Sunset Park, Brooklyn community tries to make sense of subway shooting

NEW YORK — When Rosario Moreno got off at Sunset Park station at 7 a.m. Tuesday to go to the laundromat where she’s worked for 11 years, it was like any other morning.

Moreno, 57, described the area as calm until later in the morning, when several people were shot and several “unexploded devices” were found at the subway station.

“Nothing like that happens here,” said Moreno, who lived in the diverse, working-class neighborhood for 17 years before recently moving to Bensonhurst. She is originally from Mexico. “I feel lost and scared.”

Brooklyn borough residents expressed shock and sadness Tuesday after learning of the attack near the Sunset Park subway station, a hub for immigrant-dominated, low-income neighborhoods traveling to Manhattan.

On Tuesday, investigators surrounded the 36th Street and 4th Avenue train station and advised residents to avoid the area as they searched for an armed man wearing a gas mask. At least 10 people were shot and at least 19 others were taken to local hospitals for injuries including smoke inhalation and shrapnel.

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Meanwhile, Ilsel Garcia, 27, watched from her convenience store, Tortilleria La Malinche, as helicopters idled over a nearby park. She said the community is tight-knit, made up of many families who moved from the same towns in Mexico, Puerto Rico or other parts of Latin America.

“Un día más,” she said, repeating a phrase many of her clients tell her, which means “one more day” in Spanish. She stood in front of her store, where fruit and vegetables spread out into the street under a deep blue awning. “They’re just grateful for another day.”

If Cesar Zuñiga, 49, and his family hadn’t been out of town on Tuesday, he told USA TODAY, his 12-year-old son Javier would likely have been at the train station on his way at school at the time of the shooting. . Zuñiga, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2009, said he was “horrified” when he first received a call about the attack.

“Honestly, everyone is a bit in shock, and really concerned about making sure people are taken care of,” said Zuñiga, president of Brooklyn Community Board 7.

The Sunset Park neighborhood

Sunset Park is full of bodegas, small businesses and warehouses. Commercial signs in Chinese, Spanish and English dot the landscape.

The neighborhood was once home to mostly Scandinavian immigrants until residents of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic started to arrive, later followed by Mexicans and more Central America.

Chinese immigrants seeking to settle and establish businesses outside of the city’s crowded Chinatown began settling in the area in the late 1980s. They would often tell Chinese newcomers taking trains from Manhattan to get off at the “blue sky stop”, a reference to Sunset Park, where the subway lines came out of tunnels in the open air.

Residents, including Zuñiga, say the area around the 36th Street train station is family-friendly and is now made up mostly of Latino and Asian residents. In 2019, more than 130,000 people lived in the area; nearly 35% of the population was Asian and 35% identified as Hispanic, according to the latest demographic data available from the American Community Survey.

The median household income was slightly lower than the city average, while the poverty rate was slightly higher. The neighborhood is one of 17 that is gentrifying, according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

There are several schools within a few blocks of the station, including a high school 250 feet away. The Industry City shopping and manufacturing hub, as well as the Brooklyn Nets training facility, is down the street. Nearby Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, is a popular destination for its views of lower Manhattan.

“Overall it’s a good community,” said Ryan Morales, a 17-year-old college student who lives in Sunset Park and was walking his Golden Retriever puppy, Lio, on Tuesday. “There are always people who are ready to help you.”

Ryan Morales, 17, took his Golden Retriever puppy, Lio, for a walk in Sunset Park after the New York City subway shooting earlier in the morning of April 12, 2022.

“A real conversation about public safety”

The city’s sprawling subway system has seen an increase in crime in recent months. Transit-related crime was 68% higher in 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, NYPD statistics show it. Subways have been the focus of special attention from Mayor Eric Adams, who published a security plan earlier this year to reduce crime.

The neighborhood’s Asian community, in particular, has felt the brunt of violent crime during the pandemic, which has led many to feel unsafe, Zuñiga said, adding that the area has seen very violent incidents. publicized in public transport, such as the recent death of michelle go.

Still, he said the community needs to “have a real conversation about public safety.”

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Pedestrians walk in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, April 12, 2022. After a gunman shot and killed ten people in a subway car at a neighborhood subway station during the morning rush hour, activity normal resumed in the afternoon.

John Chiu, who works in sales at Grand Kitchen Design just around the corner from the Sunset Park subway station, said he knows many people who have stopped taking the subway because of the increase in crimes against Asians .

“There is a sense of unease everywhere,” he said.

On Wednesday, community leaders focused on getting more information about the shooter and the attack. A suspect has been identified but no arrests have been made and police have not released information on a possible motive.

Zuñiga said he expects there will be an event soon to honor the victims.

“We are going to come together as a community, to show our resilience, to show our support for the victims,” he said. “I have no doubt that we will.”

Others in the community, like Moreno, face more immediate needs. The metro being closed, she will have to find a way to return home.

Tuesday night, she planned to walk 10 minutes to 5th Avenue to catch a bus. She said she wouldn’t take the subway for at least a week.

‘A QUESTION THAT CAN TAKE TIME’:The Brooklyn subway shooting is not being investigated as terrorism “at this time”. Here’s why.

Contributors: Ryan W. Miller, Kevin McCoy, Kevin Johnson, Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy and Gabriela Miranda, USA TODAY; Mary Chao 趙慶華, Bergen Record; The Associated Press

Contact Breaking News reporter N’dea Yancey-Bragg at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @NdeaYanceyBragg. Eduardo Cuevas covers diversity, equity and inclusion in Westchester and Rockland counties. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @eduardomcuevas.

Tasy Hernandez works at Fenix ​​Deli and Grocery on Fourth Ave.  in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn on April 12, 2022. The grocery store is two blocks from the subway station where ten people were shot during the morning rush hour.

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