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November 05, 2015



I had a similar video game related incident on Jamaica Ave in Queens. I grew up in Queens but took two buses to a special advanced middle school in East New York, and most of the Queens students traveled together for some safety in numbers (this was the early 80's and East NY was no joke). On "The Ave" as we called it there were several shops that had video games ready to eat our quarters including my fave, Defender. One day I was having a particularly good game and my friends got sick of waiting for me to finish, so they took off, leaving me alone with a crowd of older, noun-uniform wearing kids. I was a target and I knew it. I did my best to get out safely when my game was up, but two dudes followed me out and cornered me in a phone booth where they demanded my money and more importantly my monthly bus pass. I gave up the goods, begged the bus driver to let me on the bus to go home, and told my mom that I had lost my wallet. I had to skip my daily game of Defender for a while until I worked up the nerve to go back to that shop, but I never ran into those kids again.

Another time I almost got burped for my sneakers on the bus, but luckily some of my older classmates heard the guys planning to jack me and called me over to their group, saving me from an infinitely embarrassing trip home in my socks. You used to see shoeless kids crying on the subway and bus fairly often back in those days, NYC was rough!


Great stories, loved reading them. I didn't expect the Robert Chambers ending to the Nino's pizza episode, how delightful. Also, there is a very good chance that my father was responsible for your huffy bike, as he was vp sales & marketing there during that time.

I was never mugged in New York. Once on the D train, coming home from high school in 1980, my purple hair caught the attention of some older girls who surrounded me and threatened to beat me up. I got out of it by exiting at the next stop and they didn't follow me. It left me shaking, but nothing happened. Another time in 1985 I was on Rivington St after seeing Missing Foundation play in a store basement, and people from an apartment upstairs threw beer bottles out the window which shattered at my feet, luckily nobody was hurt. And finally, around 1979 I was in port authority going to New Jersey to see The Who, all dressed up, and I was harassed pretty vigorously by the cops who thought i was a teenage runaway. I had no ID and it took about 15 minutes of arguing with them to convince them I wasn't running away or a prostitute.


Two more. My boyfriend at the time, around 1988, was walking around 80th Street on the upper east side when a pack of school kids, much younger than him, ran up and punched him in the face and kept running. Total blindside. Another friend, life long New Yorker from the Bronx, was a victim of wilding (remember that phenomenon?) in Central Park, don't remember what year but i would guess around 1985, and was beaten up pretty badly. He left NY very soon after that for San Francisco, never to return.


You're a very good writer. Fantastic in fact as you make some, frankly by my NYC native standards, tame experiences a good read. But let me also say that what seems not so bad to an adult can be terrifying to a kid in the lawlessness of 80's nyc. I remember that very well. But let me chime in here as someone who also grew up in NYC. I think we are about the same age (born in 72). I lived in Washington heights so it might not be a fair comparison except I spent a lot of time in various neighbors because my dad had the sense to get me into schools in more affluent (whiter) neighborhoods. My BF who was and still is an UWS'er went to York Prep (long story) and his Mom had a restaurant on 84th so we hung in Yorkville a bit. Starngely, teh UES was know as a rich kid zone, yet, two of the most violent experiences I had growing up in NYC were in Yorkville. Go figure, as Washington Heights always got a bad rap as a rough neighborhood and I never had any trouble in my hood. So anyway, when I was 13 my immigrant hard working parents (both janitors) succumb to my bleating for a fancy bmx bike. A Haro Sport which cost $300 back in the day, a small fortune especially when considering the humble salaries of two immigrant janitors raising 6 kids in NYC. Well one day my BF and I were cruising down 84th just a block away from his mom's restaurant when we were confronted by a much larger and older pimply faced sociopath. Now I was 13 years old, about 5'4" and 90 pounds max. This guy, he could have been anywhere from 16-19 years old was massive compared to us, and what I was unaware of at the time, a certified sadist, bully and dangerous coward. He grabbed my buddies handle bars and tried to shake him off his bike but failed as my buddy broke free and high tailed it. I thought we were good and began biking off as well when this beady eyed, acne ridden, Bevis and Butthead like look complete with pathetic facial hair (I can still see his face), raised a skateboard high above his head and then slammed it across my skull with all his might knocking me off my bike and sending me skidding several feet across the concrete. I lost consciousness for a bit and when I came to saw this f*ck'in piece of sh*t peddling off on my bike. I pursued him with my 5" lock blade knife but being half his size and unwilling to commit murder failed to retrieve my pride and joy. I frequently replay the event of that day in my head. Sometimes I stab him in the back (I could have but didn't) and wonder if it would have ruined my life or been an act of great justice. I am certain he would have deserved it but would the law have seen it that way? and if he had died, surely that would have f*cked me up somehow. That experience haunts me to this day. And I often dream about finding that scumbag as a full grown man. It would go down very differently now...let me tell you.

