NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Manhattan residents are on high alert on the Lower East Side, saying an MTA construction project there has created a major hotspot for crime.
One violent incident was even caught on camera recently as residents are calling on the city to make a change.
Surveillance video shows a man repeatedly smashing glass windows with what appears to be a metal rod.
“He takes a weapon and smashes a hole in the plexiglass. Then gets so angry he can’t gain entrance he turns here, sees my general manager Sharon and is like pa, pa, pa, bashed in here too,” local business owner Rhonda Kave said.
The facade of Roni-Sue’s Chocolates on Forsyth Street ending up partially destroyed. This all happened on a Sunday evening a few weeks ago as the store was closing up.
“Sharon is screaming ‘Rhonda, Rhonda come up someone is smashing the window,’” Kave said.
“Five minutes later my general manager would’ve been outside with the gate down and nowhere to run because there’s no exit.”
That’s because now right outside is that fencing Kave tells CBS2 there have been many unsettling incidents in the last month and a half.
All of them taking place after the MTA installed the fence between Delancey and Rivington Streets.
“It’s really a bad situation, I don’t like it… I’m really uncomfortable about it,” Kave told CBS2’s Reena Roy.
“It’s hell, it’s hell, people are afraid to come out of their apartments, especially at night,” community activist Robert Humber said.
The MTA claimed this is all part of an emergency ventilation project for subway riders on the M line down below those streets. They added that the fencing is meant to shield people from any dust during construction.
Neighbors say the barrier is just a hotbed for suspicious behavior.
“I was worried it would become a place for people to hang out sleep possibly have sex… People have been shooting up drugs… There’s plenty of little vestibules and places to hide,” Kave explained.
“People are really afraid, several possible snatchings, a bike was robbed,” Humber added.
Every day it’s a different incident that’s happening.”
The MTA along with the NYPD and community leaders have met with residents six times in the last few months to address concerns.
MTA officials say they are working with Con Edison to install lighting in the area in hopes of deterring crime, but with the project expected to take several years to complete, people worry a simple light switch may not be enough.