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March 31, 2012


A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.

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March 31, 2012

The South Pearl Street Memorials

After decades of deliberate neglect the authorities confront gun violence and the entire South End is rocked

[*Update*As this article was about to be posted, the authorities carried out another military assault against the Albany gangs, including in the South End. Apparently this “drug ring” was tied to the Bloods, but it was dubbed “Operation OGK.”. Of the 52 suspects arrested, 31 of them did not even live in the City of Albany. Many reside in the suburbs of Albany, two of the suspects are from Vermont.

DA David Soares Confronts The Community On March 29
DA David Soares Confronts The Community On March 29

If most of those 52 arrested are natives of Albany then at least half of them were doing what plenty of other native Albanians have done over the years. They abandoned their City and moved to the suburbs. But like the other suburbanites who moved out of Albany these drug dealers continued to commute daily to the City to earn a living, and then they drove their vehicles home at night to the suburbs where they paid their taxes.

For the preceding week or so I'd been hearing rumors of something big about to go down. A community dialogue about police relations sponsored by the Albany Common Council that was scheduled a few days before this latest assault action was abruptly canceled without explanation. “We’re waiting for things to calm down,” I was told by several informed persons who would not explain what that was supposed to mean.

A week later the community dialogue took place with Albany County District Attorney David Soares, but the main issue on the table was the police shooting of Nahcream Moore at the end of December. The encounter showed how deeply the community distrusts the police, a distrust that until recently the police have worked hard to earn.

The latest raid barely came up as a topic, nor did the shocking police coverup of the racist murder of Travon Martin down in Florida. But you know these things were on everyone’s minds.

Attorney General Schneiderman's Flow Chart Of The Arrested Suspects
Attorney General Schneiderman's Flow Chart Of The Arrested Suspects

Is this latest assault any different from the so-called OGK raid in 2009, or the wider “Operation Blood Trail” raid in 2010? Those hit and run raids had little positive effect on the community except to lock up what were seen by many in the community to be some of their most successful youth.

Clearly this latest attack was planned for some time. We will see how the neighbors react to this, and we will see if this assault does any good. Of course if the drug problem were treated the same way as the alcohol problem then there wouldn’t be any drug gangs to assault. But as we all know, common sense is off the table.]


On a cold sunny afternoon in the middle of January I went looking for the then new sidewalk memorial on South Pearl Street dedicated to Nahcream Moore. You might recall that Nahcream was a 19 year old kid who managed to get himself shot and killed by the Albany Police at the end of December. The kid had a unique name that stays in the mind, but I understand a lot of people called him “Ready.”

Actually, I went to visit the wrong memorial on South Pearl. I wasn’t until a week ago that someone set me straight, so the other day I checked out the correct less spectacular memorial up the street. So now I can report that as of the end of March the memorial to Nahcream is well maintained, it looks like several someones care.

Nahcream Moore Memorial On S. Pearl
Nahcream Moore Memorial On S. Pearl

I’ve been talking to some folks who knew Nahcream, he was a bad-ass dude who had learned to deal with conflicts by reacting with violence. They say when he was younger he was a shy kid who got picked on a lot. “Then one day,” a fellow who watched him grow up told me, “he found out that he could stop it by acting tough.” After that he had one solution to all problems.

Sure enough, when the cops came to check out the car sitting in front of a bar on South Pearl, Nahcreem reacted the way he always did and pulled a gun. The first cop who saw the gun pumped three bullets into Nahcream. Apparently no one had told Nahcreem that the tactics that one uses to deal with the kind of dirtballs who pick on shy young kids for fun are not appropriate tactics for dealing with the police.

Nahcream Moore
Nahcream Moore

19 year old Nahcream had a history of gun offenses, he was on parole at the time of his death. He was wanted at the time as the prime suspect for a house invasion and assault of one of his neighbors on nearby Alexander Street, an act which shows that he had been giving little consideration for the neighborhood or for his own future. The cops were looking for him and that’s why they were approaching the car, and that’s why they were alert and shot first.

The incident played in the corporate media as just another standard Horrible Animalistic Black Gangs Are Shooting Each Other in That Hell Hole Called Albany story that is immediately forgotten like all the rest of the too quick to catch negative stories about Albany. And yeah, on the surface it sure looked like that. Careful presentation of stories like that keeps the real estate prices low in my neighborhood.

