A Church Located On a State Designated Active, Hazardous, Toxic Waste Site

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 Site Record

Administrative Information

Site Name: Former Watermark Designs Facility
Site Code: C224139
Program: Brownfield Cleanup Program
Classification: A
EPA ID Number:


DEC Region: 2

Address: 491 Wortman Avenue
City:Brooklyn    Zip: 11208
Latitude: 40.6611
Longitude: -73.8758
Site Type:
Estimated Size: 0.44 Acres

Site Owner(s) and Operator(s)

Current Owner Name:J&H Holding Company, LLC
Current Owner(s) Address: 350 Dewitt Avenue
Brooklyn,NY, 11207

Current On-Site Operator: Crown Ministries International, Inc.

Stated Operator(s) Address: 491 Wortman Avenue
Brooklyn,NY 11208
Current On-Site Operator: J&H Holding Company, LC
Stated Operator(s) Address: 350 Dewitt Avenue
Brooklyn,NY 11207

Site Document Repository

Name: Brooklyn Public Library-New Lots Branch
Address: 665 New Lots Ave. at Barbery St.
Brooklyn,NY 11207

Site Description

Site Location: The Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) site is located at 491 Wortman Avenue in Brooklyn, Kings County and is approximately .44 acres.

It is bounded to the south by Wortman Avenue, to the east by Essex Street, to the west by Linwood Street, and to the north by a commercial and industrial property.

Site Features: There is a one story industrial brick and steel building which occupies the entire area of the property. No exposed soil or vegetation is present on the subject property.

Current Zoning/Use: The area surrounding the site is for industrial and commercial uses.

Since 2007, a portion of the site building has been used by a group for religious activities.

Historical Use(s):

US Tube & Foundry Company, Inc. operated at the site between 1945 and 1973. The National Hanger Company, Inc. operated at the site in 1976. J & H Holding Company, LLC has owned the property since 1983 and manufacturing activities continued until 2007.

The site was previously used to manufacture, store, package, and ship decorative fixtures and hardware for bathrooms and kitchens.

Processes involved cleaning, painting, plating, etching, polishing, and specific machining of metals and metal products.

A cleaning and degreasing area was located along the west side of the building.

The source of contamination is within the on-site building.

Site Geology and Hydrogeology:

The site is located over the Long Island aquifer system, which underlies all of Nassau, Suffolk, Kings(Brooklyn), and Queens Counties.

The unconsolidated aquifer formations form a southward-dipping wedge that attains a maximum thickness in Kings County about 800 feet in the southeast area of Brooklyn. Overlying bedrock is the Lloyd, Magothy, Jameco, and Upper Glacial aquifer systems.

The lithologic description of sediments from soil borings identifies the material as fill to approximately five feet below grade, underlain by layers of fine to medium silty sands and silt. Groundwater at the site is encountered at approximately 11 feet below grade.

Groundwater beneath the property is class GA denoting potential use as potable water. The property lies within New York City, which utilizes reservoirs from upstate New York as sources of potable water.

Contaminants of Concern (Including Materials Disposed)

Contaminant Name/Type
trichloroethene (TCE)
tetrachloroethene (PCE)

Site Environmental Assessment

Nature and Extent of Contamination: Based upon investigations conducted to date, the primary contaminants of concern include tetrachoroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE).

At off-site area, and based upon investigations conducted to date, the primary contaminants of concern for OU 1 include the chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs) TCE and PCE in soil, groundwater and soil vapor.

Soil – In 2009, analytical results for on-site soil samples showed elevated concentrations of TCE in shallow soils collected from the western portion of the building.

In general, concentrations decreased with depth. TCE in shallow soils ranged from 0.610 ppm to 140 ppm. Highest concentration of PCE was 5 ppm. TCE exceeded the Part 375 restricted residential and protection of groundwater SCOs (21 ppm and 0.47 ppm, respectively).

Soil samples collected from the perimeter of the building did not show any exceedances of the SCOs for PCE and TCE.

In 2011, samples collected showed a maximum TCE concentration of 54 mg/kg and a PCE concentration of 0.48 mg/kg.

In 2013, mercury (1.6 mg/kg), lead (1,000 mg/kg) and chromium (220 mg/kg) exceeded the restricted residential SCOs.

