By Matt Ricchiazzi
Upper West Side residents are complaining of drug sales and rampant prostitution near the corner of Breckenridge and Grant Streets, a transitional neighborhood not far from the burgeoning Elmwood Village.
Neighbors are complaining of condoms and needles on the ground, as drug dealers and prostitutes ply their trades with impunity during daylight hours. Neighbors say they have called the mayor’s 311 hotline, contacted media and took to Facebook to enlist support.
Among complaints are that drug dealers and pimps sit on the stoops of houses near Grant Street along Breckenridge, watching over their illicit businesses.
There are three houses, neighbors say, which serve as an axis for the illicit businesses that occur on the street:
A “barber shop” at 304 Breckenridge near the corner of Grant and Breckenridge that neighbors think is headquarters.
A recent lawsuit filed in federal court on an unrelated matter lists an alleged associate/friend of Mayor Byron Brown as having connection to the house and associated drug dealing there, (We will be reporting more on that lawsuit in a future edition.)
Sellers, buyers and prostitutes, neighbors say, go to the “barber shop” then drift to 319 and 322 Breckenridge to hang out, consume drugs and conduct more business.
322 Breckenridge is an abandoned house where, neighbors say, drug sales occur in the narrow walkway which leads to a fence in the backyard. People come and go frequently from behind the house through the fence.
332 Breckenridge, city officials say, is slated for eventual demolition.
Directly across from 322, is 319 Breckenridge, where drug dealers, users, pimps, prostitutes are said to congregate.
As Johns drive by, prostitutes, sometimes indecently clad, step out to greet them. But it is not the silent plying of the trade that offends and frightens neighbors.
Santiago Santiago, who, with his wife, is raising his children in the neighborhood, posted his concerns on a Facebook Public Group called West Side Alive.
He writes, “Basically the entire block between Breckenridge and Boyd was filled with this crap. Guys sitting by the tree in front of San Bor drinking liquor and fiends trying to trade them stuff for drugs. I made a point to tell my daughter and niece to NEVER walk through there. That’s a shame, I was born and raised on the West Side. I’m not afraid of much, but I definitely fear for the safety of any girl/woman walking through there.”[Name redacted], another neighborhood resident, said, “I walked by around 10:30 in the morning and it was already going on. Some girl was completely wasted on something and dancing at the corner. Another was coming out from behind the crack house and guys smoking pot and barbequing in front of the barber shop. I used to just feel slightly uncomfortable walking by there, now they make comments, ‘nice tan,’ ‘nice legs.’ I really don’t want to surrender the area by refusing to walk down that block but they are definitely becoming more and more brazen.”
Some noted that when school buses drop off high school girls at that corner, they are followed.[Name redacted] says she calls the Mayor’s 311 line weekly since March, but so far the city hasn’t acted on her complaints. She doesn’t go shopping on Grant St. anymore because of the activity. [Name redacted], another West Sider, says that she was approached when bicycling on the block.
“I had a guy jump in front of my bicycle and straddle my front tires all the while repeating, ‘I got what you want, I got what you want,’ as he pulled a baggie of drugs from his underpants,” she said. “I had to tell him, ‘I don’t want any drugs from the crack of your ass’ in broad daylight to get him to let go of my bike.”
“We call and call. The last time I spoke to (Niagara District Councilman David) Rivera, he mentioned that he drives by it everyday. I think that a public shaming is in order,” she said. “That corner is a scourge… there have been stabbings at mid-day and beatings.”
Tory Popielinski lives on the next block of Breckenridge and has owned his house for 14 years. He says it has never been this bad.
“The house across the street just sold. They were asking $179,000, but this past week one morning I saw a hooker walk right before it and get into a car that parked on Hoyt St. in the middle of the block,” he said. “You can fill in the rest.”
Girl completely wasted dancing at the corner, topless prostitutes, drug users coming out from behind the crack house and guys smoking pot openly are just part of the scene.[Redacted] wrote, “I had to tell a prostitute three weeks ago to put her damn shirt on.”
Some people claim that though they live nearby they never walk up Breckenridge to Grant even when it is the most direct route.
“I always go over a block to either Auburn or West Ferry. In fact, I avoid driving down that block between Grant and Parkdale. I was out with a friend recently who drove that way and got a firsthand experience of why I avoid the area” one neighbor said.[Name redacted] owns a property on Breckenridge closer to Parkdale than Grant but the goings on is impacting the quiet enjoyment of her home.
“The street is not so bad closer to Parkdale, but I get so frustrated with all the open drug activity on the corner of Breckenridge and Grant,” she posted on Facebook.