Left Behinds

The anti-andrewsullivan.com. Or, the Robin Hood (Maid Marian?) of bright pink Blogger blogs.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Doug Rushkoff's Park Slope

There's a pretty fascinating discussion over on Doug Rushkoff's blog about his Christmas mugging outside his apartment in the outskirts of Park Slope (Click on the jump for the full text). 80some commenters discuss gentrification, race, and class struggle in a candid way we don't read very often.

I got mugged this summer, and my experience uncannily mirrors one of Rushkoff's commenters. Basically, as I was walking home through Gramercy, some shithead tried to put me in a headlock and demand my money. I always thought I was a risk-averse, here's my wallet kind of guy, but in the heat of the moment, with adrenaline rushing, I fought back and I fought back hard. I wrestled him to the ground and started beating his ugly face with my cell phone, all the while hollering obscenities in my best Tony Danza voice. We both emerged bloodied and bruised, with me yelling at the top of my lungs and him without my wallet or anything else.

If there's a transcript of the 911 call, it would make a pretty funny Youtube clip. I was aggro to the max, as well as completely delusional. "You better get the FUCK over here," I screamed at the poor 911 operator, "or I'm gonna fuckin' kill him with my bare hands," etc. Meanwhile I have the upper body strength of an old lady and the only thing I have ever killed with my bare hands is a block of tofu. You really have to see me in dandy person to get the comedy of my Tony Danza/Raging Bull impersonation. The meathead cops afterwards said to me (as I writhed in the back seat of their patrol car, still livid and talking shit about what I was going to do to this guy) "we don't recommend fighting back, but at least you got yours." I was just excited about the fact that with my swollen lower lip I suddenly looked like Ryan Philippe.

I felt good about fighting back. Unlike the last time I was mugged (years ago), this had almost no lingering traumatic effects. I felt like such a machoman. From my first experience with a more harrowing mugging, I can relate to Rushkoff's hangwringing and his impulse to just get the fuck out of Park Slope. It's so violating and disempowering (if I could talk to the guy I'd sincerely recommend counselling).

In my situation, the cops also dissuaded me from filing a report, and I get the impression from the discussion below that a lot of NYC's vaunted crime decrease has to do with a change in reporting policy. Interesting, and fucked up.
Merry Christmas, Gimme Your Money
12/25/2006 09:09:00 AM | Link
I got mugged at knifepoint while taking out the garbage Christmas Eve at 9pm.

I negotiated with him for my health insurance card - not only because it has my Social Security number and was really hard to get, but because I knew that such a request would humanize me in the mind of my attacker, and make it harder for him to stab me. Such are the benefits of studying human behavior. All I lost was my phone, cards, and money.

Getting a knife pushed into your ribcage now and again is just part of the price we pay to live in a city, and New York is supposedly one of the safer of the bunch. But I have to admit, it makes me question working two extra gigs (I won't divulge which ones they are) in order to pay the exorbitant rent this part of Brooklyn - when the streets are less safe than they were in the supposedly bad parts of Manhattan where I used to live.

It may just be the humiliation of not fighting back that's getting me down, but I fear that Brooklyn may be a crock. And with a two-year-old daughter, I feel a strong urge to spend my effort elsewhere.

Merry solstice to all. Things should get brighter, soon.

comment |

Unlucky mate. To be honest, you're just as likely to get a beating wherever you go. I live in a modest town and had my fair share of muggings. If the money is an issue then find somewhere cheaper but don't go because your pride is hurt. You did the right thing.

All the best.
Mr B • 12/25/06 06:48am
Wow, that really sucks. You handled the situation pretty well, I think. I just don't know what the muggers are thinking these days. Don't they realize your phone and credit cards are also pretty worthless once you deactivate them? I would have convinced him just to take the cash.

As for fighting back, it all depends on the situation. You should really only fight back if you're pretty sure you're going to get out without a trip to the hospital. Also, there are lots of crazy laws where you can actually technically get in trouble for fighting back. If you did fight back, I'd definitely be rooting for you.

As for New York, it is most certainly one of the safer cities statistically speaking. At least, the statistics tell a much brighter story than the stereotype.

Let me end with an anecdote. I was walking from GCT to the office one day, and I heard a scream off to the left. I couldn't believe what I saw, a real life purse-snatching in progress on the South side of Bryant Park. My first reaction was, wtf? Then it was, hey, let's stop that guy! Four other people had the same idea before I did, and the crook was dispatched before I could cross the road. New York is pretty good.
Apreche • 12/25/06 07:17am
I'm sorry that happened, I know what you must be feeling,
though I didn't have the humiliation of not fighting back when I was attacked since in my case in Harlem it was 3 guys and they jumped me from behind and hit me on the head with a bat before asking questions. My attack (in Spanish Harlem) really made me think a lot about racial tension and the class-war in the city, that seem to constantly boil under the surface. Do you have any thoughts like that?
By the way, like you I tried to play "business as usual", everything under control (as you might see here: mushon.com/?p=46) it didn't last too long. If I can give you one tip from the violent and graphical experience I had, it would be to allow yourself to deal with it, personally, not only in the scope of "I have to be strong for my family" or it will get you sometime later, when you least expect it...

Have a better new year, see you around...

Mushon • 12/25/06 07:51am
Jeez... I'm really glad you're ok. Money is just money, I'm just glad you didn't get stabbed. Good work on the insurance card, but I think too much negotiation could have made things worse. I worry to think what might have happened if you didn't have anything worth stealing on you...

Hope the rest of the year treats you better...
matt g • 12/25/06 08:48am
I got mugged at gun point in the bronx one early morning. i had only 5$ in wallet, i thought that the mugger would shoot me out of spite. it seems to be a rite of passage for many in the city. makes you really question why you are here, at the very least makes you feel low.

However, you are alive. and you ware pretty close to not being, humanized or not, it may sound hollow, but rejoice.

Happy holiday, be well.
Doron • 12/25/06 08:54am

Many people have been through similar experiences yet choose unique ways to react and later rationalize their decisions. Do not be ashamed of your reactions since they are really an expression of your self. Perhaps the best reaction would be to use this experience to learn something more about your self.

From a fans point of view, it hurts to hear about this incident because I had always visualized you on a pedestal that was high enough to make you immune to the lower forms of humanity. Seeing that this was not true makes me proud of you and ashamed of my own naivety. Thank you for being a member of the human race and congratulations on a situation well handled!
morgan23 • 12/25/06 08:57am
Holy Canoli. Can almost see the hand outside of the panel pushing this bad thing to happen on a night that's supposed to be gooder than most. Moloch? You supposed to be Job-ish? Anyhoo a lil levity at a yucky time. Sorry you went through that and Happier Holidays to you and your family.
JahFurry • 12/25/06 09:11am

Glad to hear that you made it out without any serious incident. The "humiliation of not fighting back" may be a twinge of the old Circuit 2 / Emotional / Territorial programming [which is also the foundation for Circuit 6 / The Metaprogramming skills that puts the Club Zero-G pencil in your hands].

Despite the danger, it sounds like you were able to use higher brain functions to quickly think through the ways of de-escalating the physical violence.

Circuit 2 is still a tough nut to crack, especially in a culture where regular flavors of "The only thing that terrorists can understand is terror" bombard us. It is rare to find somone who appreciates the difference between "defending oneself" and "fighting back."

Of course, Leary theory may not make you feel any better but it does offer some other options.

I look forward to what you bring to us in 2007. Thanks again for the great work and that to come!

- sean
sean • 12/25/06 09:29am
Yeah - I'm totally aware that the wounded pride is a lower circuit, territorial thing - exacerbated by the fact that this happened in what passes for my front yard. The funny thing is that some other thread on a Jewish site has some young zionist calling me a rich elitest as a way of criticizing my stance on Judaism.

And the weirdest part - what i originally intended to post about, but didn't, was the way the guy ran away at the end. As he was running, I realized that the whole situation had instantly turned on its head: now he was the frightened one, and I was the one with the equivalent of a deadly weapon - cops, the law, class difference - with which to wage a counterattack.

As for the phone - he probably took it so I couldn't snap his photo as he ran.

Thanks all for the well wishes. The cops said I shouldn't feel bad: that Christmas eve is a big "hunting night" in Park Slope.
rushkoff • 12/25/06 10:13am
glad you're safe, intact, and all that. hope today is nicer:)
erik • 12/25/06 12:53pm
Holy Crap, glad you're safe Doug, and similarly impressed at how you've dealt with it and managed to keep a good perspective. Hope you can have a relaxed new year and not get wound up. Take it easy mate.
Jack Henry • 12/25/06 01:06pm
very sorry to hear about the incident. Thankfully you are safe. Love to you and your family. Ever think about moving to Bushwick?
Peace friend....
Gabriel • 12/25/06 08:40pm
If it's any comfort, I received a copy of "Get Back in the Box" for Christmas so there's one purchase to help offset the financial loss.
Leonard • 12/25/06 09:58pm
I'm glad you're safe, and glad you have the stones to write about this encounter and the effect it's having on your psyche. Yes, thanks for being human, and for articulating in speech and action a better humanity.
Rocky • 12/26/06 07:36am
This is why God invented Queens. It's where people go to hide from the Sarsgaards and the people who want to rob them.
Not Gina • 12/26/06 12:56pm
About a year ago, I was walking home from a studio space shgwing from down the street from where I lived in BROAD daylight on a BUSY street when a guy followed me a few blocks, tackled me, waved his keys in my face and then proceeded to run off with my bag.

Because my notebook was in there (for my writing...retrospective ly, a story I end up canning), I ran after the guy, screamed help and somebody got out of the car and chased him down. When he realized a guy was chasing after him, instead of a girl, he turned around, gave me my bag back and then I called the cops and he ran off, got caught and was thrown in jail for (I think) 9 months.

If your guy didn't have a knife, I would have suggested fighting back, but you did the right thing. I carry mace with me now. And the original call into the police before I called was, "frantic white girl in a pink jacket is chasing a black man."
Kaet • 12/26/06 01:23pm
Oh, Doug, I'm so so sorry about that - what a horrible thing to happen. Very glad you're safe and hope you're feeling better. xo
Elyse • 12/26/06 01:30pm
I got mugged once in Williamsburg, walking home late late at night. I was wasted out of my mind, and kind of asking for it, to be honest. White boy, 5 AM, wasted in hipsterville. He jumped me from behind in an elbow strangle hold, and well, it was interesting: my first instinct, despite and maybe because of, I started screaming, slammed him backwards into the ground and began kicking the guy. He ran, I ran, no harm done. Except that fighting back was probably the dumbest thing to do, if he had possessed a weapon, who knows what would have happened. Adrenalin is a funny thing, I didn't know I was capable of defending myself against something like that until I had to.
Evbogue • 12/26/06 02:03pm
The cops said you shouldn't worry? That sounds reassuring.

Glad you are okay though, and good job on negotiating your insurance card. It's hard to keep cool under those circumstances.

Sometimes it seems like the criminal element in bad neighborhoods are wiser and the worse stuff happens in nice areas. I lived in downtown Cincinnati during our race riots and nothing happened to me, but when I lived in trashy suburbs my house got broken into. And nothing, so far, has ever happened to me in any part of inner Los Angeles whether walking around Hollywood late or taking the train through south central with the Compton stop and all. Yet the only problem I've had in California was ironically in suburban Costa Mesa, OC a drunk ass wanted to start a fight with me in the street for no discernible reason.

One trick it seems is to walk around with an angry look on your face and generally people leave you alone, but its tricky.
ray • 12/26/06 02:27pm
Doug, sorry to hear about your mugging, but your comment that sounds weirdest is your resentment/anger at having to pay premium prices to live in a Brooklyn that still has pockets of crime in it.

Seems to me you have no problem arbitraging Brooklyn's supposedly "cheaper" rents when it suits you. After all, why live in Bklyn in the first place? I'll tell you why: You get more space for less dough. You still pay a lot to live in the cushy confines of prime Slope, but comparatively speaking, you pay less than frere Manhattanites for the same amount of turf. And with better public schools (aren't you in the 321 district?)

Brooklyn is demonstrably, statistically safer than it has ever been. That was part of what lured you in the first place. But the statistics know no names, and so coincidentally, you became one (for violent crime). I'm glad you weren't hurt, but at the moment you sound a little like those scared suburbanites who moved to Levittown in the first flush of badass urban violence. Truth is, this time ain't nothing like that one.

Thus it looks like an aberattion bit you in the wallet. But do us all a favor: Don't take it out on your adopted borough.
strongorbit • 12/26/06 02:41pm
Your wife blogs that it was a gun?
If you want to live in any metoproplis you're going to have to deal with the threat of violent crime, no matter what your neighborhood. It happens everywhere. I think the only ones immune are the super-rich who can insulate themselves from the street with drivers and doormen.
Take precautions, but relax, you handled it like a pro: you have something to live for and that degenerate doesn't. So just hand over everything and hold onto your life.
BUT CALL THE DAMN COPS RIGHT AWAY! They could have canvassed the neighborhood with you; this works often and may save the next victim.
Curious • 12/26/06 04:40pm
strongorbit: yes, brooklyn is safer than it used to be, but it still ain't great. we see bad things happening A LOT here. we're not in 321 and the prices, jeez, they are crazy high to live in a broke down brownstone (1.5 million for an apartment where you can hear and feel the subway? and not even 321! who is paying these prices? we can't afford that.) this incident alone isn't making us want to leave -- it's many things. mostly we want to be able to be creative people while providing an enriching environment for our kid. we so wanted to do that here, we really did. but it just ain't working out. believe me, we wanted it to.
the mrs. • 12/26/06 04:58pm
Hey all, and thanks again for well wishes. I'm fine, really.

Ev - I used to be like you. I was mugged twice before - back in the good ol' days before Giuliani and all - and was stupid enough to fight them off both times. Just instinct. If I didn't have a wife and daughter, I might have taken my chances this time, too.

Yeah, Curious - it's weird. I remembered it as a knife, but when the detectives questioned me we realized it was a gun. The mind does weird things when you're really feeling threatened. I used the word "knife" with them, but described a gun. Then I realized it *was* a gun. They said it happens a lot. As for not calling the cops right away, you're right. Weird thing was I felt I owed the guy for not kiling me. Like we had made some kind of deal.

As for the Brooklyn arbitrage, the Mrs. pretty well explained it. And it has nothing to do with getting bit in the wallet! It's having a weapon shoved against my gut in front of my home at 9pm. It's about *not* feeling adopted, but rather priced out.

We came out here to the Slope less for space than community. And while there's certainly fun friends here, sometimes it seems as if that community spirit wears thin under pressure.

People are friends and leftie and cool - I mean, it's almost Berkeley or something - until they decide they're competing against you to get their kids into the Beth Elohim "two's" program. Then all of a sudden they're pissed off that you posted the details of the application procedure to a Park Slope Parents list, because they were counting on the process remaining opaque. Yes: I got two emails chiding me for clarifiying the process, because it made the whole thing more fair. It's still New York.

And even on getting mugged, while I find great support online, no one in my own building even rang the bell or asked how I was or what happaned (I posted the basics near the front door, so that people would know to be careful). I mean, if I found out someone in my building got mugged, I'd give a knock and see if they needed anything. To borrow some cash, maybe? Someone down the street told me to take down the blog post because they're trying to sell their house and this could hurt their property values.

I guess it was the cops who got me thinking about it as a Brooklyn thing. Not the first cops who said I should have fought back, but the detectives who said the Slope is getting progressively worse - that they've got real problems patroling with such budget cuts, and that violent crime has been rising quite steadily for the past year or so. Not in the whole of Brooklyn - but here. Especially against women in the park. And then they drew the circle around Park Slope, and showed me how by being just inside the circle, I end up being the easiest target because they don't have to go too far into the rich white area. It's the edges where the most action happens - the edges of gentification, that is.

There are great and terrible inconsistencies here in Brooklyn, as in many places. I had a little bit of a debate with Steven Johnson about it at a "Habitats" conference a couple of months ago. He argued that the Slope offers a great inter-racial co-mingling. That he can walk through the park and see people of all races barbecuing. That it's a society at its best. And I offered that we white authors represent the force of gentification. And that we are part of what makes the neighborhood unaffordable for those who lived here before us.

But I hear you Strongorbit (even though you don't tell us your name, but feel fine to list what you think is my daughter's future school district) it's not fair to blame Brooklyn. And I wish you were on my block to push the community spirit. It's not Brooklyn that's a crock - it's the mindset that got me to *consider* the kind of mortgage that would make an apartment in this part of Brooklyn possible. And that doesn't mean going to Levittown. Turns out, there are choices in this world other than 'cool' parts of the city and the burbs.
rushkoff • 12/26/06 05:42pm
White flight anyone? I feel sorry for all you put upon white people having your whiteness placed in danger in this big bag dangerous city filled with murderous nonwhites. At least you didn't have 50 bullets pumped into you by the police.
Droptruf • 12/26/06 05:48pm
When someone gets shot, they don't just lose their whiteness. Didn't you know that? Getting shot doesn't make you turn black. It makes you die.

I guess you're saying the whites should keep gentifrying your areas, then? What an idiot you are. If you see the post or convesation here as some example of white flight then you really don't know who your friends are.

Besides, _you're_ the racist asshole. Why do you think the mugger was black?
ray • 12/26/06 06:03pm
Interesting idea, but white flight was actually a way to keep poor people in the cities while the wealthy fled to the suburbs.

In my case, I'd be leaving the neighborhood to the wealthy, so that I could move somewhere more affordable. Probably with more black people, not less.

And I do not believe I divulged the race of the Chinese guy who mugged me. oops. ;)

Seriously, I'm one of the only guys you'll find in this neighborhood trying to wake people up to the fact that the blacks and hispanics being forced to move out (in order to make room for condos) aren't benefiting by getting to sell their homes. No, the market is not taking care of them. People around here seem to think that things getting more expensive just make it good for everyone.

But you are certainly correct in that the police gunning down innocent black kids is a bigger problem than me getting mugged. Still, the rampant racism and segregation in these toney neighborhoods - what I'm attempting to address - may actually be connected to that problem. Criticizing me as a racist for bringing it up doesn't make sense.
rushkoff • 12/26/06 06:10pm
Douglas, very sorry to hear this. I am glad you weren't harmed. It's sobering to us all, however.
Heidi MacDonald • 12/26/06 06:43pm
I know. It'll get better. i was mugged at gunpoint one week before Christmas two years ago, in Brooklyn. I left New York that week to spend the holidays with my family and I didn't really want to go back. I questioned if this was the Eden I was looking for. But, it did get better and I feel safe again. I am a bit more cautious and I wonder if this is where I want to raise children. It's not a matter of race. I was mugged by a young white male.
Sal • 12/26/06 08:18pm
bastards. nevermind the threat of physical harm -- that kind of thing gets in your head. I wish telling you to think of it as little as possible was helpful.
Geoff Klock • 12/26/06 08:25pm
Sorry to hear that. I was attacked a few years ago in a crowded subway platform in Soho on a wondefully sunny February afternoon...so...someti mes it's not just the environment, but rather the randomness of things. Glad to hear you are alright.
Matteo • 12/26/06 08:50pm
As a fellow Park Slope resident and a female who often gets home at later hours, I'm curious which block you live on? I'm on Dean Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues -- just inside that circle the cops drew on the map. We've had a couple of muggings on this block just in the past few months -- both involving weapons, I believe. I thought it was coincidence, but from what the cops told you it sounds like it could be more widespread. Interestingly, I remember coming home on Christmas Eve and thinking how much more desolate the streets seemed!
Mina • 12/26/06 08:56pm
I'll email you offlist, Mina. And I'll send something to Park Slope Parents.

Honestly, there's not a crime level here that concerns me so much as a guy. But the violence to women troubles me as a husband and father of a girl. And, of course, as a member of a community.
rushkoff • 12/27/06 03:57am
I grew up in Brooklyn in the 50s and 60s and lived here in the dangerous 70s and was never mugged (once in Manhattan). I am now living back in Brooklyn, and it is much safer than it used to be. At a recent bat mitzvah reception with some college friends, I mentioned that I go to the Starbucks at Atlantic Center on Flatbush and the stores there, and every person at the table from the old days had a story about being mugged at Atlantic and Flatbush in the 70s. I remember as a kid being reminded by my parents to take "mugger money" when I went out so they wouldn't kill me if they found out I had only a dollar or two. This was very common.

Still, Brooklyn was safe for me. I have lived in South Florida, North Florida, Northern California, L.A., and a bunch of other places and the only time I was mugged (at gunpoint) was in a very suburban Mesa, Arizona, neighborhood (as I was putting the key into the door of my apartment).
Richard Grayson • 12/27/06 09:01am
"And even on getting mugged, while I find great support online, no one in my own building even rang the bell or asked how I was or what happaned (I posted the basics near the front door, so that people would know to be careful). "

I had the same experience in my building when I was attacked a few months ago (around 8 pm, in summer, on a tuesday, acouple hundred feet from the exit of a populated park, ) in Greenpoint. While freinds and other neighborhood people were very supportive (guys at the deli gave me a bottle of disinfectant when I had realixed I had cut myself in the slight skuffle and freinds rallied to point out a number of attacks that had happened to people we knew in recent proximity and offer to look better after each other), my actual neighbors said nothing. Not even a note of or anything on the note i left on the table in the downstairs hall.

I called the police, knowing full well how little use it would be, because I live in a nice-ish, quiet, community-ish neighborhood. There are children and older people in that park all the time (and a lot has been done to clean it up in a variety of ways over the last 5 years) and those of us who live there have a right to feel safe. They acted like they were doing me a big favor by humoring me, then got annoyed when I asked for their cards. I knew they wouldnt file a report and had to hobble (I was actually hurt more than I first noticed) to the precinct later to make sure one was filed and included the piss-poor attitude of the two unercover guys that "helped" me. I got to wondering if it benefits the precint to report less incidents.
bb • 12/27/06 09:15am
What a bummer; glad to hear you survived unharmed and with your insurance card intact. Hopefully the Chinese guy who mugged you is hanging upside-down somewhere with a fork up his ass right now.
Cosmo Kramer • 12/27/06 10:15am
I'm just going to say it: Brooklyn ain't so great. This is coming from a black woman who left there long ago for Manhattan. I grew up in Bed Sty and it was tough. Still is. But I never felt safe there I mean, come on, even Spike Lee moved from Fort Greene to the Upper East Side!
Wedgie Jones • 12/27/06 11:28am
Sorry to hear about this. We just moved to President Street off of Seventh Ave with our six month old baby girl, and I'm very creeped out to think this happened just a few steps away.
danny hellman • 12/27/06 12:07pm
Wow, Danny, your comic art is great. We lived nearer to where you are before we moved here. It really is safer over there - better lit, and more central. I wouldn't worry, but don't be like me and stop to stare at your garbage at night. Do your business in the street, and keep moving.

It's really just a matter of remembering that no matter how much all those townhouses cost, this is still the city for better and for worse. I think I forgot that, and made myself into more of a target. As long as I'm here, I'm going to remain aware of the fact that anyone could be a potential attacker - and continue to do my best to alleviate the kinds of social and economic injustices that lead people to become attackers in the first place.

Remember: there was a neighborhood here in Park Slope even before the first "cool" people came to colonize it. When the market is the only force of nature in urban 'development,' nasty things happen to lots of people. And the cycle just continues from there.
rushkoff • 12/27/06 12:23pm
sorry to hear that happened to you - unfortunately that sort of stuff can happen anywhere - 15 years ago when I was 12-14 yrs of age and lived in that very area we did similar shameful things - its not bklyn, it hormones, bordem, etc.
me • 12/28/06 06:29am
And poverty, a bad penal system...the guy who mugged me was in his 30's or so.
rushkoff • 12/28/06 08:22am
Actually it could happen "anywhere" but it is less likely to happen in many places like Park Slope (despite what the cops told you, armed robberies are DOWN in 2006) - and it was MUCH more likely to have occured years ago before the area was gentrified.
Oh and BTW please dont say poverty=crime because by that logic Black and Hispanic=crime too.
David • 12/29/06 11:08am
Rushkoff wrote: "I'm sorry that you were mugged - that must have been terrifying. However, I do take issue with a comment you posted above...Especially against women in the park. And then they drew the circle around Park Slope, and showed me how by being just inside the circle, I end up being the easiest target because THEY don't have to go too far into the RICH WHITE AREA. It's the edges where the most action happens - the edges of gentification, that is."

As a black woman residing in Park Slope, I just think your comment smacks of smugness and stereotyping. It assumes that all muggers must be non-white and that the "rich white" areas are all-white - they're not - I live there and so do people just like me (ie black professionals). Try to remember that not all muggers are black, not all nice neighborhoods are populated by whites only and not all blacks are poor and/or criminally-minded. Oh and shock! horror! - plenty of muggers and disadvantaged people are white.

Stereotypes are dangerous. Whites continue to assume that all muggers are black. Black muggers continue to assume that whites will be easy targets with fat wallets...
Precious Williams • 12/29/06 11:16am
While I agree with your post completely, please look at the sentence you're critiquing, and who said it.

I'm telling you what the cops told me, and why it upset me. Elsewhere, on Park Slope Parents, I refused at first to describe the mugger because of precisely my concern that people not stereotype. But it was the cops who drew the circle, and called this a "rich white area," not me.

I've been the one all over the net this week explaining that muggers need not be black, and victims need not be white.
rushkoff • 12/29/06 02:07pm
Nevertheless, it's an interesting and important issue you bring up. And I wonder if this is the place (or if there's any place) where the real impact of gentrification as well as its racial component and misconceptions can be discussed in an open fashion.

The suggestion that poverty or the penal system (I did not suggest poverty=crime) may have had anything to do with this 30-something's criminal actions was itself criticized. So then, it's nothing at all that leads to these behaviors? Or, as another poster suggests, raging hormones (even of middle-aged men)? Drug abuse? I suppose if there are no causative factors for crime, then we needn't discuss it. It's just a random emergent phenomenon beyond anyone's control.

I do believe Brooklyn suffers from racial segregation - and I've been in discussions about this with black and whites and hispanics, wealthier and poorer than I am. We live in microcommunities with very little integration. I know wealthy blacks who bought on one side of Flatbush because they felt the other side was "too white," as well as whites who have done the opposite. Kids who go to 321 don't go to the junior high school or high school in this district. Why is that?

And I feel sure that the same price escalation that makes Park Slope almost impossible for someone like me must make it difficult for others - the people who were here before the wealthy came - to stay. If they're renters, anyway. And this, in itself, could lead to some resentment.

The "circle" those cops drew was meant to indicate race and class, true enough. I think what it really represents - as I've said above - is the perimeter of extreme gentrification. It's where the housing prices jump from insane to exorbitant. It's where the renovations are complete and the earlier occupants have been completely eliminated.

Now the fact that the incomers have a much higher percentage of whites than "other," and that the outgoers have a larger percentage of "other" than whites, could be easily documented by census if it's true. But even then, the drop in crime associated with gentrification needn't become evidence that the incomers *do* less crime than the previous residents - whether because of poverty or race. It would have just as much to do with higher street traffic due to the opening of more businesses catering to the new clientele.

Still, the street crime that remains tends not to be committed by the new resident milionaires (of either race) on one another, but by people living outside the millionaire district, traveling to the spots they believe will be wealthier or easier pickings, and then commiting the crimes.

The cops' perception - which may indeed be incorrect - is that the majority of muggers are not Park Slope residents, or at least not residents of the wealthiest section. This, of course, plays into the assumption I made earlier (which also might be wrong) that poverty and crime have any connection.

But before engaging with any of these questions, I think we'd have to determine whether or not there's any tactic at all that can reduce crime. Did Giuliani do it - or did he push it somewhere else? If enough rich people fill up enough of Brooklyn, do the criminals get better educations or smarter and less criminal as a result? Or just further away? And then does the cops' "perimeter" simply move further out from the center of wealth?

Is there any policy, any change in penal code or corrections, zoning, education, drug education and rehabilitation, health? Or does exploring any of these issues lead inevitably to some conversation about race that we're still not ready to have?

I'll stop now. I'm not qualified to lead the discussion on zoning, race, gentrification and policy. I'm just a writer and a media theorist who happened to get mugged. But I'm certain such a conversation needs to be convened.
rushkoff • 12/29/06 05:24pm
Thank you Douglas for your words. I appreciate your utter calm in all of this madness. People posting here: remember he just got mugged on his doorstep a few nights ago. Give the man a break.
Wedgie Jones • 12/29/06 05:33pm
I'm curious - where do you live in Park Slope? I'm in the northern part, close to 5th Avenue and my block and the neighboring blocks are really quite mixed with a mixture of Hispanics, Black and White home-owners all living happily enough. I do have African-American friends who could afford to live here but choose not to because they want to live in neighborhoods where blacks are in the majority.
JLo • 12/29/06 08:04pm

First and foremost, I'm very sad and sorry that this trauma was forced on you. Although you seem from a distance to be handling it with grace, I can only imagine the levels (and waves) of anger and anxiety rolling around your home. Or maybe that's just my projection: I know I would have been far more cowardly in the moment of attack, and I can't imagine being anything but pissed-off, confused and ultra-protective of my family in the days that followed. In fact, that's the way I'm feeling right now just as your friend and Park Slope neighbor -- I'd selfishly like to learn more about this increase in violent crime and what can be done about it.

I think you know that we adore Park Slope. I think it's a pretty special place, although I am upset about the insane wealth pouring in. I'm not sure that gentrification in itself is a bad thing -- a neighborhood attracting investment and care. And I don't even think displacement in itself is all bad. After all, some of those being displaced are taking some wealth with them. Isn't the problem much more rooted in our economy and politics, with this extraordinary cleavage between the well-off (us included) and the working poor? To me, Park Slope, while still pretty wonderful, does seem to be in danger of becoming a gross symbol of this divergence in wealth. But that to me is not our fault or the neighborhood's fault -- it's a national systemic thing. I don't say this to absolve myself of responsibility -- just to try to clarify what action is needed.

Rebut me, correct me, educate me. I count myself as pretty naive in the ways of gentrification, and want to learn more. I'd also like to second all the praise on this list for all your outreach efforts, and to volunteer to assist you whatever neighborhood or urban discussion events you'd like to put together.

Best to your family and happy new year, and can you come over for tea next week and tell me how you convinced a man with a gun to negotiate?

David Shenk
David Shenk • 12/29/06 08:14pm
I'm with you David, and share the same concerns. I never meant to blame a particular group - not even the wealthiest and most recent 2-million-dollar condo buyers - for Park Slope or the world's ills.

I agree that what we're looking at in microcosm here is systemic and inherited. Again, to have a discussion about would require going as far back as forced slavery, and as far wide as economic policy, urban planning, and the role of media both in using race and poverty as over-determined excuses, while burying the genuine issues of race and poverty even deeper.

I also fear Park Slope in danger of becoming both a symbol and an expression of the divergence in wealth suffered by most of America today. I don't know whether the community, itself, has the leverage to reverse this process on a local level. (I do know that I can't afford to live in the famed 321 school district without changing what I do for a living.)

But whether or not I can live in Park Slope, I'm still ready and willing to engage in the discussion about it, and to *do* whatever might help. I'm thinking that not investing in the real estate market balloon is one way of neutralizing some of the grosser effects? Maybe Aaron Naparstek could help us out, here?

And yes - I'd love to come over for tea! Thanks for the invitation.
rushkoff • 12/30/06 06:29am
You acted exactly right during that mugging, as measured by my personal metric. My sweetheart and I rent on Montgomery Place, and she's been here since 1982. She fought off a purse snatching in 1990 on our street, and I had a gun stuck in my neck in 1985, albeit under the Manhattan Bridge adjacent the Sands Street housing projects. In every case, anything you do during a mugging, literally anything you do, is best whenever it results in no physical injury. Everything else is gravy. Don't second-guess your intuitive reactions during a mugging, just hope that they'll never again be needed and that, if they are, that they'll result in physical safety. And notice, please, that the real anxiety comes shortly after the mugging is over.
Walter Dufresne • 12/30/06 07:57am
I totally appreciate that. Indeed, the headache didn't start until 48 hours after the mugging was over (and it hasn't let up a bit, yet). And yes - I think our spontaneous responses to situations of grave threat are almsot always the best ones. I mean, there are parts of our nervous system that know what they're doing, and it's very often best to leave them to their business of protecting us.

It's learning when and how to govern those instincts that we sometimes run into trouble.
rushkoff • 12/30/06 11:14am
There were some facts debated/contested earlier. This might clear some of that up. According to this FBI research, covered on NPR this week, violent crime is up dramatically over the last few months.

www.npr.org/templates/s tory/story.php?storyId= 6697362
The FBI report, which compiled numbers from almost 12,000 police departments, found violent crime was up almost 4 percent from 2005 -- a year which already saw an increase from the year before. Blumstein finds the robbery numbers especially troubling, because they've always served as a warning of what's to come.

"There's clearly a growing number of people who have no future in our economy," Blumstein says. "There are basically three modes of earning income: One is to have a job, the other is welfare. The third is theft."

The last time robbery jumped so dramatically was in the early 1990s, at the height of crack-cocaine use. Criminologists believe drug addiction was behind most of the robberies then. But the crack markets stabilized in the 10 years since, and so has drug use in general.

The article goes on to site the main contributing factors I guessed at: bad penal system, inmates being released with no job prospects, insufficient funds for police patrols...

The good news is that non-violent crime is down, and that rape is down 2.5% in the northeast over the first six months of 2006. Violent robbery over the same period in the Northeast, however, is up 5.8%
rushkoff • 12/31/06 04:53am
I'm glad that everything turned out well!

Have a happy new year!
taimur • 01/01/07 01:12am
Gah, I look away for a couple weeks and this bullshit happens. Sorry about this, Doug. I've been lucky enough to rarely be the target of street crime, perhaps because in less savory areas, I stay hyperaware of my surroundings, but when it happens there's an anger that doesn't easily dissipate. Oddly enough, or maybe not enough so, I seem to usually be targeted by pretty young kids; I find either ignoring them or standing up to them usually takes them by surprise enough that it takes them out of that headspace. Obviously, had I seen a gun my tactics would have likely been different (read: crying, prostration).

Was it MacLuhan that said something to the effect that crime was the medium of the economically and societally disenfranchised, because it seems to them to be the only thing that validates their existence? There's a rap group called The Marginal Prophets, half of which is made up by editorial cartoonist Keith Knight, who have a song called "Gunz N' Money," with lyrics that go:

I hate myself and I wish I was dead
But I think I'll kill you instead
See, if I kill myself, hardly anyone will notice
But I'll get much press just as soon as I pull this
Trigger that I got at the shop last week
Don't it look nice, all shiny and sleek

(If it's not obvious, they're not championing that mindset.)

A point? I'm sure I had one. Just glad you came away from the experience relatively unharmed. Don't let it harden you; we love you for your generally sunny perspective on humanity. There's violent crime even in Salt Lake City. You're not the invader; they're not Robin Hood. Stay safe.
Ken A. • 01/01/07 11:33am
Well this was an interesting read. I thought you said he were mugged by someone with a GUN. Crock is right!
Hmmm..... • 01/01/07 01:47pm
I had a guy climb in the window on E. 12st St in the late 1980s.
I was sleeping in the other room with my girlfriend. Somehow we woke up and I went through the door and there he was with a knife acting edgy as hell. And there I was with a t-shirt on and my privates exposed. He took some money and a boombox we had which was no big deal. We didn't call the cop and report it because we didn't want more big goony guys in the apartment that night. I don't think much of crime statistics because I think a lot of times people say, "Why bother reporting it. It's not like they are going to catch the guy."
Then sometime later I wrote a song about it called Love Your City.
"Gotta love your city
even if it kills you"
I don't wish to go through that again. It creeps me out to think about it even now.
You can click on me to hear the song if you want, not that it would help.
Steve • 01/01/07 06:22pm
First of all, sorry to hear about the mugging incident. Second, I've lived in and around Park Slope for about 15 years. Though I've witnessed some street incidents during that time, I do believe what happened to you could have happened just about anywhere in NYC. You just happen to live in or near Park Slope. What made your comments irresponsible was that you then extrapolated that into sound bites regarding rising crime in Park Slope. While, your reaction to what happened to you is understandable, the fact is that you are an author, celebrity, and blogger. And whatever you put on the net gets picked up and repeated. So, IMO you have some obligation to a measure of journalistic standards or at least some caution in what you put out there. The implication that Park Slope is somehow more dangerous than the rest of NYC was irresponsible to say the least and wildly inaccurate. As you pointed out in later posts, Park Slope proper is a very safe area, it's the fringes that are seeing a pick-up in activity. It's nice that you've clarified your words some 20 posts later, but would have been even nicer if you had initially given more thought to what you were writing.
BB • 01/02/07 04:39pm
Nowhere did I suggest that Park Slope had higher crime than the rest of NYC or Brooklyn. Only that Park Slope is more expensive than the rest of Brooklyn. And, actually, the original post makes no mention whatsoever of Park Slope. The only comparison it makes is that the streets are less safe than they were in the supposedly bad parts of Manhattan where I used to live.

So I think you have to read the thing I wrote again, and decide whether or not it does any of what you think it may have done.

Here it is, for easy reference:
I got mugged at knifepoint while taking out the garbage Christmas Eve at 9pm.

I negotiated with him for my health insurance card - not only because it has my Social Security number and was really hard to get, but because I knew that such a request would humanize me in the mind of my attacker, and make it harder for him to stab me. Such are the benefits of studying human behavior. All I lost was my phone, cards, and money.

Getting a knife pushed into your ribcage now and again is just part of the price we pay to live in a city, and New York is supposedly one of the safer of the bunch. But I have to admit, it makes me question working two extra gigs (I won't divulge which ones they are) in order to pay the exorbitant rent this part of Brooklyn - when the streets are less safe than they were in the supposedly bad parts of Manhattan where I used to live.

It may just be the humiliation of not fighting back that's getting me down, but I fear that Brooklyn may be a crock. And with a two-year-old daughter, I feel a strong urge to spend my effort elsewhere.

Merry solstice to all. Things should get brighter, soon.

I stand by that. I don't see any sound bites about rising crime in Park Slope. That kind of discussion only came after the more lunatic fringe entered the conversation, saying they knew which school district I was in.

But where you're right is that there's probably little sense in my keeping a blog at all. It's a lot of work, and makes too many people unhappy. And it's a forum where everybody else gets to be an asshole but me, even if I'm mugged or pissed off. Like this is supposed to be the fucking NYTimes.

You may be right in that a professional writer just can't engage with people in a normal spontaneous fashion, in any venue, unless he does so incognito. But I do it more responsibly and with greater thought to the impact of my words than pretty much anybody out there. Even so far as to share my response to getting mugged - and the inaccuracy of my recollections as to what happened.

But you're right. This whole thing was an unfortunate error. Do I leave it up? Sure. Do I engage like this in public again? No. I'll use my private online spaces from now on.


Now, to the heart of the matter: is Park Slope more dangerous than other areas of Brooklyn? It depends exactly what you mean.

I have no reason to believe Park Slope is a very safe area, or a very dangerous one. If I said that we all know it is safe, or that we all know it is dangerous, I take it back. Safe compared to what? Dangerous compared to what? To Rwanda? To Helsinki? To Soho?

On the surface, it certainly seems safer than some other parts of Brooklyn I've walked in. But I have learned as a result of this comments section that the signs I may be reading as "dangerous" may be inaccurate. The streets are cleaner, and there are certainly fewer murders per capita than in a part of Brooklyn such as Brownsville. (This, according to the data the cops showed me - so we don't know if it is accurate.)

Then again, there are certain parts of Park Slope that are well-known mugging strips. Sorry, but that's true. We need to determine whether the mugging areas of Park Slope (such as Prospect Park West) have higher incidence of mugging than, say, the Windsor equivalent, or Prospect Park South, or Prospect Park East.

Do you know where the records for block-by-block incidents are kept?

None of this has much to do with what I was blogging or commenting on - I was merely pointing out that it wasn't worth spending life savings I don't have on this place. That I think it's gotten out of hand, and that I believe the rising prices and hyper-gentrification are part of the problem.
rushkoff • 01/02/07 06:30pm
I just read this today and I'm glad you're still alive and healthy.

My girlfriend and I live in a pretty rough neighbourhood, and I once got hit in the head with a bottle on the street for no apparent reason, it wasn't even a mugging, just a frustrated guy on cokaine. Surprisingly to myself and spectators I ran after him and cornered him, and the police was nearby and arrested him, and I was taken to the hospital.

We consider moving to the country as things are getting more and more insane in the city.
Martin • 01/03/07 05:46am
Doug (and Barbara)

I've said it before in private to Doug, but I'll start by saying in publicly: I'm so sorry you had to go through this ordeal, and you've both done an amazing job trying to work through all these issues in public. It's precisely the kind of conversation that should be happening in venues like this, because it's all about the clash between our public and private lives.

You guys sound like you've already made up your mind to leave, which is completely understandable, and some of the towns you're talking about are wonderful places to live. But I wanted to make the case for Brooklyn, if only because some of the reasons you cite for leaving are central to why we've decided to raise our kids here. If we can't persuade you not to leave, maybe we can persuade you that Brooklyn is not "a crock."

First, the crime issue. There's no question that Park Slope -- and Brooklyn more generally -- is more dangerous than living in a small town upstate, though of course you're likely to be more endangered by the extra driving you'd do in a small town, even one where you can walk to the downtown. But if you're going to live in an economically diverse urban area, you're not likely to find a safer place to live than Park Slope. In one of your posts, you said: "Getting a knife pushed into your ribcage now and again is just part of the price we pay to live in a city, and New York is supposedly one of the safer of the bunch." That's seriously understating the current crime scene here: it is THE safest city in the country, by a fair margin. You cited an NPR report about a recent surge in violent crime in the Northeast, but in fact, once again NY bucked the national trend: crime here was down 5 percent in 2006.
Barbara talked on her blog about feeling much safer in the east village in the 1980s. If you look at the precinct data on the NYPD site, you can see that the there were literally four times as many crimes committed in the east village in 1990 than in the Park Slope precinct in 2005, even though the east village has only about 20% more people in the precinct. (Exact numbers: 5,991 crimes in the east village in 1990 vs. 1,138 in the Slope in 2005.) Interestingly, the east village in 2005 had slightly more crime per capita than Park Slope.

As I said, there are obviously places to live that have lower crime rates. But none of those places has anywhere near the economic and cultural diversity that Brooklyn has (at least in the U.S.) Which leads to the gentrification problem you raised as well. And this is the more complicated point I think -- one we discussed at that Gowanus event last year.

Let's start with the fact that the overall wealth distribution problem in the U.S. is not a problem neighborhoods can solve. There are going to be rich people, for better or for worse, and while I think we both agree that the high-low wage ratios in this country are seriously out of whack, that's a whole other question. The question for us is: given that there are going to be rich people, where should they go? Is it better to have them all leave the cities for the suburbs the way they did in the sixties and seventies and live in gated isolation from everyone else? Or is better for them to live -- they way they do even in the fanciest blocks of the North Slope -- within walking distance of housing projects in two directions, and pressed up against a public park that is shared by an amazingly diverse -- and amazing peaceful -- population from every major ethnic/religious/econom ic group imaginable. Yes, when movie stars and famous writers and people like you and me move into the neighborhood, prices go up and some folks get squeezed out. That's not reason to give up on figuring out ways to preserve economic diversity in city neighborhoods. But I'd rather have the movie stars and bankers taking their kids to the 9th street playground on a summer weekend than having them play in their private backyard pool in Westchester.
And this is why I think Brooklyn is such an extraordinary place right now. Take a walk from the North Slope across Grand Army, then down Eastern Parkway. Where else in the country can you go from the houses of world-famous authors and movie stars to Hasidic Jews and working-class African-Americans all in the space of about twenty blocks? And all with the lowest crime rate of any big city in the country.

Yes, I suppose if the current trends continue it could all look like the Upper East Side in thirty years. But that's not what it looks like now, by any measure.
Steven Johnson • 01/03/07 08:05am
Sorry to hear about the mugging Doug.

But I think the decision is pretty easy, isn't it? Get out of the city. Show your two year old some fields and trees and fresh air. Take them back for visits to the city whenever you need to. Gone are the days when location was crucial. The kind of work that you do means that you don't have to be bound by geography.

And although it's honourable that you are using this experience to try to figure out why we're wedded to cities, and to work through some of the issues that create social unrest on our streets, when it comes down to it, your family is the thing that matters, and is the one social unit that your knowledge and behaviour can have a serious impact upon.

Cities are great for a while, but they're cramped and stifling at certain times in one's life. Get out for a while and give your kid a chance to stretch.

[Disclaimer - I am currently leaving London for somewhere a lot more peaceful.]
dan • 01/03/07 08:45am
Again, thanks all for the kind words. It certainly beats mean ones and accusations. I'm doing my best under difficult circumstances - wife and baby sick, haven't gotten to do any work in weeks, and am behind on numerous deadlines.

The pressure is magnified, of course, by the requirements of making rent every month - which is actually a chore, here in Park Slope.

I hear you about the greatness of the neighborhood. But even if I admit extreme and wonderful perfect greatness, let me ask you: would you buy your house for what it would cost now? Or would you live in an outlying area of Park Slope? If you didn't live in Park Slope or even if you did, would you send your kids to private school? If so, why?

I don't mean to be confrontational, but a three-bedroom apartment is easily 1.5 million here. A small house is 1.8 - and that's not even in the so-called 'prime' 321 area. If we were to send our kid to private instead of public (depending on which non Park Slope area we ended up in) that would be an additional 20,000+ per year. Then we have to save for college, too?

So the mugging really shouldn't have elicited such strong emotion from me, but I have spent the last few months banging my head against a price ceiling I can't penetrate. As an old GenXer, (a true, 40-something GenXer) I still have issues about rich v poor and virtue and general anti-yuppieness. That's my personal problem, I understand.

But the bigger and much more tangible issue is not having that 1.5 million dollars to spend on an apartment. And getting the gun in my belly made me feel like an idiot for trying.

There's absolutely no need at all to generalize anything else from this!!!! Please! Nobody should attempt to extrapolate researched journalism from these personal feelings I have had, resulting from my inability to afford an apartment here, and my growing sense that the money (or time required to make that money) could be spent better in other ways. T

I don't think Brooklyn is a crock. But neither do I believe that an apartment here is worth 1.5 million bucks. So, when I said crock, I probably should have said "the Park Slope and environs real estate market is a crock." And it is because with so many million-dollar Wall Street bonuses being handed out, there are many people from Manhattan who want to take advantage of all those fine features you're talking about. I don't blame them, and if I was a millionaire, I might be right there with them.

I'm glad there's a place for bankers and movie stars to take their kids to a real playground; it's just a luxury I can't afford. And while I would be hard-pressed to call myself the "commonfolk," most of my friends from the 9th St playground are moving out because they can't afford to make enough room for their kids. So no, the mugging isn't sending me away. Not by a longshot. It just makes it feel a bit less like getting priced out of heaven. It feels like a sign. A shove. The cops the next day made me feel like a rich weak white person who should know better than to think of Brooklyn as "safe." And again, that is their problem and my problem. No one else's. They said "open your eyes! This is still Brooklyn!" That had an impact.

Yes, Park Slope was great - truly great - while it lasted for us. And I hope something happens to make it possible for its great racial, economic, and cultural diversity to continue. If I come by an extra million bucks, or if the market crashes, I might just stay or come back. Otherwise, there are areas from Kew Gardens and Astoria to Hastings and Pelham that would offer more value for less money.
rushkoff • 01/03/07 11:56am
I may have missed this in earlier comments, but why were you carrying your wallet to take out the trash? I realize it's sort of beside the point, but I'm just curious.

PS I was mugged at the 7th Ave. subway station in Park Slope at 6AM on December 2, 1988. Notice how I remember the date? These things do make an impact. In my case, I screamed like a girl, flailed my arms, and scared the two muggers away. They got nothing, and when I told that to the cops who came to take my statement, they just folded up their pads and walked away.
DW • 01/03/07 12:49pm
sorry doug, that really sucks. but you did the right thing, and didn't get hurt, and that's the important part. happy new year
manlio • 01/03/07 01:37pm
It's not always the neighborhood. Bad things can happen anywhere at any time, especially when you're talking about random crime like robbery as opposed to drug or gang-related violence. Three years ago I watched one of two thugs we were passing on the sidewalk whip out a pistol and shoot my friend, without hesitation, in the head - - in one of Chicago's nicer neighborhoods. No robbery attempt. No words or dirty looks exchanged. No motive. My friend died. He was 27, a good and peaceful guy who never hurt a fly. The bad guys were never caught. I don't know why the sociopath didn't shoot me too. Bad guys can go wherever they want. I'm glad you are OK. Remember: most criminals don't stay in jail forever. They're kicked back to the curb, usually worse off than they were going in. We need better education and jobs programs in this country. Real estate will not protect us.
Mike • 01/03/07 02:01pm
On our friends' street in Philly, a man was recently mugged at gunpoint. The mugger demanded the man's wallet, and the man resisted. He was shot to death.
The best advice I've been told to survive a mugging is to throw your wallet in one direction and run the other way.
tip • 01/03/07 02:03pm
I keep my wallet in my pants. That way I know where it is in the morning, and the baby doesn't chew on my Metrocard. Frankly, I'm glad i had it with me, or I could have found myself escorted right back into my home - which may have been his plan. I consider the wallet and its contents the least important aspect of the event, though.

Like Manlio and so many have said - it's avoiding bloodshed that matters most. If anything, I'll be sure to keep my wallet with me when I go to throw out the trash from now on.

And really - the mugging and my disenchantment with real estate here are two different, and only personally related, issues.
rushkoff • 01/03/07 05:37pm
while I dont agree that this happening makes ParkSlope or Bklyn less desireable to live - if you add in the cost of housing, the traffic, the parking, pollution and this on top of that well then I can see how this makes you think..ok Brooklyn is nice but people are taking it too far by paying a million dollars for a crappy frame house when you have to put up with all this other stuff.

I loved Greenpoint when it was a rundown cheap neighborhood - now its a slightly less rundown area thats 5 times as expensive and its not worth the cost of living there anymore - maybe PS and lots of parts of bklyn are the same way
me • 01/04/07 06:51am
I'd also like to know where in Park Slope you live, since I live in the Slope, too. And if anyone has figured out where to get block-by-block crime statistics for the neighborhood (assuming they even exist), I'd really like to hear about it.

Doug, I really am sorry to hear that you had to go through this awful experience. No one should have to, and yet many of us have or will.

I'm lucky - I've lived in Brooklyn all my life, and have never yet been mugged. I figure it's got to happen sooner or later, and I'm not looking forward to popping that particular cherry.
Danielle • 01/04/07 07:20am
Doug, what you say makes complete sense. it's true if we were buying now, we'd probably have to make a different decision. in a way, we went through this back in 2000-2001 when we were looking -- we'd assumed that we'd be in the North Slope, but that got so pricey that we started looking at the South Slope, which was quite different then in terms of restaurants, shops, etc. (It's changed a lot in just five years, as you know.) And so that's where we ended up. Now we'd probably end up looking at Prospect Heights or Clinton Hill.

But still, as I've said before, I completely hear the argument that a million bucks gets you so much more in some great smaller towns in the Northeast, and as I get older, I appreciate the virtues of those places more and more. So why not give it a try, particularly when you're daughter is young enough not to be sad about leaving her peer group, etc. You can always come back...

Part of this is just me being selfish about not seeing you at the 9th street playground anymore!
steven Johnson • 01/04/07 07:21am
"Yeah - I'm totally aware that the wounded pride is a lower circuit, territorial thing - exacerbated by the fact that this happened in what passes for my front yard. The funny thing is that some other thread on a Jewish site has some young zionist calling me a rich elitest as a way of criticizing my stance on Judaism."

Just a question. What is a "Jewish site"?
Did it have a Bris? A Bar Mitzvah? Does the site keep kosher? What exactly is your stance on Judaism and how does it relate to you getting mugged? Do you have a "stance" on Catholicism, Buddism, Islam?
M.J. Nance • 01/04/07 07:33am
A Jewish site, for example, is myjewishlearning.com
A Catholic site might be a site about the Catholic religion.

The site I was referring to was myjewishlearning.com, where the blogs section was involved in a discussion about Judaism that had devolved into an attack on my supposed class status. I have written a book on Judaism, which is a religion. In that book, I pose certain arguments. Together, these would comprise a stance.

What's your problem?
rushkoff • 01/04/07 09:49am
Re: M.J. Nance. I think he was *trying* to be funny. Ha Ha. Right.
Wedgie Jones • 01/04/07 10:10am
I see my error, though. In my haste, I wrote "jewish site" when I should have written "a Judaism site." I see how "Jewish site" implies that the site itself accepted the Covenant, which might be difficult - though perhaps not impossible.

And thanks, Steven, for voicing what I would hope is the general community's sense that "if you think something else might work better for you, please try it and report back!"

I remember a couple of years ago, Mark Frauenfelder and his wife took their two daughters to Raratonga - a remote South Seas island - in the hopes of leading an uncomplicated life. Well, we got to read about their progress and eventual return to the Los Angeles area, and somehow their having tried it and failed made it okay to strike that fantasy life off the list.

As for us, a decision of which borough or near-NYC town to live in is really no big deal to anyone else. And the last thing I've meant to do is say that this place sucks; yet my grief and frustration at the combination of being mugged, having a sick baby, and not being able to afford the space we'd like to have here in this neighborhood is probably what led to my voicing too much of it.

But I've learned another lesson too, thanks to the other blogs that have picked up some of this, made fun of our baby's name, and more. It's that this is a public space. I'm going to treat it as such, take more time before I post, and use it more as a place to discuss the ideas in my books and articles than to share anything about my life.

As many of you know, I'm not a fan of "personal narrative," and explained that when I guest-blogged at Smith. And I think it ends up too distracting to what I can actually contribute.

Just as I'm moving to a cheaper residence to spend more time contributing the conversations I can really contribute to, I'll be steering clear of the subject of my own life and choices. They may inform my work, but they're not the value I have to share.

And, just as I behaved differently with a mugger because I have a family, I'm going to behave differently online.

Best to you all, and I really do appreciate the support and well wishes you all posted here. They far outweigh the effect of the other stuff.
rushkoff • 01/04/07 11:19am
Thanks for posting this. My crime history:
I've lived in the East Village from 1987-1989, New Haven from 19889-1992, and then NYC, 1992-present. Had my bag snatched twice in NYC (1989 and 1994) and got mugged at gunpoint in New Haven. Three young black men every time.
First one was a poor kid with a really apologetic look on his face, and I let him have the bag because there was nothing but a book of poetry in it... my wallet and keys were in my pockets! Second bagsnatching was another stupid kid who got caught (thanks to all the people who tried to stop him). The New Haven mugger was so scared that his hand holding the gun was shaking. I talked him out of it, and got him to tell me his whole sorry life story, and then pretended to feel so sorry for him that I wanted to give him money, so I begged him to walk with me to the bank so I could give him cash -- he fell for it, we went to the bank branch, I told him he should stay outside so his face wouldn't be on the bank cameras, and then I went in and called the cops from the ATM phone, who arrested him ten minutes later, poor fool. I'm sure in his mind I've joined the long list of people who've done him wrong.
The rule, as Rushkoff observes, is to behave differently from the script when you're mugged.
That said, I'd like to add that I find that some of the poor have a weird sense of entitlement, reflected in one of the posts above that "the market doesn't take care" the poor being pushed out by gentrification. Well, the market doesn't take care of anyone! We're all supposed to work for a living, and anybody who thinks they deserve housing just by virtue of existing should ask themselves if they ever provided housing for anyone else... if you never built or maintained a home for someone else, who and where is the person who owes a home to you?
Diana • 01/04/07 12:29pm
You've got a two-year old daughter, Doug. It would have been more humiliating had you been stabbed over some cash, credit cards and a cellphone.

I live in Williamsburg and remember the old days, when muggings were somewhat common.

Late one night/early one morning, a couple of guys pulled up next to me in a car. One guy got out and asked for directions. He went back to the car, opened the door, said something to his buddy, and then started walking back towards me. His buddy, meanwhile, got out of the car with something in his hand and starting coming towards me.

What did I do?

I picked up a metal trashcan lid and a piece of wood off the ground, starting banging it together, and moved towards them menacingly. They backed up as I inched my way away from them. Then I ran as fast as I effing could, eventually scaling a fence because the guys had gotten back into the car to give chase. I ended up hiding behind a burnt out car in an abandoned lot for an hour. Luckily I had a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers one me, plus plenty of room to piss without being seen.

What would I do now?

More likely than not, I would cooperate, hand over my wallet, phone, etc., make up a story about having a newborn baby depending on me, and tell them to have a nice day.

I'm too old now to get into a fight, I've got some money in the bank to replace the cash, and I have the phone numbers for all of my credit card companies stowed safely somewhere.

Of course, if I was drunk and this happened today, I may just kick some ass, or end up dead. Even odds.
BrooklynBS • 01/04/07 03:06pm
Thanks for those. Truly.

And I should also thank all the people who have emailed me, lately. They're sending private communications because they're not as stupid as I am to go post what happened to me. Their stories are really sad, some of them. Getting doors broken down in the middle of the night in Park Slope, and not being believed by the cops, tales of underreporting by NYC cops to keep the stats looking good, and, more relevant, a dozen-or-so ex-ParkSlopers who got priced out even earlier than we did, writing to say there's terrific alternatives.

I wouldn't want to end my participation in this thread on anything but the positive note of thanks for the support and understanding both for what happened, and my own personal, and flawed, reaction to it.
rushkoff • 01/04/07 05:48pm


I stumbled here through another blog and have always looked up to you since Media Virus. I am a filmmaker/writer living in the Slope for no other reason that the City pushed me out. I thought I saw you going to Staples a couple of weeks ago. Was that you? Anyway, I was literally evicted from my midtown apartment, landlord liked going through legal routes rather than conversational. I got to the Slope and hated the locals sense of rent-controlled entitlement; this idea that since they pay $250 a month rent and you pay 1.5 million for an apartment, they have the right to hate you. Worth a read of a social-environment psych book, I'm sure there's tons written on this but again, I'm a visual guy (filmmaker) so why a people are the way they are is not as important as how it looks.

I have some words of wisdom about the local hoodrats and their parents. This is going to hurt some of the more passive readers so I give a disclaimer to all sloper's reading. You must be confrontational with them and demand a level of interaction. An impassive approach, that I imagine most Slopers to have, does not work with a local group of socially imprisoned kids who perceive us/you as someone to be mugged. I understand a knife to your ribcage is not a time to be confrontational but chances are you would not have been stabbed and he would of gotten caught and tossed in jail for a long time. Statistically, these locals are very scared. They are scared of you, of me, of the loss of their 30+ years in the same 2 bedroom apartment, scared of the writers and bloggers and families that decorate 7th avenue and now 5th avenue. It's scary to watch your hood go from compton to Pleasantville. It's scarier when you don't have a computer, have a tiny vocabulary and a crackhead dad. I know it sounds like Im assuming but even if its 25% true, that's the impression the locals give off and I don't tolerate it. Some kids were pissing on my front door and I engaged them in conversation with my video camera running. They said some threatening things but 2 days later I ran into them at Pizza by the Park and they all looked down, having thought about we have to live in the same hood and I will not be scared away.

I'm confrontational with them specifically because I know characters that are older than them who are more dangerous and grew up in Bensonhurst in 80s when every friday Vinny and the local goombas would publically humiliate any Black or Hispanic walking down Bay Parkway. I've seen what your revenge fantasies would like to see These hazings were sights to see and I'll stop there because after Bensonhurst I would get robbed a total of 3 times, all times violently and the muggers being African-Americans working in groups. Usually one guy gets you from the back, another comes in front and knocks you around while a third takes stuff off your person. This is not a racial rant, as I was required to "rip a chinese kids ear off" when I lived in Sheepshead Bay, in order to be part of the Avenue U boys. It's a Brooklyn thing. The Italians hate the Blacks and the Hispanics/Blacks hate the whites. My puertoriccan neighbor sits in front of the building picking on white folks as they walk by but is scared to her roots when I stare her down because the real issue is not her hatred of me or my hatred of her but who is crazier and who is willing to go to the final degree. In the end, I will also move out of the Slope for my own reasons (Brooklyn lays it on thick for me), but not because I was scared away.

By the way, chances are the guy who mugged you lives around 9th to 15th street and hangs out in any number of places, partcularly 2 I know of. You would be suprised how much you learn talking to the hoodrats, that is if you dare cross that line.
Cihan K. • 01/04/07 06:14pm I appreciate that. And it was precisely the point I was trying to make in my all-too-many posts above. I do not believe this is an integrated community, in that the tension between races/classes here - to me - seems real.

(As far as interaction, you're right about that, too. While my mugger was close to my own old age, he did respond immediately to my request for my health insurance card. Still, I didn't feel in a position to speak with him as I do with others on the corners you're talking about, in the light of day.)

I am no longer sharing any personal information, but my wife and I are both deeply involved and committed to bridging that divide, tutoring and/or hiring these kids whenever possible, and I feel (although it has been refuted here) that the rapid gentrification here has made this problem worse. That's why refusing to "buy in" at exorobitant prices is actually good for the neighborhood, in that it slows down this process a bit.

But you can sit in comments and say "it's a Brooklyn thing," and as a lifelong NewYorker I know what you mean. But I can't say "it's a Brookyn thing" or the readers get upset. Because they don't want to recognize- as the cops repeatedly told me - that "this is still Brooklyn."

I'm down with living in Brooklyn - it's just a matter of not wanting to pretend it's millionaire's row. One can live in Brooklyn (or Queens) a lot cheaper than in Park Slolpe and, I'd argue, without significantly greater risk to person.
rushkoff • 01/05/07 03:49am I got mugged @ 6th and Lincoln a couple months back. I just gave they guy everything and told him I didn't want to see his face and it was over. Maybe we're just different kinds of people, but I don't associate mugging with getting killed/beaten, etc.

Muggers want your money and they don't want to go to jail. Coupling armed robbery with assault potentially changes their jailtime if cought by 5 or more years. Not to say that it doesn't happen, but when it does it is because you're dealing with someone who wants to hurt people.

In any case your chances of being killed in a car accident living in 'normal' suburban America are significantly higher than being killed by violence here in PS.
robb monn • 01/05/07 04:20am Robb Monn - 6th and Lincoln is particularly bad. It is right around the corner from one of the last blocks to be gentrified in PS, St. Johns' between 5th and 6th. Not that you should have been mugged, but PS is not the safe haven it pretends to be.
Charlen • 01/05/07 06:00am Charlen, I actually live on the block you are talking about (St John btw 5 & 6.) There is a rent controlled apt complex there, true, but I'm a little worried about what you mean by it's being ungentrified (and that being a bad thing.) Do you mean not predominately white/professional? That I am less safe where I live because there are middle income black families living near me?

The violent crime rate on that block is as low as any in the area. I just find it odd that someone would say that an area is 'particularly bad' because it is two blocks from a row of middle class minority occupied apartments.

FWIW my mugger was identified as one of three guys from (suburban) Georgia that were visiting Brooklyn and holding up people and bodegas.
robb • 01/05/07 08:04am Robb -- Oh my. I meant not gentrified as in it seems to be one of the only blocks that hasn't had a new hirise or mega renovation going on (which is a good thing). Whenever I walk down that block (and I always find myself doing that for some reason, forgetting to go to up to Sterling to at least check out the store on that street), I always feel like I'm being checked out and it bugs me out a little. I shouldn't have blamed it on that particular block but I am paranoid these days.
Charlen • 01/05/07 08:28am Robb, I'm not surprised that your mugger was from Georgia. I've been robbed twice, by Russians one time and by Ukranians the second. The people who grew up in the Soviet Union are brutal. And wasn't Stalin a Georgian?
Barbara • 01/05/07 03:24pm You should move to Toronto. To be exact, the West End, Broken Social Scene land.

You'd have to learn Canadian spelling though. That can be hard. Oh, and the last letter in the alphabet is pronounced Zed, not Zee.
wsam • 01/05/07 10:05pm Cops don't read much sociology, but they socialize a lot. They see the world in simpler terms for this reason, and perhaps to ther benefit. The people buying the condos and brownstones are overwhelmingly white and affluent. The people who victims desribe as their robbers, shooters, etc., are overwhelmingly minority and, if they are apprehended, are usually found to live outside Park Slope's central circle of affluence but still right nearby. When they think about the crime model in Park Slope, it takes on these reliable features for them. It also passes the correspondence test because it accurately corresponds to a state of affairs in the world. Cops and detectives see their job as deterring and apprehending criminals. They do not to pretend to be able to address the root causes of crime and inequality, even if they are unfair at heart or even exacerbated by certain aspects of the criminal justice system. They literally drew Doug a picture that relates the facts they have come to learn, as they are relevant to their job of law enforcement. They presented him with an ecological model.
BdP • 01/06/07 03:27am Doug,

My friend Jason (you may remember him as Balagan from OSJ) alerted me to the events of Erev Chag HaJesus. I'm sorry that you had to go through such an experience, and I'm sorry that it has taken me so long to say anything to you about it.

And now, my opinion:

I've lived in Brooklyn my whole life. I grew up on the other side of the park from the slope... the "not as nice as Park Slope" part of Brooklyn, off Flatbush Avenue near Empire Boulevard. My parents both grew up in suburbs (my dad in South Jersey and my mom in Westchester) and they made the conscious decision to live and raise their children in a city for a whole host of reasons... mostly the same reasons they insisted on sending us to public schools. Though as a young child I was not as aware as I am now of things like crime rate trends in the city, I do remember enough to know that over the last 20 years the difference in the security of the city is truly remarkable. I remember enough too, to know that it didn't happen by magic... that it was a conscious effort in the face of much lamentation of many naysayers insisting that it couldn't be done.

So the city is very safe, it is true. Is it enough? Not by a long shot. That we are the safest large city in America is absolutely wonderful and it is a fact of which I, as a native New Yorker and Brooklynite, am quite proud. But why should anyone think that this means that we can sit back and proclaim "...eh, whaddya expect?"

If you feel that you need to leave Brooklyn, obviously it is up to you and your family... you do what you have to do. But personally, I am of the mind that Brooklyn NEEDS those of us who feel within rights to DEMAND BETTER of the city. It is precisely this plateau mentality that will send us sliding back if no one is to step up and say "No, we need more cops on the street, we need better lighting, we need accountability on the part of those whom we pay to help keep us safe."

I will be very sorry to see you leave if you do. You can be sure that I will stay behind and fight for my borough. All the best to you and the fam in whatever road you take from here.
Gella • 01/07/07 02:41pm Like I say, my reasons for leaving Park Slope - if I do - have less to do with relative security here than the price explosion, and not wanting to be a part of it. But I'll check out other neighborhoods in Brooklyn and throughout NYC.

Yes, we must demand bettter; most of all, of ourselves. I've learned that, too.
rushkoff • 01/07/07 03:01pm


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