Groundwater – In 2008, TCE was detected in groundwater at 24,000 ug/l and PCE at 544 ug/l. PCE and TCE concentrations in samples collected at 25, 35, and 45 ft bgs were significantly lower than in the groundwater interface samples.

In 2011, elevated concentrations of TCE and PCE were identified in shallow groundwater, primarily in the northwest corner of the building and the west side of the building. TCE concentrations in shallow groundwater ranged from 77 ug/l to 2,300 ug/l. TCE in deep groundwater was 120 ug/l. PCE concentrations in shallow groundwater ranged from 260 ug/l to 3,500 ug/l. PCE in deep groundwater was 310 ug/l.

For off-site locations from the building perimeter, TCE concentrations ranged from 400 ug/l to 880 ug/l. PCE concentrations from the perimeter ranged from 700 ug/l to 1,500 ug/l.

In 2013, the highest TCE concentration (8,700 ug/l) was at an on-site shallow well located just south of the truck scale pit.

The highest PCE concentration at this time (1,900 ug/l) was at a shallow well located on the sidewalk by the northwest corner of the building.

One off-site well located west of the building exceeded the groundwater standard for chromium (168 ug/l).

In 2014, additional off-site groundwater sampling was conducted at shallow, intermediate and deep intervals. TCE concentrations were highest in intermediate interval, ranging from 37 to 240 ug/l. PCE concentrations in intermediate level ranged from 11 to 33 ug/l.

High concentrations of PCE and TCE were seen in shallow groundwater at one off-site well, inconsistent with other wells at upgradient locations.

Also in 2014, a pilot test was conducted to collect site-specific data necessary to design a cost-effective, full-scale AS/SVE system.

The pilot test was performed in two areas with highest concentrations of TCE in soil and groundwater.

The results of the pilot test and pneumatic modeling indicated that soil, groundwater, and soil vapor (that is, TCE and PCE) present in the target areas could be effectively treated using air sparging/soil vapor extraction technology within a reasonable timeframe (two years). This technology was approved as an interim remedial measure (IRM).

Soil Vapor – In 2011 a soil vapor investigation was completed at the site, consisting of soil vapor, sub-slab, and indoor air sampling. Results were compared to New York State Department of Health Guidance for Evaluating Soil Vapor Intrusion (2006).

TCE concentrations in indoor air ranged from 140 to 250 ug/m3; PCE in indoor air ranged from 4.3 to 8.5 ug/m3. In sub-slab samples, TCE ranged from 190 ug/m3 to 2,300,000 ug/m3; PCE ranged from ND to 9,200 ug/m3. In soil vapor samples collected from the perimeter of the building, TCE ranged from 130 ug/m3 to 72,000 ug/m3; PCE ranged from ND to 32,000 ug/m3.

In 2013, additional soil vapor, sub-slab and indoor air samples were collected. Indoor air in area of truck scale pit was 2 ug/m3 for TCE and 13 mg/m3 for PCE.

Sub-slab concentrations is this same area were 26,500 ug/m3 for TCE and 568 ug/m3 for PCE. In 2013, off-site soil vapor concentrations, located southwest of the site, ranged from 57.5 ug/m3 to 170 ug/m3 for TCE; PCE at the same off-site locations ranged from 1,160 ug/m3 to 1,380 ug/m3.

Also in 2013, indoor air samples were collected twice in the office and congregation areas after installation of temporary filtration systems.

In the congregation areas, TCE ranged from 64.5 ug/m3 to 214 ug/m3; PCE ranged from 3.8 ug/m3 to 8.88 ug/m3. In the office area, TCE ranged from 83 ug/m3 to 138 ug/m3; PCE ranged from 6.98 ug/m3 to 10.3 ug/m3.

In 2014, additional off-site soil vapor sampling was completed in conjunction with the off-site groundwater sampling. TCE ranged from 12 to 2900 ug/m3; PCE ranged from 110 to 500 ug/m3.

The highest concentrations were seen at same location where TCE and PCE concentrations were very high in shallow groundwater.

The site presents a significant environmental threat due to the ongoing releases of contaminants from source areas into groundwater.

