PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — Recent threats made by phone to a neighborhood bar are being investigated as a hate crime after the caller verbally threatened the "Caucasian business" and its clientele, police sources and the bar manager said.
Staff at Midwood Flats, a popular pub and cocktail bar on the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Midwood Street in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, received two phone calls on March 21 from an unknown man who threatened the manager for “opening a white establishment in a black area,” a police source said.
The man said in the first phone call, made around 5:30 p.m., that he was upset with the bar for contributing to gentrification, said manager Michele G., who used only an initial for her last name to protect her identity from the caller.
“The person on the phone seemed extremely aggravated and called us a Caucasian business and said we were contributing to the gentrification of the neighborhood," identifying himself as a member of "Citizens Against Gentrification" with a bogus website for the group, she said.
"I informed him that we’re not any certain type of business. We are a business that enjoys the fact that we have been welcomed so graciously by the people of this neighborhood of all walks of life and that we are staffed by all different kinds of people," she said on Thursday at the bar, which opened 18 months ago at 577 Flatbush Ave. "Everybody is welcome here, regardless of who they are and where they come from.”
She said the man called a second time about 10 minutes later, at which point she asked him if he'd like to discuss the issues in person at the bar. To that, he asked "Are you afraid I'm going to come and shoot up your business?" she recalled.
At that point, even though she said was more outraged than frightened by the calls, she reported the incident to police.
"He never said ‘I’m going to do this.’ He alluded to it," she said. "But I felt the need — I have people who come here to earn a living. What if he's serious? I need to document it."
The suspect called back a third time on March 24 and spoke to the bar's assistant manager briefly to ask if he could bring her flowers, she said. However, to her knowledge, he hasn't yet made an appearance at the Flatbush Avenue bar.
In a first report by the Daily News about the incident, the newspaper described a bartender at the watering hole saying the suspect also targeted transgender people in the calls, saying “he didn’t like that we let in all types of people, including people who’ve had sex changes.”
But the manager said the suspect only spoke of his issues with race at the bar and its affect on the area, not anyone's sexual orientation or identity.
Police sources said the NYPD is investigating both phone calls as a hate crime.