But this shooting did not disappear like all the rest. Almost instantly a crowd of South End neighbors rose up and accused the police of gunning down Nahcream without provocation. Folks were reacting to the statements of a woman who was present during the shooting who made the incident sound like a racist ambush of a defenseless kid. Apparently she was present but not too observant.

Accustomed To Police Lies, Community Members Confront Chief Krokoff
Accustomed To Police Lies,
Community Members Confront Chief Krokoff

I was astonished by this sudden community outpouring of rage at this shooting. I personally know some of these outraged people as sober minded individuals who normally do not fly off the handle at every opportunity. When I first heard of the public confrontation with police Chief Krokoff, I sat for a few minutes trying to imagine some of the people I know acting up like that. It was a stretch. Obviously there is more than meets the eye going on here.

But then again, sometime around the turn of the century I myself had learned not to trust anything that came out of an Albany Police Officer’s mouth. In fact, at that time I astonished myself by not being able to recall one single example of an Albany cop telling me the truth about anything! Such things have changed much for the better since 2009, but I can hardly condemn my neighbors for not trusting the police.

Of course the confrontation also attracted some noisy fools and tools. I cringed as I watched the clip of Common Council member Lester Freeman carrying on for the TV cameras, basking in the attention. Once again watching a Lester performance made me feel embarrassed for all of humanity. Lester has a way of doing that.

Nahcream's .22 Pistol, Did He Seriously Think He Could Outgun The Cops with That?
Nahcream's .22 Pistol, Did He Seriously Think He Could
Outgun The Cops with That?

Undeniably, Nahcream was part of the Gun Violence Problem in the South End that everyone is talking about. Also, undeniably, the police were doing exactly what they are supposed to do and are expected to do when they approached the car, and when they shot him. They are supposed to get the guns off the streets and rein in the gunslingers. If the police don’t do it then nobody will.

That, you see, is at the heart of the problem. For decades the Albany Police didn’t do anything that they were supposed to do. They didn’t show up when people called them for help. They did not investigate crimes. With the encouragement of City Hall they imposed strict Denial of Service on downtown Albany and as a result much of the South End descended into lawlessness and economic ruin.

*Update* According to the Hearst Times Union, Denial of Service is the City of Albany is far from over. Looks like I'm engaging in sunny optimistic wishful thinking again.

Denial of Service by the police was not at all exclusively racial, although race played a big part in their policy. For many years absolutely nobody in the South End had police protection, except of course the politicians and certain political favorites. In the middle of Mayor Jerry Jennings’ first term in the 1990s I learned to stop telling crackheads and vandals that I was going to call the police, I got tired of their laughter. (“Go ahead and call them, I’ll wait with you,” I was told by one crackhead.)

Taking Media Credit for The 2010 Raid
Taking Media Credit for The 2010 Raid

In the past, the only times that my black neighbors ever saw the police was when the cops were conducting military type assaults against the population, like the so-called OGK raid in 2009. This drug roundup was conducted like a military action against the enemy. The authorities saw this operation as an invasion of a foreign country, and as a result a lot of people in the South End felt like they had been attacked by a hostile foreign enemy.

Basically the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) showed up in town and told all the local police agencies to get in line and find for them a local easy target. The young drug entrepreneurs who worked around Third and Clinton Streets were chosen probably because they were complacent and did not expect to see any police ever. (They’d never seen any, so why would that change?)

Well, I wrote about the raid, basically saying it’s good the cops are finally responding and doing something. I was shocked by the negative reaction. Several people got into my face. And the article got some negative comments, like from Angry MoM:

Mayor Jennings you are proud of taking peoples kids and locking them up like animals just to prove a point around election time! again! come on Mayor Jennings! Where the hell are your morals? These freaking kid have families- You guys set these boys up...they grew up together- where else would they hang out? What have you done to show any support for them? I dont remember ever! You or any other of your proud assts helping these guys- i dont condone the actions of any crimes-but Gotti-Mafia Conspirarcy???? MY son has a college degree and now you got him listed as a MOBSTER????? Mayor Jennings I had a lot of respect for you. We were buddies.... But now you are trying to take my SON from his brothers-sisters-family and HIs children---- That aint good!!!!

“You guys set these boys up . . . ” Well, Angry MoM sure made me think. Perhaps, once again as usual, the authorities and the corporate media are full of crap made for consumption? Could it be that the 2009 OGK raid was more of the same crap, designed to harvest bodies for the prisons and designed to not fix the problems?