Site Health Assessment

Direct contact with contaminants in the soil is unlikely because the majority of the site is covered with buildings and pavement.

Contaminated groundwater at the site is not used for drinking or other purposes and the site is served by a public water supply that obtains water from a different source not affected by this contamination.

Volatile organic compounds in the groundwater may move into the soil vapor (air spaces within the soil), which in turn may move into overlying buildings and affect the indoor air quality.

This process, which is similar to the movement of radon gas from the subsurface into the indoor air of buildings, is referred to as soil vapor intrusion.

Soil vapor intrusion sampling in the on-site structure determined that exposure to site related contaminants at levels above NYS Department of Health guidelines is likely occurring since a portion of the structure is currently occupied.



On Police Misconduct, an NYPD precinct with extraordinarily high civilian complaint statistics (the 75th), and when you once get wrongly cuffed for six hours to a precinct bench and you once get wrongly assaulted by a police officer in a precinct, there isn’t, wasn’t, a damn thing I could do about it So I wrote this

On Police  Misconduct, an NYPD precinct with extraordinarily high civilian complaint statistics (the 75th), and when you once get wrongly  cuffed for six hours to a precinct bench and you once get wrongly assaulted by a police officer in a precinct, there isn’t, wasn’t, a damn thing I could do about it  So I wrote this

Attached in this post below are screen shots from the NYPD’s Civilian Complaint Review Board 2015 annual report

In the report they list every single NYPD precinct in New York City and the number of complaints that have been lodged against each precinct. Here they cite a five year total 2011-2015

Most precincts have 200,300,400 complaints; 500 in a rougher precinct. Two particularly dangerous crime ridden areas in the Bronx patrolled by the 44th and the 40th precincts have 700 complaints. And that’s it, a complete picture of crime and community police relations in the city.

But there’s one glaringly how the hell can this be allowed tolerated (italics mine but they should  be yours and the NYPD’s) exception.

The  75th police precinct of East New York Brooklyn. For that same period it had a number absurdly higher than any other place– 1,344 complaints — you hear, one precinct in one community had 1,344 complaints lodged against it. Almost double the number of those two for real rough precincts in the Bronx .

I know I might be beating a dead horse, I’ve written and reported on East New York a lot.

But what the hell NYPD, CCRB- Garner, chokeholds, stop and frisk  are legitimate  and important issues  bit in some ways they’re individual isolated of a time. This is endemic, its been like this  in East New York since CCRB stats were being  compiled. No sarcasm, but where’s your white paper on this, your New York Lawyers for The Public Interest led civil suit on this, even a damn mention on your website that’s chock full of every imaginable statistical minutiae — a 1,344 complaints against cops in one community.

Commanding Officer of the 75th Michael Lipetri seems like a decent and honorable leader  (as much as you can tell from a twitter account) and the 75th is a hard hard precinct to work.

But sincerely how the heck do you look in the eye  of a decent East New York resident and rationally justifiably explain without apology  1,344 complaints when,say, Murray Hill where my girl lived has 260 complaints for the same period. People don’t  have a right to live like this (on a side note when I was reporting in East New York I could’ve filed legitimate CCRB complaints on different police officers maybe  12 times).

On a larger  side note I got yanked off a Port Authority bus by a group of police officers on some false charge of making a 911 call to endanger East New York police. I was handcuffed to a bench for six hours. When I went back to that precinct a week later as the desk sergeant instructed me in a phone conversation, an officer there whose badge number and name I will never forget – – how do I say this properly — degraded me, taunted me, confiscated destroyed my property, had me on my knees, lies to me, then assaulted the hell out of me hard —  in his precinct right there in Port Authority  with 12 other cops there  who witnessed it.  I’m laying there crumpled on the ground and I said to  him why the hell did you do that? He said because I hit him first. Since I’m not dead or doing  a 2 year bid in Dannemora Correctional, you he and I know that that’s a straight up ugly lie, and coming from a police officer it’s essentially a damn false criminal charge. And God help the defendant who gets this officer on the stand testifying against him.*

I called 911, EMS, Internal Affairs, Port Authority Integrity Unit, CCRB, reported it to another precinct trying to file assault charges – no one ever got back to me, nothing at all happened.  Call the Port Authority Integrity Unit (their version of Internal Affairs) anytime and it just  rings and rings, no one ever answers, they don’t even have voice mail.  I had to leave my complaint with a secretary in administration.

