Pubdate: Mon, 28 Jan 2008
Source: Newsday (NY)
Copyright: 2008 Newsday Inc.
Authors: Nia-Malika Henderson and Michael Frazier


Every time Harold Humdy Sr. leaves his Hempstead apartment complex 
for work or for a trip to the store, he walks past the spot where his 
only son and namesake was gunned down.

Known as "Hen-Rock" around the neighborhood, Harold Humdy Jr., 23, 
was a convicted drug dealer known to treat kids on Terrace Avenue to 
ice cream on hot summer days. In April 2004, he was shot once in the 
back during an afternoon robbery as he stood on the corner.

"I was sleeping and dreamed my son had been shot," Humdy, 59, said. 
"When I awoke, someone told me he was. I thought I was still dreaming."

Humdy's pain, and his memory of loss, is a shared one, as violence is 
a part of the collective fabric of Terrace Avenue.

"You can't live on Terrace and say you haven't been affected by 
violence," said Barry Johnson, 21, who lives at 100 Terrace Ave. "My 
father was shot [and killed] in the building when I was 2. I saw my 
friend get killed. Living on Terrace, you feel like you've lived a long time."

They've lived a long time with violent crime, an inevitable byproduct 
of the crack trade that exploded in the 1980s. Earlier this month, 
Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice offered the Terrace Bedell 
Initiative to eradicate the drug market for good. The program, which 
offers nonviolent drug dealers a one-time pass if they go straight, 
has had an immediate effect and residents almost invariably support 
it, along with other initiatives that have improved the area and 
lowered some crimes in recent years. Still, neighbors used to 
short-term fixes are wary of saying their problems are solved. 
Residents - who in years past nicknamed the block, between Jackson 
and Bedell streets, "Terror Avenue" - speak of the past with 
exasperated weariness and the future with guarded hope.

"So much has happened. ... We had three people that were buried right 
next to each other, like they died one right after the other," said 
Inez Dingle, president of the Progressive Tenants Association. "But a 
lot of that stuff, I try not to even think back to; I blocked it out. 
It was happening so fast. .. I think the people are tired of the 
conditions and all the lives that have been messed up."

On that one block in the past five years, five people have been 
killed on Terrace Avenue, according to Village of Hempstead 
statistics. Over the same period on that same block, there were 55 
robberies and 88 assaults. Since 2005, most major crimes are down, 
though the street, just blocks from the Hempstead train station and 
downtown, has accounted for almost half the village's murders in some 
years and 15 percent of assaults in others.

The heart of the quarter-mile stretch is the six-story Jackson 
Terrace apartment complex, where Johnson, Humdy and some 1,500 other 
working-class residents, mostly women and children, live in 
subsidized apartments.

The 417-unit complex, with its green awnings and windows that 
overlook smaller apartment buildings near vacant lots, is just off a 
commercial strip, about a block from an African-American history museum.

When it opened in 1972, it was called The El Dorado. Then, 100 
Terrace Ave. was a prestigious address. Now, with its open air drug 
market, shootings and history of brazen homicides, it is an address 
synonymous with crime. Metal signs urging residents to "Help Fight 
the War Against Drugs" dot lampposts.

Police Officer Marlon Bottoms, a 12-year veteran of the Village of 
Hempstead Police Department, patrolled Terrace Avenue and is part of 
a recent effort to clean it up for good. He remembered the last 
moments of a dealer caught by the violence.

"Instead of him running from me, he needed me. I held his hand. He 
was gasping for air," he said. "Drug dealers don't see this side - 
what it is to be a victim. They're putting drugs in someone's system, 
selling it to kids and doing something that affects the whole community."

Jackson Terrace, an E-shaped building that fills the block, has three 
sections, 18 stairwells and covers 400,000 square feet. The Bedell 
Street side is closest to the center of drug activity. Rampant drug 
activity was once routine inside.

