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Neighbors Not Surprised by Deadly East Village Nightclub Shooting

By Patrick Hedlund | September 2, 2010 7:11am

By Patrick Hedlund

DNAinfo News Editor

EAST VILLAGE — East Fifth Street resident Stuart Zamsky has gotten so fed up with the noise and violence stemming from the nearby nightclub Sin Sin/Leopard Lounge that he’s taken to patrolling the sidewalk with a baseball bat to keep the crowds from disturbing his family.

Visitors to the popular nightspot will often gather outside the window of his two young sons’ room, screaming obscenities and even fighting on busy weekend nights, he said.

“At best it will be a couple of people smoking a joint by my window, and at worst it’ll be a fight or hundreds of people walking up the street wilding,” said Zamsky, 49, who has lived on the block for almost 30 years. “For that brief amount of time there’s a kind of lawless environment,” Zamsky added, saying he is "agressive" in his attempts to shoo away the rowdy crowds.

The nightclub Sin Sin/Leopard Lounge on Second Avenue and East Fifth Street.
The nightclub Sin Sin/Leopard Lounge on Second Avenue and East Fifth Street.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

For the residents of the block who have long complained about bad behavior outside Sin Sin/Leopard Lounge, the recent shooting death of a man outside the club proved a sobering reminder of just how dangerous the situation has become.

Tenants on the block have witnessed and even documented numerous fights outside the nightclub, especially around the time dozens of drunken patrons pour out of the space at closing.

A little before 4 a.m. on Aug. 22, police said, a man was shot twice by a pair of unknown assailants after all three had been inside the club. The victim, Devin Thompson, died Monday from his injuries.

“People are being killed and people are shooting outside my window,” said nine-year East Fifth Street resident Ariel Churi, 41, whose apartment at Second Avenue overlooks the club

“You’re talking about quite a bit of violence,” he added.

Over the last year, police have been called to the address at least three separate times in response to complaints of drug use and prostitution outside the location, but all the reports proved unfounded, NYPD sources said.

The city's 311 hotline has also received more than 70 complaints regarding Sin Sin/Leopard Lounge since the start of 2009, according to figures from Community Board 3.

The club’s owners have made an effort to resolve these issues by adding more security guards and increasing bouncers’ visibility on the street.

But residents said the shooting simply serves to justify their many fears.

“It has gotten progressively dicier and more violent,” said David Mulkins, 53, who lives in the same building as Churi.

He noted that the increased security, which amounts to one more bouncer on the street to manage crowds, does little to prevent scores of club-goers from acting up in the high-traffic area.

“[The club] did finally get a person to control crowds out on the street, but it was never enough,” Mulkins said. “If you’re talking about hundreds of drunken patrons, one person isn’t going to cut it.”

Representative from Sin Sin/Leopard Lounge did have a meeting with neighbors and police regarding the disturbances just days before the shooting.

Devin Thompson was shot and killed outside the nightclub on Aug. 22.
Devin Thompson was shot and killed outside the nightclub on Aug. 22.
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Davina Redden

The owners added that they’ve tried to address the negative issues related to their establishment throughout its 12 years.

“There have been altercations on the street. It’s a very busy intersection,” said Sin Sin/Leopard Lounge owner Philip Quilter, who supplied the police with surveillance footage of the suspects from the night of the shooting.

“It has been mentioned that we’re responsible entirely [for the noise and violence], and that’s not the case,” he added. “We are responsible for some noise, but we’re the only place to police the streets until 5 o’clock in the morning.”

Quilter explained that the club staffs four to five security guards on busy weekend nights, and that the bouncers now wear uniforms to help identify them in their security role and ward off bad behavior.

“We take our operation seriously,” he said, “and we will continue to operate to the best of our ability to be cohesive with the surrounding community.”

Quilter could not confirm whether the suspects brought a gun into the club the night of the shooting, and he wasn’t aware of any dust-ups that occurred inside the space that night.

But even before the deadly incident, a sense of fear already gripped those exposed to the unruly crowds.

“There are kids who are literally shaking in their beds, screaming for their parents,” Zamsky said, “but their parents are too scared to go out and deal with this.”