Nearly 17 years after riots tore Crown Heights apart, the recent beating of a black college student by Jewish assailants has exposed rising tensions between blacks and Jews in my neighborhood.
Cops and city officials have quietly gone on high alert, worried that another riot could be in the works.
The troubles began on April 14, when Andrew Charles, a 20-year-old sophomore at Kingsborough Community College, says he and a friend encountered a pair of young Jewish men while walking down Albany Ave. about 6 p.m.
"One was on bike, one was on foot. They were staring at us, staring us down," Charles told me. "We stared back. They approached us and asked if we had a problem."
The man on the bike sprayed Charles with tear gas, and a few minutes later a contingent of Jewish men arrived by car and in scooters and began chasing them.
One man beat Charles on the back and arm with a nightstick, inflicting injuries that sent him to the hospital. The group fled, but not before a witness on the street got the license plate number.
In any other neighborhood, a staredown between young men, even one that turns into a beatdown, would barely count as major news.
But this is Crown Heights, where a smoldering pile of intergroup grievances and injustices – some real, many imaginary – set the stage for the shocking outburst of mob violence in August 1991.
According to a memo circulated by Mayor Bloomberg‘s Community Assistance Unit, city officials immediately descended on Crown Heights last week to establish "contact with the [Charles] family before outside agitators could jump in and reach out to the family to create community turmoil."
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