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South Williamsburg Drug House Was Also Site of Frank Serpico Shooting

By Serena Dai | September 18, 2015 7:40am
 A property at 778 Driggs Ave. is known for being the place where Frank Serpico was shot.
A property at 778 Driggs Ave. is known for being the place where Frank Serpico was shot.
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Brooklyn District Attorney

Thursday wasn't the first time a South Williamsburg building has been in the spotlight for drugs.

The South Williamsburg apartment building where 25-year-old Josie "Fresh" Tavera allegedly ran a $1.5 million-per-year drug ring with his family is the same property where NYPD corruption whistleblower Frank Serpico was famously shot during a botched heroin raid in 1971.

The shooting at 778 Driggs Ave. later became the opening scene in a drama based on Serpico's life, in which he was played by Al Pacino.

The circumstances around the shooting were highly controversial.

Serpico, who was known for calling out poor police behavior while on the force, had recently been transferred to narcotics at the time of the bust and went up to the fourth floor of the building with a team to make an arrest.

According to Serpico, his fellow police officers asked him to open the door first while they backed him up.

But when the suspect fought back, the other officers were no help.

Serpico, who's written about the incident in detail, has said it seemed like his fellow police officers purposefully left him hanging — possibly payback for calling out corruption in the force.

No investigation ever took place.

"Even now, I do not know for certain why I was left trapped in that door by my fellow police officers," Serpico wrote for Politico last October. "But the Narcotics division was rotten to the core, with many guys taking money from the very drug dealers they were supposed to bust."

Since then, 778 Driggs Ave. and its surrounding neighborhood has significantly cleaned up.

Popular fried chicken restaurant Pies 'n' Thighs opened across the street, and South Williamsburg nonprofit Los Sures renovated the building long ago into low-income and homeless housing.

Though Los Sures has received complaints as a management company, residents at 778 Driggs Ave. haven't had too much issue with the property recently, according to city records.

The building, which has 29 units, has just five open violations for things such as broken electrical outlets and broken tiles, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

But the cleanup hasn't totally eliminated the drug trade, according to police. They say Tavera used his 778 Driggs Ave. apartment as the home base for drug distribution.

He was accused of spearheading a ring that sold up to 25,000 glassines of heroin a month, including a strain that caused swelling and hives for some users.

Overall, 25 people were charged Thursday, including several members of Tavera's family.