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Maspeth faces uptick in crime

By Gabriel Rom

The Dec. 30 shooting of basketball player Cleanthony Early and subsequent violence have brought some unwelcome attention to the normally quiet neighborhood of Maspeth.

Early, a forward for the New York Knicks, was ambushed in his Uber by three cars filled with thugs after he left CityScapes, a strip club on 58th Street in Maspeth’s industrial no-man’s land. A day later the club was firebombed by unknown assailants.

Residents and lawmakers say that while they believe the neighborhood is safe, they have had enough mayhem.

“The recent incidents of violence at CityScapes are deeply troubling,” Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) said. “This type of establishment is not in the character of Maspeth and should close its doors. I will continue to work with the NYPD and community leaders to make sure there is greater surveillance and that no illegal activity happens there.”

As Early left the club with a female companion, a group of six of men swarmed his Uber cab, stealing thousands from him in jewelry, a gold tooth grill and a cellphone, police said. Then one of the gang shot him in the right kneecap, an NYPD spokesman said.

After the shooting, Early’s Uber driver scrambled down a residential street near the club, calling for aid for his bleeding passenger.

EMS workers arrived on the scene, and rushed Early to Elmhurst Hospital. He was soon transferred to New York–Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, where he was listed in stable condition. Early is out of the hospital and visited the Knicks’ Monday practice.

“The club isn’t too close to us, but they came in our direction,” said David Upton who lives on the street where Early’s driver sought help.

“This is normally a good neighborhood, a quiet neighborhood,” he added, peering out at the media vans in front of his porch last week. “Knock on wood, though.”

Police had made no arrests in either incident as of Wednesday and the investigations were ongoing. But a report in the New York Post said the robbery, shooting and firebombing may be linked to three other recent assaults of men leaving strip clubs in Queens and Brooklyn.

Since the beginning of December houses on 74th Street, 57th Road and 66th Street in Maspeth have all been burglarized. On Monday an arsonist attempted to burn down Grand Avenue Pet Shop in Maspeth. Police said there is no relation between the crimes with Early’s robbery.

State Assemblywoman Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) plans to meet next week with 104th Precinct Capt. Mark Wachter to address the uptick in crime, according to a Michael Armstrong, her spokesman. “Something curious seems to be going on,” he said.

Wachter has taken note of the crimes.

“We have seen a rise in residential burgs in the area,” he wrote in a letter Wednesday to the Communities of Maspeth & Elmhurst Together civic group.

Wachter advised residents to keep their security cameras on at all times and to put their valuables in a safe.

“It’s all just shocking,” said Louise Murnen, who has lived in Maspeth for over 50 years. “Any type of crime here is shocking.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at grom@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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