Volume 74, Number 24 | Octuber 13 - 19 , 2004

Murder victim’s neighbors had been concerned about security

By Lincoln Anderson

Villager photo by Lincoln Anderson

John Lynch’s first-floor apartment door at 8 Jones St.

Following the murder of a 79-year-old Jones St. man in his own bed last Tuesday, neighbors are charging it was an accident waiting to happen. Tenants claim the building has serious security problems that the management company refuses to address. Additionally, residents of the quiet, one-block-long Greenwich Village street say it has become less safe, beset by crack smokers at night and a recent spate of burglaries.

According to reports, John Lynch, who had lived at 8 Jones St. 12 years, was found by a home heath-care aide face up on his bed on Tues., Oct. 5, with a pillow over his head. The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled it a homicide by manual strangulation and suffocation. There was no sign of a break-in and, because his apartment was cluttered, it wasn’t clear if Lynch had been robbed. Police have not said if there are any suspects.

It was the third murder in the Sixth Precinct this year. On July 16, Darryl Fearon, 17, of the Bronx, was fatally stabbed in the early morning on W. 10th St. by Christian Soto-Ruiz, 19, after the latter got in a dispute with a group of transgendered persons. On Jan. 7, there was a fatal stabbing in the subway at Sixth Ave. and 14th St.

Although he regularly attended Central Village Block Association meetings, friends and acquaintances said Lynch was a private man who kept to himself. No one could recall ever seeing him bring anyone to his apartment.

He was remembered for dressing nattily and being well groomed, and neighbors recalled they sometimes heard classical music coming from inside his first-floor apartment.

According to Peter Zimmer, a co-founder of C.V.B.A., Lynch fell and broke his shoulder in September, after which he used a cane. Frail and walking with a slow shuffle before, Lynch seemed even more vulnerable after the accident, Zimmer said. It was after his fall that Lynch began being visited by home health-care workers twice a week.

According to the New York Post, authorities said Lynch formerly worked for NBC as a TV studio floor manager and had some $800,000 deposited in long-term bank accounts. A receptionist at NBC said she would have to know what show Lynch worked on to try to track down anyone who knew him.

Last week, several tenants of 8 Jones St. complained about what they called the building’s lack of security.

Timothy Shiro, 40, a tenant for eight years, had caught a young trespasser on the building’s rear fire escape just the previous Friday, holding him until police arrived to arrest him.

“He was like an 18-year-old,” Shiro said.

The building is wide open to and literally crawling with intruders, tenants say. There is no lock on the metal doors of a sidewalk vault in front of the building leading into the basement, whose door opens in front of Lynch’s apartment. The door on the roof at the top of the stairwell is never locked either, they charge. For a year and a half the tenants fought with the management company to put a lock on the door to the rear yard where they leave their trash before collection — finally recently installing one themselves.

Shiro has withheld rent for eight months over the allegedly unsafe conditions and the landlord has taken him to court.

“It’s purposeful negligence on their part,” he said.

Shiro also complained that there is no on-site superintendent. Rather, the super lives in the Bronx.

Christopher Skura, 40, a fifth-floor resident for seven years, said management has “written this building off.” He frequently hears strangers partying above his ceiling, only to find empty beer cans on the roof the next morning. Standing by the door to the roof, he noted there’s no lock on it and the electric alarm does not work. Repeated calls to management to install locks have not been answered, he claimed.

“I think everyone felt things like this were just bound to happen if it’s left open all the time,” said Skura, who is chief exhibits preparator for N.Y.U.’s arts museum.

That an old mini-refrigerator has sat in the rear yard for some time is also galling to tenants, who have repeatedly requested it to be thrown out.

Skura said management doesn’t even mop the floors. Last Wednesday, the residue of not fully washed-off, floor-to-ceiling, black graffiti scrawls could clearly be seen on the first-floor vestibule’s walls.

However, William Harra of ABC Management, said security is adequate.