Davina 'Shacreama' Woodard, Nahcream Moore's Mother
Davina 'Shacreama' Woodard, Nahcream Moore's Mother

Well, that’s approximately what many of my black neighbors think. Hell’s bells, is there even such a thing as the OGK, supposedly Original Gangsta Killas or something like that? I’d never heard of them before the raid except for a mysterious scrawl on a boarded up building. I’ve come to suspect that the federal cops invented OGK so they could claim a conspiracy and use RICO.

And really, how are the drug dealers any different from the slumlords and the charter school corporations? All three are exploiting the community and degrading it for personal monetary gain. Isn’t destroying a community and keeping it ruined what Mitt Romney calls “creative destruction?” As the local folks see it, at least the drug dealers are from us.

The difference is that the dealers have guns and are willing to use them on their own community. The slumlords and the Charter Schools can rely on police guns to defend their operations and defend their turf. Those guys don’t have to pack.

Since September of 2009 the Albany Police have been under a new, much more responsible regime. The useless old Baby Boomers who imposed Denial of Service on downtown Albany are no longer in charge of the department. The new regime is confronting gun violence in the South End like they are supposed to. So why is the community angry at the cops for finally doing their job?

The problem is that the problem has gone on too long. After the Albany Police and City Hall abandoned the South End decades ago (other than to collect taxes) the neighborhoods were left with an administrative vacuum which was filled by the only authority available, the drug dealers. And the drug dealers, for the most part, have been the grown children of the most respectable members of the community... which is exactly what happens in the suburbs.

Crossgates Mall Parking Lot
Crossgates Mall Parking Lot

But out in the suburbs the grown kids of respectable adults do not have to patrol the streets to defend their drug dealing turf. After all, there aren’t any streets to patrol in the suburbs other than the parking lot at Crossgates Mall where all the heroin deals go down. (Source: numerous articles in the Altamont Enterprise.) The suburban kids are able to keep their dealing low key and invisible. And when they get caught the cops treat them carefully because their parents can afford plenty of effective lawyers.

I’ve seen the stark difference in police attitude towards drug offenders urban and suburban, so have my black neighbors. They have seen that a white drug dealing kid in the suburbs never needs to shoot a gun at the cops. What’s the worst that could happen if he gets arrested for drugs? His parents will be royally pissed, he’ll have to feed an apologetic line to some judge, followed by community service or maybe a few weekends in jail.

After you look at this stuff for a while and make comparisons, you start to see that the problem is not the drugs, nor is it gangs. Who cares if you hang with your homes on the corner, how is it my concern if you sell and use drugs? It's not even the easy availability of guns that's the problem. The big problem that destroys communities is the nurturing of conditions that create people who are willing to use the guns on their own neighbors.

I’m sure as hell not making excuses for Nahcream, but when the cops approached that car on South Pearl he must have seen the end of his life approaching. Maybe a lifetime of watching TV had taught him the desirability of going out in a blaze of glory. Or what was most likely is that the 19 year old had never thought this out and simply did what he was used to doing. After all, he was on his own.

Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin And Police Chief Krokoff Face The Angry Crowd
Common Council President Carolyn McLaughlin And
Police Chief Krokoff Face The Angry Crowd

Police Chief Krokoff has taken on the thankless job of reestablishing order in the South End. The ending of Denial of Service means that he has to send the regular cops into the South End to confront the gunslingers for the first time. This inevitably means gun battles, and inevitably there will be deaths.

But Chief Krokoff has to face a lot of unpopularity for doing his job properly, it’s easy to see why his predecessors refused to reestablish order in the South End. The regular cops are not happy with this assignment. As the TV “news” shows are fond of repeating, this makes the Chief unpopular inside the department.

Mayor Jerry Jennings hates Chief Krokoff because he ended Denial of Service. Neighborhood activists who have enthusiastically supported the Chief are now paralyzed with ambiguity after the unnecessary sneaky attack against Occupy Albany on December 22. And now the very people that the Chief is trying to “serve and protect” in the South End are angry with him for doing exactly what they’ve been demanding, get the guns off the streets.

And finally, Chief Krokoff has to deal with serious pressure from bigger authorities from both the State and from the feds. These big boys tend to see all of us taxpaying citizens as The Enemy that can vote them out of their cushy jobs, so they fear us and hate us. From their self-serving point of view it makes sense to encourage the local cops to carry out a ground war against the population.

