Photo by Jefferson Siegel
Jairo Pastoressa was arraigned in court on Tues., Oct. 26, on a second-degree murder charge. A photo left (Photo by Lincoln Anderson) by a friend at a memorial to slain graffiti artist Christopher Jusko outside 272 E. Seventh St. has a message saying, Jusko “will always be part of the Stuy Town Fam.”
Accused killer’s ex paints picture of abusive artist
By Lincoln Anderson
A week after local graffiti artist Jairo Pastoressa allegedly murdered another man in a dispute over a woman, Pastoressa’s friends and neighbors still say they can’t believe he did it — that the man they thought they knew wasn’t capable of such violence.
Lower East Side graffiti-mural legend Antonio Garcia, a.k.a. Chico, had even told The Villager last year that he thought Pastoressa could be the successor to carry his graffiti mantle into the future.
“I think he could be the perfect one to continue my legacy,” Chico told Scoopy’s Notebook in February 2009 as Chico was getting ready to relocate to Tampa.
Described as a talented artist, Pastoressa silk-screened T-shirts and hoodies in his apartment, using an abstract graffiti style.
However, a former girlfriend tells a different story, saying Pastoressa was “crazy,” that he assaulted her twice — breaking her nose and fracturing her finger — and beat his own dogs.
Meanwhile, the building where Pastoressa lives — and inside which the fatal stabbing occurred — 272 E. Seventh St., is the last real remaining East Village squat. In 2002, the city cut a deal with squatters in the 11 other then East Village squats, allowing them to get their buildings for $1 each, then bring them up to code and buy their units as affordable co-ops. But the 272 E. Seventh St. residents didn’t go in on the deal, choosing instead to go it alone.
Recently, however, the tenants at No. 272 have, in fact, started working with the city to get the building into some kind of program — so last week’s fatal stabbing also comes at a sensitive time for the building.
In an article in The Villager two years ago, neighbors said 272 E. Seventh St. had been a problem, with young people coming in, kicking out the previous residents, and then throwing loud parties. But more recently, the squat had been more under control, they said.
According to police, a dispute between Pastoressa, 25, and another graffiti writer, Christopher Jusko, 21, of Bushwick, Brooklyn, ended around 5:30 a.m. Mon., Oct. 25, with Pastoressa stabbing Jusko with an 8-inch kitchen knife in the stairway at 272 E. Seventh St. outside Pastoressa’s second-floor apartment. Slashed in the neck and stabbed in the back, Jusko staggered out of the building and died on the sidewalk in front.
Pastoressa reportedly had issued a challenge over the phone to the victim and was waiting for him when he arrived. Pastoressa turned himself in at the Ninth Precinct the next day and was arraigned on a charge of second-degree murder.
Pastoressa was Chico’s apprentice, helping him create his large murals, like his Obama mural on E. Sixth St. in October 2008 — an “exhausting,” all-day-long job, Chico noted. Chico, 47, even got Pastoressa a job as a “consulter” with him when he used to work for the New York City Housing Authority painting empowering murals on housing projects.
“I know his mother, she’s a beautiful woman, down to earth,” Chico said, saying it was through his mom that he came to know Pastoressa.
“Jairo had been looking at my work for years. He wanted to meet me,” Chico recalled.
Chico said he never considered Pastoressa a violent person — “He can’t even hurt a fly,” he said. He added that he thinks Pastoressa is “brilliant,” with the wisdom of a man 10 years older than his age.
But in October 2009 Chico first learned about what he called Pastoressa’s “situation” with his former girlfriend when police arrested Pastoressa, ironically, while he was helping Chico paint a “Stop the Violence” mural on East Houston St. for the Lower Eastside Girls Club’s Power of Peace Project.
Chico said the cousin of the former girlfriend — who he calls “Cuba,” because she’s half Cuban — was driving by and saw Pastoressa working on the mural, and called police. Pastoressa had assaulted the girlfriend four months earlier. Police arrived, put Pastoressa up against the wall and arrested him.
“The cops said, ‘Why are you using a guy who beats up a girl to do an anti-violence mural?’” Chico recalled. He explained to them that he doesn’t do research on the people that help him.
“Cuba showed up five minutes later and said he beat her up, threw her against the wall. She said, ‘I want to put him away forever,’ ” Chico said.
Although he has relocated to Tampa to reunite with his family, Chico periodically returns to the neighborhood to do commission work. He was recently doing a mural for the Ninth Precinct Community Council that was unpaid, but said Pastoressa wasn’t interested if it was for free.
“I told him, ‘You have to give back to the community,’” Chico said. “But Jairo was a young cat — I don’t know if he was ready for that commitment. I was really upset, because he was playing games and ignoring me; so I stopped calling him.”
Chico said he recently saw Pastoressa walking his dogs and the young artist told him he had a new girlfriend, a D.J. who he had gotten pregnant, and that they needed money for an abortion.
“He said he was in love,” Chico said. “I was like, ‘Jairo in love? Really?’”
Chico and others said Pastoressa was known for having many girlfriends. Also, Chico noted, “He was a very jealous guy.”
