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'No Hoodies Allowed' Signs Pop Up on Myrtle Avenue in Fort Greene

By Janet Upadhye | October 29, 2014 7:27am
 Business owners say the signs prevent burglaries and shoplifting but others say they are discriminatory.
'No Hoodies'
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FORT GREENE — Signs warning customers not to enter stores with hoodies or masks have popped up in several Myrtle Avenue businesses — the second neighborhood where the controversial posters have appeared recently.

The signs, which warn "DO NOT ENTER WITH HOODIE OR MASK," have also been spotted in Harlem. "IF SO YOU ARE NOW TRESPASSING," they read.

Created by Joe Stark, a Philadelphia man who said he is in the process of launching his own security company, are designed to keep thieves and violence out of their businesses, according to shop owners and workers.

Clinton Hill Express (near Waverly Ave.), Myrtle Grocery (near Ryerson Street), and Farmer in the Deli I and II (near Steuben and Adelphi streets) have had the signs posted in their windows for a couple of weeks.

Ayesh Shami, who works at Myrtle Grocery, which was robbed by a masked gunman on Oct. 5, said the owners posted the sign to protect store employees and help catch suspects after they commit a crime by ensuring a suspect's face is visible if they are caught on camera.

There was security footage of the robber but the suspect's face was not visible under the mask.

"What happened here was the worst I have seen in my 25 years working in this area," Shami said. "And the guy was so hard to catch because of his mask.

"Cameras are no good," he added.

Stark estimates that he's sold a couple thousand of the signs to bodegas, restaurants, supermarkets and other businesses in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

The owners of Farmer in the Deli, at 543 Myrtle Ave., also bought a sign, but they say it is in preparation for Halloween. The signs will be removed after the holiday.

"People around here use Halloween as an excuse to wear a mask and go robbing," said the owner, who declined to give his name.

Cliff Hernandez, 42, who works at Miracles Barber Shop on Myrtle Ave., said he agreed with the shop owners who are posting the signs on their storefronts.

"I don't have a sign but when a customer walks in with a hoodie I ask them to take it off — otherwise I don't know what their intentions are," he said.

Hernandez has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and said hoodies and masks are used far too often to get away with crimes.

But Keith Pressley, 28, a fashion designer who was born and raised in Brooklyn, thinks the signs are unjust and make generalizations about people who wear hoodies.

"It's the season for hoodies," he said. "It's cold, people are working out or running in Fort Greene Park, hoodies keep you warm.

"I think these businesses are scaring off potential clientele."