Wilie White Pepper Sprayed By Police At The Occupy Encampment Last December 22.  The Same Day Metroland Featured Mr. White On It's Cover As "Local Hero" Of The Year
Willie White Pepper Sprayed By Police At The Occupy Encampment Last December 22. The Same Day Metroland Featured Mr. White On It's Cover As "Local Hero" Of The Year

We saw this pressure from above during the December attack against Occupy Albany. I’ve been told by multiple sources that Mayor Jennings pressured Chief Krokoff every single day of the Occupation last Fall to conduct an assault on the encampment. His Majesty, in turn, was under tremendous pressure from Governor Cuomo to use the City police to attack without provocation.

The Occupy encampment was a high level crisis because it involved white middle class people and was highly visible. It was also making highly visible the obvious gross shortcomings of both the Jennings and Cuomo administrations, the sort of nasty things people had learned to not talk about for fear of retaliation. Of course the Occupy encampment could not be tolerated.

It’s a wonder that Chief Krokoff resisted the pressure for so long, in the end he was forced to obey orders and do the wrong thing. Then again, one has to ask why Mayor Jennings didn’t simply order the Chief to attack the encampment early on. Perhaps Jennings Himself was so terrified by the encampment that He was rendered indecisive for a spell.

But the Chief is doing the right thing in the South End, or trying to. I suppose he can do that because the decades old crisis in the South End is much less visible and doesn’t involve too many outspoken white people. As a result, here in the South End he has more freedom to do police work as long as he doesn’t get into any confrontations with the big politicians.

South Pearl Street The Morning After, Pavement Markings Show Where Nahcream Was Killed
South Pearl Street The Morning After, Pavement Markings Show Where Nahcream Was Killed

Like I mentioned earlier, in the middle of January I went looking for the Nahcream memorial and ended up in front of the wrong memorial, one that is located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and South Pearl. Last week a friend identified that one for me. “I noticed that memorial like three years ago,” she said. I felt like a ditz for not noticing something so obvious, made to be obvious.

My intention that afternoon was merely to photograph the light pole, but that became difficult. First a somewhat frail looking old man appeared from around the corner of the building and put the touch on me for a few bucks. As I am a hard hearted jerk I put on my polite stony face and fended him off.

No sooner did he slip back around the corner of the building then a woman appeared, she also tried to panhandle me. She was probably in her forties but she could pass for her late sixties. After I told her no, she looked so sad I thought she might start crying. But that wasn’t working so she also disappeared.

I started fiddling with my camera looking for a good shot when a young fellow opened the door of the corner store behind me. He froze, stared at me with alarm, and said “Oh!” Then he popped back inside.

A moment later a somewhat older young fellow came out. He was all business. “Hey what’s up, what are you doing?” A couple of other fellows looked out the door behind him and regarded me critically.

I expected something like this so I wasn’t surprised. The kids who patrolled this piece of the neighborhood were all inside the shop, it was rather cold. I put on my serious face and told him I lived nearby, I’m concerned about gun and police issues in my neighborhood, I write a blog about the South End, and I wanted some pictures for my blog article.

I’ve found that telling the straight truth works best in such situations. Basically I was conveying to this guy that I’m not a tourist or a cop, I live in the South End up the street, and I have a legitimate reason for taking these pictures... in the wake of the shooting of Nahcream. He looked puzzled at that last comment. But I didn’t challenge his right to question me, so after a bit he said “all right” and went back inside. I took my pictures.

The Light Pole At South Pearl Street And Fourth Avenue
The Light Pole At South Pearl Street And Fourth Avenue

I’ve been told that light pole is maintained by the Crips. That’s what I’ve been told, I don’t know for sure. In fact I’ve been impressed by how many people know nothing about something so obvious.

As far as I understand, the decorated light pole is their banner, their stake on the main avenue, the announcement to the world who is in charge down around there. No one I talked had any idea for whom it was a memorial other than it is a memorial for someone, presumably a late lamented Crip. Even the cops don’t mess with it.

[*Update* A commenter below pointed out that this memorial dates to a shooting in early November 2011, and according to the media the fellow shot was probably associated with the Bloods. So I've got a lot to learn about this street corner.]

Apparently this light pole appears to be their center of power in the neighborhood. That’s why the two panhandlers practically jumped me as soon as I arrived. Both of them were weak helpless people, they hanged close to the center of power for protection. And they knew they had little to fear from a nondescript white guy who had no obvious business on that street corner.

I’m sure the young guys who hang there would not tolerate someone picking on the frail panhandlers, not in front of them at any rate. I’ve heard these guys consider themselves protectors of the neighborhood, that’s not unusual. In the absence of the police someone assumes the role of protector whether they want to do so or not. If you’re the most powerful the weak look to you for protection, even if you’re just a bunch of teenage kids stranded on the street.

