Mott Creek Rocked By Explosive Devices, ‘Racist’ Graffiti
By Miriam Rosenberg
The police discovered what appeared to be two homemade explosive devices in a backyard on the corner of Beach 4 Street and Seagirt Avenue.
A police source told The Wave they were not sure that the devices were actually Molotov cocktails.
“There was no gasoline inside,” said the source, who asked not to be identified. “It had the aroma of gasoline, but they are still being analyzed.”
While police have no suspects, some residents have their own theories.
Mott Creek has been in the news recently over the issue of downzoning the area to stop what residents thought was overbuilding. The residents fought for, and won, downzoning in the city council.
Developers charged that anti-Semitism drove the downzoning resolution.
“I think it [may have been] set up by the developers to make people think we are against them,” said Tracy Conroy, one of the residents involved in the downzoning fight.
“Thank God my children were in school and didn’t have to see it,” she continued. “It was an alley way away from my house. What if they decided to put them next to my house.”
Joseph Guzzo, who lives on the opposite end of Beach 4 Street from where the bottles were discovered, told Newsday he believed the bottles were meant for him.
“They could have been. I don’t think we’ll ever know,” Guzzo told The Wave, seeming to back off his original comment.
It was at Guzzo’s house that an approximately two-foot high Jewish Star with the letters ‘J’ and ‘P’ was painted on his fence at about 1 a.m. on Friday morning.
According to the police, Guzzo’s wife – Carol LeMay (who is Jewish) noticed activity, via a closed circuit surveillance system, at the front fence of their property. Reportedly, Guzzo saw the vandals run north on Beach 4 Street. He could not give exact descriptions of the two men except to say he believed they were white.
The hate crime task force found a can of white paint at the scene and took possession of the videotape (although the quality was described as poor).
Guzzo says the previous night the same fence was rammed into by a car. An incident he also has on tape.
Guzzo, an attorney, says over the years he has been the target of several incidents.
“It dates back to sometime in July 2001 when there was a block party here,” he said, referring to a July 4 celebration. “There were fireworks in front of my house – pointed to my house that set the trees on fire.
He also said there have been hate notes and other vandalism. Including a large swastika painted on his fence.
To the dismay of other residents, he has refused to remove the swastika saying he was advised to preserve it as evidence in an ongoing investigation that he was not at liberty to discuss.
“Why doesn’t he just take a picture and remove it,” said an angry Conroy. “It’s all over the Internet.”
Guzzo’s neighbors believe he is the troublemaker. About seven years ago, Conroy said, Guzzo tried to have the beach on Beach 4 Street closed by calling child welfare.
“We do not have lifeguards on the Beach, and he took it upon himself to report that families on the block let their children go to the beach unattended,” said Conroy, “He told them he had tapes of children on the beach by themselves.”
For Conroy it was a personal insult since hers was one of two families that had children on the block at that time.
When her children were on the beach “I was out of view on the bench,” she said.
Residents also found it strange when a neighbor’s son was prevented from using a hose to put out the fire the night of the fireworks incident.
Donald Murphy was arrested for painting over one of Guzzo’s surveillance lenses a few years back. Murphy has denied any involvement in the current incidents and says that each time something new happens he immediately gets calls from the media.
“Because he bothered others on the block, I bothered him,” Murphy said, who explained he has paid dearly for the prank. “[Guzzo] has done a lot of weird things. Right now, on the block, he has legal problems with the Wagners, the Conroys, me….”
Guzzo’s security system, according to neighbors, includes an intercom system, cameras, bars on his windows and a padlock on this front fence.
“Why would anyone need that kind of protection in this neighborhood?” asked Murphy. “This was all up before he had any problems.”
Guzzo has tried to tie the incidents with his having black friends, as well as being friends with Jewish developers (who he feels have made the neighborhood look better and have built some very nice buildings). Residents say there are no underlying feelings, in their community, of hate toward blacks or Jews.
Conroy pointed out that Mott Creek has a diverse population made up of Puerto Ricans, Jews and people from the Caribbean.
Developers had very little to say on the incidents.
Michael Stern, who owns the land on which the bottles were found, had no comment. Matt Probkevitz, of EquiShares Real Estate, said, “I don’t know what to make of it. It doesn’t make sense. What’s done is done.”
Conroy said, “From the get-go we had a nice, quiet, quaint neighborhood. Hopefully, if developed properly, it will stay that way. If all the nonsense stops.”