Volume 76, Number 11 | August 2 - 8, 2006

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

A flower merchant showed bruises on her back and arm that she said were the result of a run-in with two women at a pizza parlor.

Christopher St. merchants say they’re taking a beating, literally

By Albert Amateau

Merchants on Christopher St. around Hudson St. are saying raucous and sometimes violent crowds, mostly young and gay people who spend summer nights and early mornings on the nearby Hudson River pier, are harassing them, but that local officials are ignoring their pleas for help.

Bob Orzo, owner of Hudson Bagels at 502 Hudson St. and a member of the Christopher St. Residents and Merchants Association, said elected officials have dismissed complaints about quality of life conditions.

“If you speak out about blatant prostitution or drug dealing, you’re labeled a racist or homophobe,” he said. “I’m a Villager, I live on Greenwich St., and I don’t care who anybody is. But you can’t come into my store dressed in a bra and women’s panties and abuse my customers,” he said.

One woman who owns a flower shop near the corner of Christopher and Hudson Sts. said she was assaulted by two women on Tuesday morning July 18 and sustained bruises on her face and shoulder.

The assault took place in a pizza parlor across from her shop where she went for breakfast.

“I took my umbrella because it was raining and when I shook it out, a lady behind me got wet,” she said. “I said I was sorry, but she screamed and called a friend. They grabbed me and started to slap me.”

Someone called 911, and Sixth Precinct police responded.

“They found the lady who started it and gave her a summons,” said the victim, who did not want to give her name.

Less than a week later, an employee of a 24-hour deli at 501 Hudson St. at the corner of Christopher St. was sprayed with Mace by a man who was trying to steal a bag of chips. Reda Hasan, the employee, said police were called but didn’t find the suspect. Hasan was treated at St. Vincent’s Hospital.

Sweet Life Cafe, at 147 Christopher St., has been closing at 4 p.m. for the past year to avoid such problems. But the shop opens around 7 a.m. and Dolly Rokkas, who runs the place with her husband, John, said they had to call police one recent morning.

“Three drag queens came in, sat down and didn’t order anything and then called in about seven of their friends,” she said. “John told them they had to leave, but they didn’t until police came,” she added.

“Not all of the kids that hang out at the pier are into prostitution or drugs, but a lot of them are,” Orzo said. “It seems to me that the city has decided that this is the strip — let them do whatever they want here.”

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