Martin Edward Dougherty

Reminds me of the olden days of the 1950's. I walked a girl home from a dance and a car came to a screeching stop in front of me. The girl's alleged boyfriend came out of the car and wanted to know why I was with his girlfriend. Another voice from the back of the car said, "That's Paddy's brother, get back in the car." The fella. "Sorry about that." I proceeded to walk home.


Thanks for this. I was looking online for evidence that the 84th Street gang whom I had feared as a child, was real. Sounds like they were! Also, John T. was my friend’s brother, and thankfully turned out much better than Robert C.


I've been very much enjoying your blog for some time now. Unfortunately I forgot to check it often and so I have to do huge stretches of catch up. I commented on your recent post lamenting the loss of Yorkville's unique identity and saw the link to this post. I'd like to add my two cents. It's always fascinating to see how disparate individual experiences can be growing up in this city.

I believe I read you first came up around Carnegie Hill? So I grew up in Astoria Queens, but we moved to east 95th when I was in hs. I would tell people Carnegie Hill but we were in fact much closer to 2nd Avenue, which at the time we moved (1994) was a very interesting place. Certainly you would not cross 96th Street, ever. That was an unspoken but unbroken rule. Slice your hand wide open cutting tomatoes? You'll go to Lenox Hill or Mt. Sinai. But def not Metropolitan Hospital, even though you could throw a tennis ball at it. I would actually end up at the Metropolitan ER a few times as a kid. So then, onto the tales of getting yoked, as it was still known:

• August 1994, I am in middle school, we have just moved over there. I decide to walk around one afternoon with my walkman, listening to Jawbox's "Novelty" LP. Just wandering. Walk over to Madison, down to 90th, through Engineer's Gate into the park, over to the reservoir, just hanging, watching hot chicks jogging, basting in the heat. Two kids walk over and say what's up. I kind of half say what's up, half ignore them. A second later I feel like I've been punched by Superman. One of the kids has hit me across the back of the skull with a brick. I see them running off and feel dizzy. Reaching up to the side of my head, my hand comes back down and is covered in blood. Two joggers stop and walk me to Fifth Avenue. An ambulance is called and I am taken to Metropolitan. Five stitches. I am haunted by the brutality of these young men and what was done to them to make them so violent.

• March or April 1995: Undaunted, I continue to hang out over by the reservoir around 90th St for late night bowls and listening to music, making out with some girls, etc. One evening I walk in around 7pm and before I even get to the reservoir, one kid yokes me up in a headlock and another goes through my pockets. Big kid gripping me says, "just be cool guy, be cool" very soothing. They are off before I even know what really happened. All I remember of big guy is that he looked like a big stupid fucking redneck and I thought 'jesus where do these guys even live.'

• Summer 2000: Home from college. My friends drag me to some LES bar. Night's a blur. I don't even remember where we went. Wasn't Max Fish but around there. I'm stumbling back to Houston to get a cab, alone, thinking this probably isn't my brightest move. Some little wiry guy with taut, sinewy muscles walks up and twitches and puts his hand on my chest. "I've been through pain, man. I watched my mother die," something to that effect. I squint and say "So did I." (1997). That catches him off guard but he still asks for my wallet. I give it to him and he sprints off. I go sit over in East River Park for a long while crying and wondering how the fuck I'm gonna get back uptown. I don't remember how I did.

Just my experience. Thanks again for the great blog.

Cynthia Weiner

I'm just coming across this, and wanted to add my two cents! Wasn't Bobby Flay in the 84th Street gang? (He was known then as "Fish" - Flay/Filet/Filet o' Fish. I remember that because he went out with my friend)

And thanks for the Robert C memory. I'm writing a novel loosely based on memories of him, and Dorrians, so it was fun to read.

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