In a Neighborhood Unaccustomed to Violence, Disbelief Over a Shooting

Late Friday, a waitress in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was taking a cigarette break at the corner of Bedford Avenue and North Ninth Street as the usual night crawlers of the fashionable neighborhood hustled by. Then came an unfamiliar sound.


“It was like someone dropping a big metal can,” said the waitress, Laurel Medlinger, 24. No one budged on the busy street, she said. No one took cover.

The five (or, by some counts, three) pops, which came in rapid succession, were gunshots that hit a man just steps from a bar called Trix, where Ms. Medlinger works.

The man, whose name was not released, was found by the police shortly before 11 p.m. facedown on the pavement in a pool of his own blood after a 911 call was made.

The police said the man was taken to Bellevue Hospital Center and was expected to survive. No arrests had been made as of Saturday night.

For New York neighborhoods where gun violence is common, news of a shooting like this might be greeted with resigned shrugs and shaking heads. But on Bedford Avenue on Saturday, the reaction was more of disbelief and confusion. Narratives of “this would never happen here” have slowly begun to creep up in an area widely regarded as a center for young hipsters, new families and artist types.

The part of Williamsburg where the shooting occurred is in the 94th Precinct and had 1 murder, 3 rapes, 129 robberies and 93 assaults in 2011, according to police records. That is compared with 17 murders, 30 rapes, 446 robberies and 359 assaults in the adjacent 83rd Precinct, which encompasses much of Bushwick.

Some residents of Williamsburg and nearby Greenpoint say there is a sense that because both areas have been transformed by gentrification and a much younger and more affluent crowd moving in, crimes of this nature are unusual – but the shock is eclipsed by a pervasive, festive atmosphere.

“Down here it’s always a party, and I think people are particularly unguarded,” said Kiley Bates-Brennan, 37, who used to live in Williamsburg but now lives in Greenpoint with her husband and newborn.

“I don’t think that they’re concerned about something like this happening. There are enough people partying and walking around at 4 a.m. totally plastered not thinking about how they’re going to get home.”

Ms. Bates-Brennan added that she hoped the neighborhood would not feel too threatened by the shooting. Others did not have such a positive outlook.

“The thing is with this neighborhood is that everyone thinks it’s getting all gentrified and all the people who may have been like, ‘Oh I don’t go to Brooklyn,’ all those people are coming here now. I hope this scares them back into Manhattan,” said Jacob Liddell, 28, who lives off Bedford Avenue.

Marzena Witkowska, 29, said she frequently visited her grandmother, who helps take care of her children in an apartment a few buildings away from the site of the shooting. She said she heard gunshots from the apartment at around 10:45 p.m. Ms. Witkowska, who is from Poland, said she had hopped from neighborhood to neighborhood since coming to New York City 12 years ago.

“The neighborhood lives 24 hours, 7 days a week. You can go out whenever because there are always a lot of people,” she said. “It’s getting pretty hippie and artistic, but I’ve always felt safe here. Now, I feel goosebumps.”

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