Brooklyn subway attack shocks neighborhood, a hub for working-class immigrants: ‘Nothing like this happens here’

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

Moreno, 57, lived in the diverse Brooklyn neighborhood for 17 years before moving to Bensonhurst and said it had always been a quiet area until Tuesday, when multiple people were shot and several “undetonated devices” were found at the station.

“Nothing like this happens here,” said Moreno, who moved from Mexico to the U.S. in 1990. “I feel lost and scared.”

Investigators surrounded the station at 36th Street and 4th Avenue, and advised residents to avoid the area as they searched for the gas-mask wearing gunman. At least 10 people were shot and at least 19 others were taken to local hospitals for injuries ranging from smoke inhalation to shrapnel wounds.
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Meanwhile, Ilsel Garcia, 27, watched as helicopters idled above the park for which the New York City neighborhood is named from her corner store, Tortilleria La Malinche. She worried about crime in the neighborhood where she grew up — same one that she and her husband now live in. She said the community is tight-knit, made of many families moving from the same towns in their home countries like Mexico, Puerto Rico, or other parts of Latin America.
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“One more day,” she said in Spanish, a phrase ushered by many customers, in front of her store, which had fruits and vegetables that stretched onto the street underneath a deep blue awning. “They’re just thankful for another day.”

If Cesar Zuñiga and his family hadn’t been out of town, his son likely would’ve been at the station on his way to school at the time of the shooting. Zuñiga, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2009, said he was “horrified” when he first got a call about the shooting.

“Everyone is just kind of in a state of shock, honestly, and just really concerned to make sure that folks are accounted for,” said Zuñiga, chairperson of Brooklyn Community Board 7.

Zuñiga said while the stop can be busy, it’s too soon to know why someone would target the area. Many on socialmedia have noted that the area impacted by the shooting is a longtime hub for working-class immigrants. The station is a transit hub for predominantly immigrant, low-income neighborhoods in South Brooklyn commuting into Manhattan.

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Rosario Moreno, 57, says she’s feeling lost after a shooting at a subway station in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood.

The neighborhood was once predominantly home to Scandinavian immigrants until people from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic began arriving prior to 1970 followed later by Mexicans and more Central Americans.

Chinese immigrants looking to settle and start businesses outside of the city’s crowded Chinatown began settling in the area during the late 1980s.. They often told newcomers from China taking the trains from Manhattan to get out at the “blue sky stop,” a reference to Sunset Park, where the subway lines emerged from tunnels into the open air.

Residents, including Zuñiga, say the area around the 36th Street Station is family-friendly and is now comprised mostly of Latino and Asian residents. In 2019, out of the more than 130,000 residents, nearly 35% of the population is Asian and another 35% identify as Hispanic, according to the latest demographic data available from the American Community Survey.

The median household income was slightly lower than the citywide 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 just feet away. The commercial and manufacturing hub of Industry City, as well as the Brooklyn Nets training center, are down the street. Nearby, the Green-Wood Cemetery, a National Historic Landmark, is a popular destination for views of lower Manhattan.

The working-class neighborhood is dotted with bodegas, small businesses, and warehouses. Business signs in Chinese, Spanish and English dot the landscape, such as Ideal Automotive and Top Taste Food warehouse.

“Overall, it’s a good community,” said 17-year-old Sunset Park High School student Ryan Morales, who was out walking his Golden Retriever puppy, Lio, in the park. “There’s always people that are willing to help you.”
Ryan Morales, 17, took his Golden Retriever puppy, Lio, on a walk in Sunset Park after the New York City subway shooting earlier in the morning of April 12, 2022.

The shooting comes as crime in the city’s sprawling subway system has ticked up in recent months. Transit crime was 68% higher in 2022 compared to the same period in 2021, NYPD statistics show. The subways have been a particular focus of Mayor Eric Adams, who released a safety plan earlier this year to lower crime.

The neighborhood’s Asian community, in particular, has felt the brunt of violent crime during the pandemic leading many to feel unsafe, Zuñiga said, adding that the area hasn’t experienced high-profile incidents of violence on public transit, like the recent death of Michelle Go.

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

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 riding the subway altogether because of the rise in crimes against Asians.

“There’s definitely a pattern of crime increasing day by day in the city,” he says. “There is a sense of unease all around.”

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Although community leaders are currently focused on getting more information about the incident, Zuñiga said he expects there will be an event to honor the victims soon.

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

Others in the community, like Moreno, are dealing with more immediate needs. With the subway closed, she’ll need to find a way back home.

This evening, she plans to walk down to 5th Avenue and try to take a bus back to her home. She said she will not be taking the subway for at least a week.

 

Source: USA TODAY

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