MANHATTAN — Nineteen alleged gang members were busted Thursday for "cooking" and selling crack cocaine around East Harlem housing projects for more than three years.
Members of two separate gangs, "20 BLOCC" and "Flow Boyz," essentially ran an "open-air drug market" out of the Wagner Houses and Taino Towers, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., said Thursday during a press conference announcing the indictments of the alleged drug dealers.
The alleged gang members were hit with conspiracy and criminal sale of controlled substance charges for "holding their neighborhood hostage for three years while they dealt crack cocaine on sidewalks, playgrounds, in residential buildings, stairwells, lobbies, and even in front of a community center," Vance said.
The DA's office worked with the NYPD and the New York City Housing Authority on the 11-month investigation that that used undercover detectives and surveillance footage — the Wagner Houses are under 24-hour video surveillance by the NYPD — to nab the alleged drug dealers.
Despite the around-the-clock surveillance, Vance said the investigation took as long as it did because investigators wanted to be sure they had a strong case.
"What you're really trying to do is figure out who is now part of the loosely associated gangs and build that together," Vance said. "And when you have the evidence that ties it together and that's strong, that's when you take it down, barring some immediate public safety issue you have to act on."
This is the DA's seventh drug or gun related bust in the past 18 months, according to prosecutors.
The accused gang members are being held on $40,000 cash or $120,000 bond and are due back in court on Aug. 18.