Sandwiched between the gleaming towers rising over the West Side of Midtown Manhattan and the bright lights of 42nd Street, a corridor of brown brick buildings along Eighth Avenue shrouds the remnants of an earlier era of New York City street life. The drug-addled loll on corners. The pornography seekers slink out of shops.
The McDonald’s near Pennsylvania Station is a magnet for addicts, those undergoing methadone treatment around the corner and dealers looking for easy prey. It was there, at a table around 6 a.m. on Monday, that three men who found common bond in their addictions sat for coffee and spoke with another man, dressed in a sweatshirt. Minutes later, the fourth man opened fire on the group.
As they fled into an Eighth Avenue subway station and into the rush of commuter traffic, all three were struck. Angel Quiñones, a 43-year-old father who battled a long addiction to heroin, died at the scene. His two coffeemates were taken to Bellevue Hospital Center: William Lamboy, 45, shot in the neck and abdomen, and Eddie Torres, 48, shot in the leg.
The New York Police Department’s chief of detectives, Robert K. Boyce, said the motive in the shooting, which occurred a half-block from the local police precinct station house on 35th Street, was narcotics. The gunman fled with at least two other men in a dark-colored sedan. No arrests had been made as of Monday evening.
In an area of Manhattan that has undergone tremendous change over the past two decades, with crime rates plummeting since the 1990s, the corner where the shooting erupted — next to a Starbucks, across the street from a Staples, near a new Wyndham hotel — persists as a pocket of grit and the occasional burst of violence. Beside the chain stores that have migrated to Midtown remain local ones hawking discount clothes, wigs and laser hair removal under crooked awnings and up graffiti-scrawled staircases.
“You go along Eighth Avenue and it’s pretty much back into the ’70s at 34th to 35th,” said James Albert, a retired police inspector and the chief of security for the 34th Street Partnership, a business improvement organization. “There’s assaults; there’s some drug dealing going on.”
Little of the development that has reshaped the skyline has gone there, where the sidewalks are often blackened with waste water and men and some women mill about among the passing pedestrian throngs of tourists, shoppers and office workers.
“There’s no real friends out here,” said Nikita Wells, 56, a nurse’s assistant who lives in Jamaica, Queens, and attends the methadone program at the clinic, West Midtown Medical Group.
Tony Smith, 51, who also goes to the clinic, said he tried to avoid the area at night. If he is there after dark, he said, “I don’t let my guard down.”
The killing on Monday was the seventh recorded so far this year in the surrounding police precinct, Midtown South, up from zero at this point last year. Bucking a citywide trend, overall crime in the precinct is up. Robberies, a bellwether crime of public perceptions of safety, increased nearly 20 percent from last year, to 184 as of Sunday, and more than 30 percent from five years ago.
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SOURCE: NY Times, J. David Goodman and Nate Schweber