So a few minutes ago I arrived at my studio. The studio is in an old industrial building just south of Queensboro Plaza, and if you're in NYC this means something to you, and if you're not it doesn't. For a bit more universal relevance, it's in a fairly industrial neighborhood wedged between a majorcommutor bridge leading onto a highway and the enormous Citibank tower. My nearest neighbor is Silvercup Studios, where among other things Ugly Betty is filmed.
OK. So now that I've set the scene for you a little, I'll get on to today's action. I came to my studio to edit the story that I'm working on for The First Line, which hello is due on November First. But I'm super distracted, because there are no less than six helicopters hovering and/or circling within audible range. On top of which I'm hearing various types of sirens about every minute or so.
Now, this is New York. Things happen here, and while they're often loud they're usually also quite boring: the president or some ambassadors or something will be in town, and all manner ofobnoxous cavalcade will ensue for days on end. But today, here, this is a mystery. I thought maybe there was some kind of huge accident coming off of the bridge, but I can clearly see traffic moving swiftly on all levels. I don't see any smoke anywhere. If there was somebody just that famous at Silvercup I imagine there'd be some ground coverage as well.
Seriously, this is quite annoying. One of the circling helicopters is coming within a few hundred feet of my building every minute or so. I wanna know what's going on, and if it's something stupid I want them to go the hell away! I have things to do.
* * *
I figured it out. It's far from stupid. It's actually scary as shit and way too close to home, too close to everything on both literal and figurative levels. It seems that around 5:15 pm two police officers and one other man who may or may not be a suspect were shot in or around the F station at 21st street. The one just north of the aforementioned bridge - and probably not coincidentally the one in front of the largest housing development in the city,Queensbridge. The New York Times posted the first article on it about four minutes before I began writing this blog post.
Have I mentioned that my studio is on 22nd street?
OK. So, violent crime in the neighborhood. Fantastic. And to think, it's not even Christmastime yet. Until now it's mostly been muggers waiting forcabbies to get off of work because they tend to carry large wads of cash, and while that's not plesant it's quite a different thing than cop shooting. With the economy doing what it's doing, a rise in crime is pretty much inevitable. And I'm sure it's totally wrong of me to assume that I get to be isolated from that. But as I don't watch TV or read news of any kind, I live in a bubble for the most part.
This just feels so close. I've used that station, and walked passed that neighborhood, many times. I could walk there in five minutes right now. And just this past Sunday I rode the entire length of the F train, the first train trip I've undertaken since early September for my subway project. In fact, after the trip was done I considered riding the F train back up to the 21st st/Queensbridge stop and then walking over to Queensboro Plaza, but then thought better of it since it was after dark and I was alone. Jonathan and I were discussing the 21st street station last night, with its odd '70s architecture.
This is freaking me out. Probably more than it should, but understand. I spent significant portions of childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood in neighborhoods where I did not feel safe - largely because I wasn't safe. Feeling secure in my home is among the top five priorities in my adult, self-built life. And right now I could draw you a nice little isosceles triangle with three points: my studio, my home, and this crime scene, all within a 20 minute walk from each other. This does not make me feel warm and fuzzy.
When I walk due west from my apartment, I land in Queensbridge North. There's a lovely riverwalk along the East River there, which lines up with the creepy lighthouse of Roosevelt Island. Sometimes I go there and read. I always go there alone. And when I'm there I've always thought, oh, how remarkable - yes, it's projects, but it seems so safe and quiet here.
Perhaps I've been fooling myself, and these projects are just as messed up as any I encountered in D.C. or New Orleans? Perhaps it's mostly a downtrodden but upstanding community plagued by a few real criminals? Perhaps this is just the act of one rogue kid who's gotten in way over his head? Perhaps the cops started shooting when they didn't need to, and the victim didn't know what to do but shoot back, and this is the result? There are so many possibilities, and all are questions that I don't want to have to be asking.
What I know is that I need to, at some point, get home from my studio. Several blocks of usually abandoned, now darkened streets lay between me andQueensboro Plaza, where I will wait for my train. I've never felt particularly unsafe in this walk, even much later at night. But now, I'm not so sure.
Is this an isolated incident? Or is it indicative of the growing social unrest that is the inevitable result of economic collapse? I suppose that only time will tell.