Chico said he had recently visited Pastoressa’s apartment and seen the new girlfriend there — and all her luggage; she had moved in. The girlfriend was black, he said, and had a small son who was white.
Chico added that the young artist told him he wasn’t worried about his future, saying he hoped to get a job teaching silk screen at the new Lower Eastside Girls Club building on Avenue D once it’s completed.
However the incident unfolded, Chico said, Pastoressa should have called police if he had a confrontation with Jusko.
“For me to hear what happened — I felt I was a failure,” Chico said of his apprentice. “All the work I put into this kid.
“He’s probably crying right now,” Chico said. “He’s thinking about his mother and his dogs; who’s going to feed his dogs? Those are the things on his mind.”
Meanwhile, Cuba, whose real name is Alice, said of Pastoressa, who she dated for nine months a year ago when she was 17: “He was crazy, he was psychotic, he was pretty insane. He was a pretty abusive person.”
A comic-book artist, she said she had wanted to break up with him multiple times but was always too scared to do it. Three months into the relationship, she said, he deliberately grabbed the index finger on her left hand — her drawing hand — and twisted it, fracturing it, then told her, “Don’t tell anybody.” She had to wear a splint for two weeks.
She said Pastoressa was so jealous that when he invited friends over she was forbidden to speak to them, forced to stay silent for hours. He used “mind control” on her, she said, adding, “It was more of a mental thing. He was mentally abusive to me.” Meanwhile, he was cheating on her with two other women, she said she found out.
Finally, she said, when she told him she wanted to end the relationship, he hit her. She hit him back, and then he broke her nose, threw her against a wall, and choked her, she said. She said police for some reason wouldn’t arrest Pastoressa at his home, and that, in order to lie low, Pastoressa got friends to walk his dogs for him.
Alice, who lives in the East Village and said she didn’t want her last name printed, said she got two restraining orders against Pastoressa.
Meanwhile, she wasn’t friends with the victim, Jusko, only saying that she and him were “enemies.” She said she doubted reports that Jusko had had a gun during the altercation with Pastoressa. Also, despite reports, the two men weren’t part of the same graffiti crew, according to her.
Although news reports gave Jusko’s address as Bushwick, she said she always knew him as being from Stuyvesant Town. A memorial photo of Jusko taped on the fence at 272 E. Seventh St. this week said that his “Stuy Town Fam” will always remember him. The New York Times’ Local: East Village reported that Jusko grew up in Stuyvesant Town and recently moved to Brooklyn.
Alice said when she read in the newspaper that Pastoressa had reportedly used an 8-inch kitchen knife to stab Jusko, she knew the exact knife.
“Whenever there were problems in the building, he would always have that knife,” she said, adding he sometimes took it with him when he went out on the street.
She also said she was upset that no one in the building came to her aid after Pastoressa beat her up.
She further charged that Pastoressa beat his dogs with a wooden chair leg. When one of the pit bulls had a litter, she claimed, Pastoressa grew angry when the puppies didn’t learn to walk fast enough, and threw them against the wall.
“They’re pit bulls — but at the end of the day, you don’t throw a puppy, you don’t hit a puppy,” she said.
To her knowledge, Pastoressa only served two days in jail for the assault on her, she said. She said the District Attorney’s Office didn’t respond to her follow-up requests for information about what was going on with that case.
‘A quiet dog lover’
At 272 E. Seventh St. this Tuesday morning, one man going into the building said of Pastoressa, “He was kind of quiet. He only came out to walk his dogs. You barely see him.”
Asked if he believed Pastoressa really abused his dogs, the man said, “Nah, he liked his puppies. He was an animal lover.”
Declining to give his name, he said he was a former handyman and has lived in the building 25 years. Asked if the squat has had any problems during that time, he shrugged and said it’s been fine, noting their tenants association is working with the city to get the building into a legitimate program. He said it was Pastoressa’s mother who got Jairo his apartment in the building.
Two young women and a man who looked to be in their late teens or early 20’s approached the squat, each walking a pit bull on a leash. Asked, as they were going inside, if they were Pastoressa’s pits, they weren’t interested in answering.
“Yeah, we don’t want to talk,” said one.
“It’s none of your business,” said another.
Attorney Adam Leitman Bailey, who is representing the building just east of 272 E. Seventh St. — a former squat — in an adverse possession case against the city, said he knew Pastoressa and his mother. He was shocked to hear that Jairo has been charged with murder.
“I was giving them some free legal advice, but I haven’t heard from them for a while,” he said of the tenants at No. 272. “We were giving them some free legal counsel on how to exist as a cooperative and how to move forward. I knew him but he wasn’t part of the [building’s] leadership,” Bailey said of Pastoressa. He said Pastoressa’s mom is a leader in her tenants association in a nearby building.
“Pastoressa’s a good guy — I don’t understand that,” Bailey said of the fatal stabbing. “He’s a soft-spoken guy. His mother is a great leader.”
Bailey said the adverse-possession lawsuit against the city is what forced the speed-up of the former squats’ conversion, which had gotten bogged down over construction problems and debt. The case will soon be resolved once the rest of the former squats have been properly converted to affordable co-ops, he said.