“We’ve managed the building four years and this is the only incident we’ve heard about,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a severe incident.

“The door on the roof is locked — but people leave it open for sunbathing. You don’t need an alarm, it’s locked,” Harra contended. He admitted a pneumatic, air-compression closer on the door might not always work, though: “If you go from a hot day to a cool day, the compressor changes — the door might not shut.”

However, when The Villager checked the roof door last Wednesday there seemed to be no functioning spring or compression closer. In fact, the door hung open several inches from the doorframe.

As for the unlocked sidewalk vault, Harra said, “That is not supposed to be locked. The city requires two egresses [in case of fire].”

He said the door to the rear-yard trash-storage area isn’t supposed to be locked, either, since this is the passage from the fire escape to the front door.

“The tenants have put a lock on there from time to time, but there’s not supposed to be a lock,” he said. “If you’re suggesting I close up the fire egresses, I can’t do that.”

Asked why ABC won’t at least remove the contentious mini-fridge from the rear yard, Harra became defensive, saying, “I’m not going to talk about it with you. It’s not a safety issue,” then hung up.

Jennifer Givner, a Department of Buildings spokesperson, said the management company doesn’t appear to be doing anything wrong in terms of locking doors.

“A door cannot be locked in the direction of egress travel,” she said, referring to the rear door. As for the sidewalk hatch and roof door, she said, only buildings built after 1968 have to have self-closing and self-locking entrances.

Lynch had bars on his windows, which face the rear yard offering a constant view of the refrigerator. However, it’s possible he was either followed into his apartment or that someone pushed in behind him.

Shiro said Lynch had mounting medical problems. He noted that 10 days before Lynch was killed, he noticed the home health-care workers “frantic” outside Lynch’s door. Apparently dehydrated, Lynch was rushed to the emergency room.

Shiro said a neighbor once told him Lynch had been married and that his ex-wife lives nearby in the neighborhood. However, another neighbor thought Lynch was not divorced but estranged.

“He was a very, quiet, private man, always dressed beautifully,” said the woman, requesting anonymity. “Even to go out shopping, he would wear a suit and tie. He told me he had mixed with Jack Parr and the people at NBC at Hurley’s.” She recalled seeing Lynch at C.V.B.A. meetings. “He was very concerned about the Village. He just listened, but never expressed that many opinions.”

A resident of the block 40 years, the woman said the neighborhood has gone downhill. “You go to Sixth Ave. between Carmine St. and W. Fourth St., where the Waverly movie theater used to be, you see five porno and tattoo parlors. We had a luncheonette on that block, an electrical supply shop, a wonderful men’s tailor shop, a family grocery shop.”

An N.Y.U. student who has lived across the way at 11 Jones St. for three years feels the street is a bit sketchy at night. “There’s a lot of small-time drug stuff — crack heads — but nothing really violent,” he said. “There’s a lot of pot smoking on stoops. People come here from Washington Sq. and hang out.”

Tenants of 8 Jones say there has been a rash of burglaries on the block the past two months, including one case where burglars posing as moving men hit eight apartments in one building.

“Our block’s very quiet, but it’s in the middle of a busy neighborhood,” noted Shiro. “Bleecker and W. Fourth St. have thousands of people. At any given time our street will have like 10 people.”

C.V.B.A. co-founder Zimmer called Lynch “a very loyal member” of the block association, which covers Jones, Cornelia and Barrow Sts. Lynch had attended meetings since the organization’s start-up five years ago until September, when he broke his shoulder.

“He used it as a social outlet,” Zimmer said. “I tried to check up on older members to see if they were O.K., but he wouldn’t give me his phone number. He would just say to us that he was grateful for what we were doing for the neighborhood’s quality of life…. It really hit hard when I had to delete his name from the membership list.”

C.V.B.A. would like to contact Lynch’s family members if he has any, Zimmer said. They’re assuming Lynch is Catholic and would like to have a service for him, probably at Our Lady of Pompei.

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