Looted store says police would not protect them

By Jonathan Schienberg

On blackout Thursday some lucky shoe storeowners sold out, the not so lucky, were cleaned out.

  For workers and friends of Alife Rivington Club at 158 Rivington St., no lights meant no safety, as they were violently beaten last Thursday night trying to protect a shoe store tucked into the back streets of the Lower East Side.

  The two damaged metal doors bulging and torn at the midsection, are all that is visible to any passerby on the street. At a closer glance, though, through the bars of the metals doors, a few sneakers still lie outside the front door of the store, presumably dropped by the looters. The store sells high-end vintage sneakers like Air Jordans, costing well over $100.

  According to police, the looters tore through the metal doors around midnight, ransacking the store and stealing shoes off the shelves and from the basement. A friend who saw the looting contacted one of the owner’s, Anthony Acrabascio, who rushed over to the store with his girlfriend and one of his workers to try and stop them.

  In the ensuing melee, Acrbascio’s girlfriend was smashed in the back of the head with a bottle by one of the looters and another worker from the store was also attacked and beaten.

Orlando Rodriguez, owner of the Stop 1 Deli, a nearby store frequented by youths hanging out in the area, said the day after the incident, that he had heard about it, but must have closed shortly before it happened because he didn’t hear anything while it was going on. “It’s terrible what those kids did, I know the owner. We were worried about our place too, because we stayed open pretty late, but we had someone at the door and only let one customer in at a time,” Rodriguez said.

  Tammy Brainard, one of the sneaker store’s four partners, said that their store was looted at least four times because the police failed to secure it. “The damage is terrible. The police haven’t helped us. It’s five days later and they still haven’t even told us who’s assigned to the case. Our friends and workers were seriously hurt trying to protect the store. We feel violated.”

  A police spokesman said that they could not confirm claims that the store was repeatedly broken into. He did say however, that the officers were in a very difficult situation because the storeowners wanted the police to protect the store and take the victims to the hospital at the same time. “The ambulances were all on backlog because of the blackout and we couldn’t have police stand guard at the store all night. It was a very difficult situation.”

He added that an investigation into the matter is currently being done and they are looking into the allegations. “What we do know is that the men and women of the N.Y.P.D. did an outstanding job keeping the city safe during the blackout,” he said.

  Brainard, who was not at the scene at the time, but spoke to Acrabascio shortly after the incident, responded with frustration to the police accounts. “The officers told Anthony that he was going to have to be a man and stand guard at the store himself,” she said. “They were refusing to take his girlfriend to the hospital while she had blood gushing from the back of her head. They said we should find a cab.”

  Eventually, Brainard said, after “Anthony repeatedly insisted,” the police gave in and took them to the hospital where Acrabascio’s girlfriend received 17 staples in the back of her head. Brainard suffered facial lacerations.

Police have yet to make any arrests in the incident, according to a spokesman. They did however, catch four youths trying to break into a nearby Foot Locker on Delancey St., but would not speculate whether there was any connection between the two incidents.

  The spot where the crime occurred is a popular hangout for local Latino youth, with basketball courts and high schools in the near vicinity. During the night of the blackout, many local youth were observed gathered at a street corner close by the store on Rivington and Suffolk Sts., listening to music, drinking beer and occasionally setting of small firecrackers as darkness enveloped the city.

Although no witnesses have come forward, the feeling in the neighborhood is that the criminals were probably locals because of the store’s inconspicuous facade that would be unfamiliar as a shoe store to those who didn’t hang around the neighborhood. Plus it was gated the night of the incident, further obscuring any sign that it was a shoe store.

  “All I know is that the bills are still coming and our employees still need to get paid, Brainard said. “This store is a significant percentage of our livelihoods and it is completely trashed. No one from the police has made the effort to tell us what we can do to start getting things back together.”

The owners are reportedly considering filing a lawsuit against the N.Y.P.D. John Penley, an East Village activist, said if they do, the precedent-setting case would be the one over 10 years ago when Jim Dwyer was beaten by skinheads in Washington Sq. Park as police looked on, not helping. Dwyer had called the skinheads Nazis at a flag-burning event on Flag Day in the park. They chased him around and hit him on the head repeatedly with a beer bottle, putting Dwyer in the hospital for three days. According to Penley, who was the only witness, Dwyer won a $200,000 settlement.

read our other fine publicatoins:Reader Services

Join our forums | Email our editor | Report Distribution Problems

Read our previous issues

Read our other fine publications: