NYPD Lockdown at 129th Street Gets Mixed Reactions in Harlem

By Maya Shwayder on June 18, 2012 3:30pm | Updated on June 18, 2012 3:55pm

Two blocks of 129th street in Harlem between 5th Ave and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. are being partitioned off at night by the NYPD, June 18, 2012
Two blocks of 129th street in Harlem between 5th Ave and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. are being partitioned off at night by the NYPD, June 18, 2012
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DNAinfo/Maya Shwayder

HARLEM — Samuel Jamison has been a resident of West 129th Street for more than ten years, and only in the last two weeks has he needed ID to get home.

"It's a damn nuisance," said Jamison, who leaned onto his crook-topped cane near the intersection of West 129th Street between Lenox Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard and gestured toward a friend sitting nearby, inside a car.

"If Mr. John here wants to shoot me, he's going to shoot me with or without the barricades," Jamison added.

The NYPD sparked an uproar after erecting a set of metal fence barriers across the end of each block on West 129th between Fifth Avenue and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard each evening for the past two weeks — in the wake of the death of Akeem Green, who was shot down by gang members while playing on a basketball court, police said. Sources said Green was not part of a gang, but that the gunmen were targeting other people on the court who were members of a rival gang.

Since shortly after his death, police have been checking the ID of anyone who seeks to enter the frozen zone after 4:30 p.m. daily, the New York Post reported. Anyone who does not live on the block cannot enter unless they are escorted inside by a resident with ID, the Post said.

NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has defended the plan.

“We understand it doesn’t make everybody happy,’’ he told The Post. “We understand people are inconvenienced by showing identification. But what we’re trying to do is save young lives.”

Resident George Hepburn, 67, said the lockdown "makes it like a prison," and added that he didn't think it would change anything. "If somebody's gonna do something, they're going to do something."

Speaking at an event in The Bronx, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the measures were "making sure the bad guys stay out."

"That’s our responsibility," Bloomberg said.  "What would they [the residents] say if we didn’t do that and one of them was killed by a random shooting?"

But even critics admitted the barriers might be a good thing if it helps keep the violence down. And several residents thought the barricades were a good idea.

Residents of those two blocks must present ID in order to enter their streets.
Residents of those two blocks must present ID in order to enter their streets.
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DNAinfo/Maya Shwayder

April Taylor, 42, who's the mother of a 13-year-old boy and 7-year-old girl who's lived on West 129th Street for ten years, said she thought the barricades were all right.

"Now my kids can come down and play in the street," said Taylor, "They couldn't do that before."

"It's crazy, man," she continued. "Every time things happen at the projects, we get the butt of it. The kids can't even sit on the steps. So I think it's going to do a little good. It has to."

Jean Schyvers, 81, who's lived on West 129th Street for more than 20 years, agreed with Taylor.

"It's a good idea," she said of the barricades. "We're hoping it [the violence] goes away."

Minako Auguste and Yoshi Fujita, new building managers at 18 West 129th St., agreed with Taylor and Schyvers.

"It's a good thing if it's necessary to prevent crime," said Auguste. 

"We just want the police to eliminate all the bad guys," Fujita added.

The NYPD have said the barriers may be erected every evening indefinitely.
The NYPD have said the barriers may be erected every evening indefinitely.
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DNAinfo/Maya Shwayder

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