By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Authorities say alleged Riverside Park rapist Hugues-Denver Akassy made a habit of targeting women who live in the West 70s, blocks known more for brownstones and sidewalk cafes than violent attacks.
The news rattled some Upper West Side women, who said major crime isn't common in their neighborhood.
"Oh my god, that's scary," said Cheryl Foster, 30, who lives in the West 70s, of the recent attack. "I feel safe walking around here."
Akassy, 42, was arrested in connection with the alleged rape of a Russian woman in Riverside Park last Tuesday, police said.
Akassy, who claims to be a French-African television journalist, appeared in court Monday for his arraignment and is scheduled to appear before a grand jury on Thursday.
He has had run-ins with at least three other Upper West Side women prior to the alleged rape, according to criminal complaints filed with the Manhattan District Attorney's office.
Akassy allegedly chased a woman who rejected his advances down West 76th Street between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues in 2009, yelling and cursing at her, one complaint said. Akassy had approached the woman a month earlier and she gave him her contact information in the hopes that he would just leave her alone, but he allegedly sent an e-mail to her calling her a "pathetic, retarded girl." He was charged with three counts of harassment and released.
Another complaint said that in another incident, the alleged rapist was banned from the New York Sports Club gym on Broadway and West 76th Street. The complaint did not specify why he was barred from the gym, but he was charged with criminal trespassing.
Akassy once tried to romance New York Post columnist Mandy Stadtmiller, who said she met Akassy at the Fifth Avenue Apple store, then went out to dinner with him at the Shalel Lounge on 70th Street and Columbus Avenue.
Stadtmiller described the alleged rapist as "complimentary and charming," but sexually aggressive.
"Looking back, I shudder at how aggressive he was — and I regret not listening to my internal warning bell," Stadtmiller wrote.
Sarah Armstrong-Crumb, 30, an employee at the Upper West Side's New York Historical Society, said that a good-looking charmer would easily blend into the neighborhood.
"Somebody like that, you wouldn't notice him up here, because you have a lot of charming, nice-looking people up here. It's an expensive area," Armstrong-Crumb said.
"If somebody's a predator like that, where they're charming and they look normal, they could pick up anybody," she added.
But other Upper West Side women claimed they were too streetwise to fall for the compliments and other smooth-talking tactics Akassy alleged used.
"I'm really mindful about that cr--," said 50-year-old Mary, an attractive blond who didn't want her last name used.
She's lived on the Upper West Side for 30 years and said she's routinely approached by men, but keeps her distance.
"After you've lived here for that long, you get pretty aware of the game," Mary said. "Sweet talking is pretty obvious. I'm pretty skeptical of people."
Two days before the alleged rape of a Russian tourist, police picked up Akassy after he was spotted lurking outside a 33-year-old Upper West Side woman's apartment on the sixth
floor of a West 75th Street building, according to a criminal complaint. He was charged with criminal trespassing and released, according to the New York Post.
It was two days after this third incident that he allegedly raped a woman visiting from Russia, pushing her to the ground and onto her back on a metal grate before forcing intercourse with her, according to the complaint.
Akassy's alleged victim was left with cuts and bruises after the rape, the complaint said. He is charged with one count of rape and three counts of sexual abuse.
Nancy Krulik, an Upper West Side resident in her 40's, described her neighborhood as the safest she's ever lived in — but that doesn't mean women can relax, she said.
"People are lulled into a false sense of security," Krulik said. "You look around and you see all this money, but there's still crime in Manhattan."
"Women have come a long way, but they are still targets. It's sad, but I'm not surprised," she added.