhere,” Johnson said. “I would have felt better if they had come in and said, 'listen we’re going to do this.' They didn’t even ask.”
The effect this is having is easy to see: all the tables in the restaurant are empty.
Something else is different too. Kimani Gray – the young man who was shot and killed last weekend – used to visit Camille Johnson often. Now he’ll never be back.
“He came by the Friday before he died. I gave him a hug, I said you’re growing tall,” Johnson said. “He says, ‘I hope I can get half price on my burger.’”
Johnson said Kimani Gray was a loyal – and loved – customer. He didn’t have to pay full price.