So this heavyweight Port Authority officer got to play UFC with me sending me flying 6 feet thorough the air into a concrete wall (though maybe play UFC is not quite right, when I looked up at him as he was standing over me after the assault his whole body was visibly shaking).

I hope he’s sorry, maybe PTSD, he served  in the military in combat, but at my worst I sometimes imagine he tells the story over beers laughing about what he did to that fucken reporter. No macho on this but if I ever somehow impossibly heard him doing this word is just about bond please  put money on my commissary books because I would proudly do 2 years on the gate on the count in the dayroom etc for that kind of violation.

Seriously these 75th Precinct numbers are too exceptional; something is very wrong at that precinct and command should do something otherwise you’ll have more Michael Dowds running your streets  hurting people, communities, and tarnishing the image of good cops.



















capture_1468544409603~2*On not naming this officer, I know this is not strongly defensible or consistent with how I operate as a journalist  but I can’t bring myself to fuck with him that way, something he would probably do, low-grade coward snitch to hurt or to ruin a man without giving him a chance.   And it’s for a similar reason I went down to the precinct when the sergeant told me to over the phone.  I knew I was walking into a lions den, the desk Sergeant was being obnoxious, game playing hostile. But I went because I hate the idea of being afraid or having to watch myself or call a lawyer to fight in the shadows; not confront them man to man when I did absolutely nothing wrong and they acted so immoraly.  That cop wouldn’t have done it, and I don’t want to be that kind of man.  In fact in between throwing a folder of my papers across the room screaming in my face and body slamming me he told me maybe three times “Get the fuck out of here, call a lawyer.”

But I may be wrong about this, if I had an emergency and to call 911 meant this officer would show up I would just quote NWA and handle it myself. He either learned his lesson after coming close to being burnt (after this happened I raised hell to him and every other cop in the precinct, to 911, to EMS who responded while I was in the precinct (first it was get the fuck out, after the assault they wouldn’t let me leave  even though I said I wanted to repeatedly) called my wife, a lawyer and told her what happened gave the officer’s badge number and spelled out his name all in front of him, them; strong loud and emphatically. Or the cop doesn’t give a damn about a kevin heldman and doesn’t belong on the streets with a gun and extraordinary powers.





























When They Start Charging Corner Boys With Terrorism and Think They’re Superman in LE


Recovered in East New York by a 75th  precinct raid;  6 men arrested:.  25 caliber Raven Arms semi-automatic, .38 caliber Revolver Taurus. .380, pistol-grip shotgun, 3 lbs weed, cocaine residue, a.22 caliber, .9 mm  ammo and $1,329 in cash.

Ok fair enough,gangsters but these were the changes against all six:
Criminal Possession of a Weapon (six counts)
Criminal Possession of Marihuana
Tampering with Physical Evidence
Obstructing Governmental Administration
Criminal Use of Drug Paraphernalia
Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance
Violation of local law
And all six were also charged with Terrorism Criminal Possession of a Weapon (italics and emphasis not mine but probably overzealous prosecutors). 

And small thing but whats up with cops wearing superman, batman t-shirts and hats played backward at a press conference- heros ok but be humble out there or well you know

East New York, Brooklyn; The, or very close to The worst all around quality of life 5.6 square miles of hood in NYC, likely in America, for close to a hundred years



Consider its NYC stats: most sex offenders, highest crime stats by far in every category every single year without pause for good period rehab or for some other hood to give it a break and take over the mayhem; most homeless, most HIV cases, most lead posionings, most child abuse cases and Childrens’ Services cases, highest # of deaths from alcoholism, highest # of gonorrhea cases, most police abuse complaints, police corruption (michael dowd ran with a crew of  75th Precinct NYPD cops turned all out hands on gangsters – ski mask armed robberies while on duty), most # of waste sites and waste carting,  most dangerous roads, asbestos, industrial toxins, highest # of industrial manufacturing and use of highly dangerous and destructive special license chemicals, highest # of children in foster care, most vacant lots, highest # of shelters, drug rehabs, mental health facilities, nursing homes, methadone clinics, food pantries, bus depots, a freight train line from a 100 years ago still there rotting seeping overgrown and derelict, a huge Con Ed plant exactly the same, junkyards, Super Fund sites, a huge sewage treatment plant under emergency federal care and sanction, mercury, fecal matter and arsenic polluting the creeks and the section of the Jamaica Bay it sits on, the largest residential facility for the developmentally disabled. in NY state is there (in process of shutting down because of repeated state sanctions for violations related to patient care). And there’s more and its just as bad and worse.

