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VIDEO: Woman Torches Bus in What Neighbors Call Randolph Street Crime Spree

By Gwynne Hogan | May 31, 2016 9:01am
Vandals Torch Bus on Randolph Street in East Williamsburg
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Surveillance Footage

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — A woman destroyed a tour bus by setting it ablaze in industrial East Williamsburg in the latest in a string of escalating acts of property crime, police and neighbors said.

Surveillance footage shows the bus, which was parked on Randolph Street near Gardner Avenue, burst into flames just after 8:30 p.m. on May 9. Moments before the blaze, the camera captures a woman entering the parked bus.

Fire officials rushed to the scene and quashed the flames within 20 minutes, officials said. Marshals soon confirmed the fire was intentionally set. Police are investigating the May 9 incident, though no arrests have been made, a spokeswoman said.

"It was toast, it was a toasted bus," said Eric Cohen, who owns a warehouse on the block, and came in the next day to see the bus's charred remains.

While Cohen said he had no way of knowing for sure who was behind the blaze, he and many other workers on the street suspect a group of people living in a camper trailer on the block are to blame.

Cohen started complaining about six months ago about the trailer's residents after visiting the industrial block on a weekend and found a different bus had been broken into. 

"I've been here on a Sunday. [There were] people just partying on a bus," he said.

"It was like out of a movie, smoke was coming out," he said, though it wasn't on fire on that occasion, people were just smoking inside the bus, Cohen clarified.

"That's when I made my first call."

"They were defecating all over the place. I called Sanitation," though, not much has changed since, he said. "You call one person they tell you to call another."

Days after the bus was torched, a contractor working at Cohen's warehouse had his truck windows shattered.

"The back seats were ripped out. They broke the windows and sliced the leather seats," Cohen said.

Multiple others who spoke to DNAinfo, but declined to give their names fearing retaliation, also blamed the block's transient residents. 

"We've been calling 311 for about two years," a worker said. "Around here is kind of crazy. ... There's no police presence."

A worker at an auto shop, who also declined to give his name, pointed out a truck he'd left on the street overnight last week and now had two shattered windows and was covered in graffiti.

"They break all the windows, they graffiti just for fun," he said.

The block is home to wood shops and furniture makers, an auto repair shop shop, a metal shop and a warehouse recently converted into a gallery.

While the area is historically bustling with industrial activity by day and desolate by night, the gallery opening and Brooklyn Mirage, a massive 6,000 person venue that just moved in nearby, are signs that change is on its way.

Dominick, the trailer's owner who declined to give his last name, said he'd been parking at different locations around the East Williamsburg industrial area for the past several years. Different friends come and stay with him when they need a place to crash, he said.

He was shocked that people on the block would blame him and his friends for the acts of vandalism, he said.

"I have no reason to burn down that bus. ... It's weird that people think I would do that," Dominick said. In fact that night he feared his own camper would catch on fire.

"I smelled smoke," he said. "The fire marshals came the next day."

Dominick said he suspected that those blaming him for acts of vandalism might have another motive:

"They just want me to move."