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Shootings in the City: A Tale of Two Neighborhoods

Saturday, August 25, 2012

(Jim O'Grady/WNYC)

Two neighborhoods are still reeling from two fatal shootings on Friday. A gunman opened fired near the Empire State Building, leaving nine injured and two dead, including the shooter. A few hours earlier, a 13-year-old boy had become the latest child shooting victim when he was killed a few blocks away from his Brownsville home. Midtown Manhattan and Brownsville, Brooklyn: neighborhoods that have had vastly different experiences with gun violence.

By mid-morning Friday, midtown Manhattan was abuzz with stunned individuals gawking at the closed-off streets and squads of police cars.  This is a part of the city that sees tourists and officer workers enter gleaming skyscrapers. It isn't used to seeing this kind of violence. And as Brandon Thorpe, 23, emphasized, this isn’t a place where one hears gun shots.

“I thought it was another terrorist attack but when they said it was gunshots I was shocked, because on 33rd street? Gun shots? Day time? It was 9:02 exact in the morning, 9:02 exact,” he said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly appeared on the scene within hours after the shoot-out to give the public an update.

The gunfire came less than two weeks after police shot and killed a knife-wielding man near Times Square, another tourist Mecca and another place one usually doesn’t see a person gunned down. 

When you look at a map of where shootings generally occur in New York City, concentrations are in neighborhoods like Harlem, the South Bronx, East New York and Brownsville. 

Friday, several dozen relatives and friends of the 13-year-old who was killed gathered at the intersection where he died.  Many kept muttering how all too familiar the scene felt.

One pastor visiting the spot said after 46 years in the community, he had never seen it so bad.  He addressed the young people directly: "Support your own kind," he said. "We are killing each other." 

Just last month six bystanders were wounded in a drive-by shooting. Karen Harper 51 said after that incident that people in the neighborhood shaped their daily lives around shootings.

“My Ma don't even come outside no more. It's just like she in jail, and she gets to come to get, like, her little commissary, and come back in,” she said.

Another Brownsville resident Margie Morgan, 65, said she had just given up on the neighborhood.

“Kids be fighting all during the day. It's too much. It's just too much. I just want to get out of the neighborhood,” she said.

As of August 19, 70 people have been shot this year, according to the police, in the boundaries of the 73rd Precinct, which covers most, but not all of Brownsville.

Kathleen Horan contributed reporting.

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