So you see East New York is not “my hood is so gangsta paradise bad, lets freestyle rap about it and represent cool and crime glam.” East New York is so close to the worst  place for 200,000 to have to make their homes but they try and they do and two little girls sold me lemonade out of their cute ass little kid lemonade stand while there mom good mom watched over them in East New York Brooklyn. true story I needlessly might add, where you get your wings clipped all the time.

Who’s Really Looting Who- To be poor in a hood in Hurricane Sandy/Coney Island (acting nothing like your idea of the poor in the hoods)


Coney Island, Nov.9, 2012, 12 days after Sandy hit.

Arrive down there and find the nyc medical command center for medical/health issues in a trailer in MCU parking lot.  Hey,  I say to the  man in the trailer, I’m medic trained, mass casualty/crisis training, wildland firefighter, worked Irene and Sandy for Office of Emergency management, I have all my certifications, can I be of some help down here? No we’re good, don’t need any volunteers.

Nothing I say, you need absolutely no help at all, everybody and everything is ok, I’m willing to do anything?

No we got it, everything is fine, we have all the resources we need, everything is fine, sorry you came all the way down here?

You sure, no help at all, you guys completely got this?


I so doubt this from experience so I start walking into the neighborhood.  Within 10 minutes I was working, almost everybody I encountered or asked needed some kind of help.  I had a back pack of gear and phone numbers for connections and I the night before I hit NYCHA (the agency that manages nyc public housing projects) where they had a list of projects and which ones were without power, electric, ect.) so I just worked.

O’Dwyer Gardens, a project complex with 6 large buildings, 572 units, with over a 1,000 residents.  Dead, no service at all.  I was doing outreach around there and some guy who turns out to be a CVS delivery man with a bag full of prescription medications and asks me for help.  He’s been sent over to one of these buildings and he’s scared, worried about danger and doesn’t have a flashlight to go up.  I look at the meds and see the DOB and the patient is 73 years old, he’s trapped up in this hell hole 13 floors up; yeah of course I’ll go, he probably needs a lot of help.  Delivery guy   calls the pharmacist, it wasn’t the patient’s his regular pharmacy because his regular one was destroyed, but pharmacist said great.  So I went in.  Hell hole, damage, pitch black, walked up 13 floors, get up there, shining light on every door and there’s no 13 N, the address on the script, only A-F.  What the hell.  I Walk down, double check the address, call the patient’s number, dead.  Call the pharmacy, does he have an emergency contact on file, no, she’s no help.

Talk  to two different cops,   one nothing, one tries, calls somebody he knows who might be able to run this name but we wait and the person never calls back, he says they’re screwed up down there in general that precinct or whoever he called.  He says it might be a set-up for you, if it’s psychiatric medicine and you go up there you could be attacked. Though he doesn’t offer to escort e up there.  I think I can handle it, I say, thanks for your concern.  Any ideas how to find this guy I ask him, databases you guys have access to  No.   Maybe go up other buildings 13 floors see if you can find an N  he suggests.  Then he’s radioed away.

I finally track down the NYCHA manager for the units, Scott.  I explain ask him, he said computers are down, no power.  I say I ‘ve got a small generator in my bag can he just log on using that, no, it’s not like that he says, no access.  I’m calling everybody I can think of , manager comes by 30 minutes later, apologizes, says there’s nothing he can do everything is down, no computers.  Isn’t there a central database in Manhattan or on a generator or someplace that you can check.  He says no.

I start asking around the projects, most helpful two Latino women who were NYCHA maintenance workers raking, cleaning up amid the huge downed trees that fell in the project common areas.  They tell me there’s a NYCHA command center, another trailer, try there, they tell me where it is.  I go in and explain what’s going on.  They were very nice, but they called and called all these different places, they couldn’t get through or couldn’t get the info.  Finally, they called the manager, he’ll be able to help you out.  They offered me food, water, were real nice but I was there for almost an hour.  One guy said, the resident probably evacuated.  Another said leave the meds here, we’ll get it to him– I said I can’t do it.  Finally, I said, “Wait is the manager that I’m waiting for named Scott?”  Yeah, they tell me.  I said I talked to him twice he can’t help.  One worker there, a decent young black man, I’ll call him out by name, Kevin Norman, said call “global,” which turned out to be NYCHA’s (ESD) Emergency Services Department.  Another worker called, someone actually picked up, they gave the residents name, I said tell him to run it through any public housing in that park of Brooklyn. Finally got it.  The address was completely wrong on the prescription, turns out the database showed he lived in a different housing project 12 blocks away.  I shook all their hands, Kevin Norman gave me his cell number and said call if you need any help with him or any other residents — I said are you serious.  Another worker, Louis, I believes said, “Yeah, they’re our tenants to take care of.”  We thanked each other and while I was thanking them manager Scott walked into the trailer, looking a little abashed. Went to the other project and delivered the man his medicine. Maybe 2 hours this whole thing took.

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The real disaster of bureaucracy during Hurricane Sandy; an insider’s glimpse

On Monday during Sandy I worked a 19 hour shift for OEM (medic like stuff) at the evacuation shelter for medical needs at John Jay College west side in the 50s – didn’t handle many many people but there were so so many supplies, tons and tons of everything – food, water, med supplies, personal hygiene stuff, blankets, everything, pallets and pallets of the stuff.

And some school shelters serving as evac centers turned into and remain real homeless shelters for a real hardcore dysfunctional homeless population; same problem I wrote about last year during Irene   no-seinfeldian-glee-temporary-storm-shelter-john-jay?page=all  (okay I suck at a lot but I’m  good at a few things, this being one, so I single handedly was able to  clear the whole homeless population from Norman Thomas high school last year so it could open the next day).  That’s not a policy, that’s one guy with street charisma on a mini martyr trip who happened to be volunteering.   And non homeless folk are not going to want to share evac shelters with serious homeless people during a future disaster, even on just simple hygiene issue problems.  Evacuees  were faking illness this year to move into the nicer med evac center area rather than stay in general population.

On Thursday I went to the Lower East Side/Chinatown on my own, by Jacob Riss school, Catherine Street, near the East river (supposed to be an evac center but it never happened, not sure why, no Tues it’s still closed, presumably because of damage).

Insane – hundreds and hundreds of people lined up (Chinese and black and Latino folk from the nearby Smith projects) for promises of food and water for hours and hours, holding buckets and pots for water– they had nothing, little children and old people filling up and drinking out of fire hydrants, small children half naked using the streets as a toilet, old Chinese women burning newspapers in large flaming cans in the streets — absolutely no one there (volunteers, OEM, FEMA, city – FEMA had one big truck elsewhere in Chinatown, all they had was a power strip to charge phones for people) — nobody there to give them anything or tell them anything, know one knew anything – only a huge police presence at the distribution center and one man from the Salvation Army doing nothing (all those supplies from John Jay and likely the same supplies at many other evac shelters in upper Manhattan that didn’t need them – they could have easily been positioned or sent down there to LES/Chinatown if there was any proper or good coordination).

Up by blacked out 1st ave and the 20s in Manhattan where I live here was a one legged man in a wheelchair seemingly disoriented in a traffic. Turns out he was three days without the heavy methadone dose he takes daily (think he said 150 mgs) and also Xanax – withdrawing, weak, freaking out, crowds of people he couldn’t navigate through. He said he needed to get to Bellevue for the methadone; I pushed him like 12 blocks hard to even push him through all that chaos and when we got to Bellevue he saw the people who run the program in the lobby – they told him the program was shut. What do I do he asked? Um, I think you have to go up to Metropolitan hospital (in Harlem) and I think their meth program is working, they said. 100 blocks and many avenues. How am I going to get there? He asked. The clinic people, health care professionals said, “Um maybe you can find someone who’s going and get a ride with them.” Yeah, right. No handicap transport van, no transport ambulance offered, The guy was screwed so bad. I asked him if he wanted money for a cab and he said no that’s alright and I left him there as he was talking to them about how anguished he was and how much he hated himself.

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On the Ground in Albania Chasing the Mob World

Amazing global investigation about Albanian mob by@kevinjayheldman #longreads http://bit.ly/ONyMGl


The Week’s Best Longreads: The Daily Beast Picks for June 16, 2012

http://www.thedailybeast.com/…/the-week-s-best-longreads-the-dailybeast-…– longreads-sessions-120614-tease  Kevin Heldman, Capital New York An investigation into the heart of Albanian-American organized crime.

Wow. Just finished piece on Albanian gangs in @capitalnewyork. Amazing. It’s GTA: Liberty City come alive. Read now: http://t.co/LbC3efeb
     I feel, felt, a little like a low rent John McPhee on the cops and robbers beat — 50,000 words on how Albanians settle beefs and toss silencers —  but this is my final story in a long series on Albanian transnational crime in New York, in the US, and overseas.

This article, Part I, goes in very deep on a specific NY Albanian crew and takes you, took me, all over Albania reporting on this world.  I got as deep there as I could as a reporter — gave it my all — somebody in or of that crime world or some agent in IOC2, DEA, FBI or a lawyer, prosecutor out there who’s on these cases may know this world deeper, but I’m already punching way above the weight of a press pass, hey tell me your story, I don’t have a gun, money, subpoena power or a 5k letter to give you (that’s my shout out to all you  ridiculously hard working US prosecutors and defense attorneys on this and related cases — don’t know how you do it).

FBI NY Balkan Task Force: probably have a restraining order on me, this guy again, leave us alone already, be a normal reporter, go become a security guard or something if you want street action but you all would appreciate this account and especially Part II so if you see this check it out.

Part II, to be published pretty soon, will explain why all this matters, document the scope of this kind of crime — kind of say that this is not just arbitrary let’s write about Albanian crime because it’s novel — there is a shockingly established criminal subculture here that is very serious; I resisted believing it for the longest time because it seemed so unreal but it’s there, in mind numbing so many guns in mouths over and over again detail.

Here’e the link to the story on Capital New York.  I think it’s good, never sure on these things, you rewrite and reread and can’t read any more so much you lose perspective, but it is honest and I did work like mad on it.  If it’s not good I’m in trouble because I suck at life and I’m supposed to be good at this so… you know, there’s that. Ah, I always have to go too far.

On the Ground In Albania Chasing the Mob World

Chinese Takeout Story — actually and really behind the bulletproof glass and out on deliveries — who the people are, what their lives are like

chinese take out 7

This is a snapshot of what life is like for one — and representative of many — Chinese takeout restaurants in New York City.  This is in an area where crime is high — Mott Haven, Bronx — and people in the restaurant, and people outside of the restaurant, may not have the opportunities to get out, move, make choices.

Takeout Story

Grace Amid Chaos and Desperation: Medic Inside A NYC Hurricane Shelter

I spent 41 hours over three days working for the city during Hurricane Irene.  I wrote about it for Capital New York.

This is what it was like:


heldman hurricane photo

Drug running, slang, and real talk on NYPD wires and gangs r us type sites

(May 18, 2012)

“A notorious drug dealer who got his start during the crack epidemic of the 1980s and was so good at hiding his whereabouts that he was known as “the ghost” has been arrested along with dozens of others on new charges, police and prosecutors said Thursday.

James Corley, 51, was charged with criminal sale of a controlled substance and other drug charges after a 15-month undercover investigation that used wiretaps and surveillance, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said. Forty-four other people were also charged with drug crimes in the dismantling of Corley’s operation, known as the Supreme Team, and another drug gang, authorities said.

Corley supplied cocaine to a second gang called the South Side Bloods, and low-level dealers grossed about $15,000 a week in drug sales, Kelly said. Burned by a wiretap before, Corley used at least eight different phones, authorities said.

The Supreme Team was run by legendary gang leader Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, who reputedly funneled drug money into rap music label Murder Inc. He’s now serving life without parole for a pair of murders after a 2007 conviction.