Nahcream Moore Memorial In Late March
Nahcream Moore Memorial In Late March

Nahcream was not one of these guys, he just happened to die down the street from their corner. From what I’ve heard about him, he could never have fit in with a street corner gang. He probably would have attracted the wrong kind of attention wherever he landed, which would make him undesirable as a member.

That is what amazes me about this group of kids hanging on this corner with their light pole banner. They’ve staked their claim for years, yet they remain practically invisible. I guess invisibility is part of survival. Most people who pass by their corner have never noticed them, and those few who notice don’t seem to want to talk about them.

Silence is like that. These kids on the corner were born invisible, they were confined to an invisible community that is slowly being destroyed by the government, and they’ve been looking forward to a short invisible lifetime. So when they banded together to stake a claim to a part of the half abandoned main avenue, they remained invisible. That’s what they know.

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If you are having difficulties posting a comment, please email Daniel Van Riper. We are experimenting with our spam filters, and we do not want to exclude any legitimate commenters, just spammers!

Posted by:Luci Mcknight, Legislator
Posted on:04/01/2012
Well, Dan you pulled together a pretty good snapshot of my South-End Legislative District. A glance at a broke and flawed neighborhood. Great research on these issues. It is so complex that ones mind is constantly racing attempting to figure out. What's next--"how to stop the madness in my community?"

Often as a Politician you hear folks say "that once elected, you never hear from them any more". I know for a fact that you can bear witness to my total committment with this community on all levels of governing and neighborhood concerns.

I live and own property in the South-End, graduated from Philip Schyler HS on Trinity Place and represent this community on the Albany County Legislature. I am not an employee of the City of Albany -- yet I work on many initatives with the administration and the Mayor.

I work with and support all Law Enforcement in the neighborhood, the Albany Co. Sheriff's Dept/County Jail,the County Youth Detention Center. The DA's work with my County Mental Health Dept on the Re-Entry program for ex-offenders and the joint program Operation Impact with NYS, Federal, County and City Police.

My position on the Albany County Youth Board as their Chair for 10 years, gives me an opportunity to address Camps and After School Programs in the area. Most of my efforts will continue to focus mainly on crime prevention, not incarceration but I must remind all youth that NYS and Federal Parole and Albany County Probation is serious business. Parents must use the PINS program in Family Court when the family have a crisis or the Alternative Police Court Programs. I would rather see them at a Albany City Police Court Graduation, than at the Youth Detention Center in Colonie or a memorial service in the community.

Providing quality service is what I do and will continue with your support. I hope that you have my back. Even though my community is not the best, It is still mine and I like it! Stay in touch. Luci

Posted by:gh
Posted on:04/01/2012
Dan, you've outdone yourself. I'm always impressed by how you are able to convey complex, important ideas in such human terms.

Posted by:jg
Posted on:04/01/2012
The memorial at Fourth and Pearl is for Richard Gibbs who was shot and killed November 29, 2011.

The TU story on the latest OGK raid indicates that had Mr. Gibbs still been with us, he would have been arrested in that operation.

Posted by:Dan Van Riper
Posted on:04/02/2012
jg - Thanks for pointing that out. If it had occurred to me to put into google the keywords "albany fourth avenue south pearl" I would have found this for myself. I'm still wondering how I missed that shooting.

Posted by:Some Guy
Posted on:04/03/2012
The issue here is that poorer communities in general (and the black community in Albany in particular) have a completely different worldview than the mostly white mainstream/middle class that the media represents.

We have these "good kids" who are carrying guns, selling drugs and burglarizing homes in the community. The same community rallying in support of a kid who pulled a gun. To the rest of society, that's pretty much the opposite of a "good kid".

You do a great job at capturing the local perspective on a number of issues. But you miss that these issues are far beyond Albany -- the city administration is a bit player. The dependent subclass of people in this country is a creation of the Federal version of bread & circuses. Take a ride up New Scotland or Western Avenues, and you're in America. Head up Clinton or Pearl, and you're in a third world where young mothers raise dysfunctional families, and men are marginalized or rendered surplus by their petty (or not so petty) criminal records.

Posted by:Dan Van Riper
Posted on:04/03/2012
Some Guy-

You say the South End of Albany is not part of the United States, and that the people who live here are not Americans.

Unbelievable. Un freakin' believable.


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