It was a brutal drug gang that came out of the same Queens streets where platinum rappers 50 Cent and Ja Rule emerged years later. At its peak, the Supreme Team’s network of dealers was making $200,000 a day, authorities said.

After McGriff did jail time on a drug conviction, he was released in 1997 and aligned himself with neighborhood friend and music mogul Irv “Gotti” Lorenzo. The one-time street thugs produced one film: “Crime Partners,” a straight-to-video affair that featured Ja Rule, Snoop Dogg and Ice-T.

NYPD’s Detective David Leonardi put the case together, noting in the charges that the gangs used Supreme Mathematics” and the “Supreme Alphabet,” the language system used by members of the Nation of Islam offshoot group Nation Of Gods and Earths (also known as “Five Percenters”). Leonardi was able to decipher the coded language…”


I don’t know, I heard A is for Allah, B is for Born, etc in 1983, when I was 17 and three probated teens huddled together on a handball court reciting in a residential facility and I knew I couldn’t listen in, dog hair, Yacub, etc, but we were all buddies, really living together, so I did and they were cool, playfully pushing me away.  But slang terms for money, weed, and guns change every two months or so and with all the ridiculously complicated complex handshakes and hand signing thought up by bored in a cell teens all over NYC,  all also competing with raps to put together high level word play and metaphor after metaphor, neologisms every other line – – I think they and an old time veteran like Corley,  probably able to mix up something like 35 years of street talk, prison slang, institutional jargon, drug terms, and hip hop slang, could code deeper and more complex than something that’s all over urban dictionary and Wikipedia.  Something mixed up, nonsensical and easy, riffed without even really trying like:

Heads wearing Asolos violated in the bing ward playing the corner over static about Tony the Tiger (Blood repping ) on the cereal box lifted in the cafeteria and the program retreads shooting dope in the pocket because everywhere else collapsed and the dusties drinking cranberry juice to detox, and the Lincoln Hall irks kidding on the square, saying the only hardrocks are in graveyards in the money makin’ (mighty whitites racistly twisting it to monkey makin’,) in the burnt out, and the girls saying Lets prep in the clubs stepping all over his British Walkers, the 94Bs and masons fraternizing with the civilian dishwashers tricking on their lifer NCO husbands overseas and hit em cause they beat me freaks anyway — grown ass men long after the PINS petition expired like Bosket and the toothpaste on menthols wore off and the WAM ran out and the cologne strained through bread got him too sick worse than the antabuse and he was back on the juggle no struggle seeing how low your money can go (4-5-6) on c-74 with the crazy little ones nice with their hands, yo put me down on that right quick, that’s menthol right.

And some people would understand every word and many more people, grown people with careers and no time to waste would run it past the web sites and after no hits would call it a foolish waste of time, mock it (wait for the teenagers somewhere to sift through it all because they can care back then about all that) and just move on with regular living and regular talk, y’know, foxtrot uniform charlie kilo indigo tango.

Response to hurricane article; on that special type of doubt that nags the aid worker and the journalist

There was a response to an article I wrote recently – – I spent three days working in NYC hurricane evacuation centers and shelters as an emergency responder and as a journalist during Hurricane Irene. Article is here

A blog, Aftershock Action Alliance, linked to the piece,”NYC’s Response to Irene Not Picture Perfect” quoted it and praised it, saying “Without these on the ground observations there is little chance the city will be better prepared next time when we might really need it.”

I thanked them, and I commented that with some of these things, when you’re involved in work like that (and I have been a lot), you’re never entirely sure whether you’re playing save-the-day hero and writing the equivalent of diary entries or you gave real useful emergency aid and did real useful journalism.

Enough validation comes your way and you can stop showing off to yourself and you can concentrate on properly serving the cause, the material. The latter part of that thought is a paraphrase of, I swear to you, George Clooney talking to Charlie Rose about acting. Now if I was a real hustler and go getter I would put Clooney and Rose in my tags to get this post read more widely, but, G-d help me, I barely understand what the hell a tag is and, honestly, I don’t know if all of three of my Facebook friends are reading what I write here or if it’s reaching the favelas of Brazil, the living rooms of Short Hills, New Jersey, the advisory board of The Dart Center. Them I’ll tag.

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