"I remember you couldn't go out without seeing people laying in 
doorways, just cracked out," said Danielle Lombardo, 23. "The drugs, 
the violence, the gunshots, the crackheads, I've seen it my entire life."

Lombardo listed four people she knew who were killed near 100 Terrace 
Ave., including Humdy Jr.

"They called me when I was on my way to the mall," she said. "They 
said, 'Hen-Rock just got shot and he's lying on the floor. We think 
he's dead.'"

"It was so scary, I wouldn't even go there to cop drugs," said Gina 
Grafton, a self-described former crack addict who now lives at 100 
Terrace Ave. "If I had to end up going there, I just wouldn't get 
high that night."

Tenants' Den Mother

Inside, low ceilings, narrow hallways and off-white walls give the 
complex a barren, stripped-down feel, even though it is at full occupancy.

Dingle, a registered nurse who acts as a den mother to tenants, has 
lived at 100 Terrace Ave. for almost three decades. She said her home 
has climbed peaks and plumbed valleys.

For years, the complex was poorly managed and fed-up residents formed 
the Progressive Tenants Association in the mid-1980s to push for 
changes, Dingle said. Heat and hot water worked off and on, there 
were no doorknobs, locks or insulation. And crack was king.

"There was a lot of drug dealing going on, there were frequent fires, 
the elevators were broken," said Peter Florey, the new owner, who 
began working in management at 100 Terrace Ave. in 1990. "It was in 
pretty bad shape and it had been written off by the community."

With $500,000 in federal grants, stronger doors, 30 cameras and a 
full-time security staff were put in place from 1999 to 2003. The 
property eventually changed hands and the steady complaints of 
tenants, who had taken to patrolling the building with baseball bats 
and screwdrivers, led to major changes.

Florey took over in December 2006 and invested $8 million. Cameras 
now number 220 and recessed lighting has been replaced with 
fluorescent lights in every hallway. There are new bathrooms, 
kitchens and floors.

Others have pitched in to help the community. Over the years, 
charities and churches have donated food and clothing, and organized 
after-school activities.

With a grant from the state's parks department, the village upgraded 
playground equipment at a nearby park last year. An in-house 
after-school tutoring program for elementary students began in the 
fall. And during the last three years, hundreds of thousands of 
dollars have been poured into the area to increase police patrols in 
the evenings and in the summer. But the drug trade - and its 
associated crime - has proved to be stubborn.

It simply moved from the hallways to the street out front.

"My daughter has called me to the window plenty of times when they 
are out there smoking crack," said Grafton, a housekeeper, as she 
looked out her window. "But we pretty much stay away from the window 
because bullets fly, they fly low, they fly high."

Numb to the Gunfire

Several residents said gunshots come as often as every other day, so 
often that some are numb to it, yet they know what to do when the bullets fly.

"I run into the middle of the apartment towards the door and away 
from the windows," said Malik, Grafton's 11-year-old son. "Sometimes 
my sister runs to the window, but I pull her back."

Yet - even amid the intractable drug problem traced to a few, but 
affecting everyone who lives on Terrace Avenue - tenants kept pushing 
for something new, Dingle said.

So, finally, at a community meeting on Dec. 27, Dingle had a message 
for the tenants she has led and suffered with over these last years.

"Yesterday is gone. We can't relive it. Let's start with today and 
move forward," she said then. "Come Jan. 8, we are going to shut this 
entire area up."

The way forward is a two-pronged, full-court-press approach to the 
problem modeled on an earlier project developed by a professor now at 
Manhattan's John Jay College of Criminal Justice. It was based on a 
yearlong investigation into drug activity in the area. Community 
leaders, Mayor Wayne Hall, the Nassau district attorney's office, 
County Executive Thomas Suozzi, preachers and social service 
organizations teamed up to offer a deal to suspected drug dealers - 
go straight, with considerable help, or go to jail.

And Village of Hempstead police posted round-the-clock patrols, 
financed by Rice's office with seized funds.

"The game doesn't stop unless you get caught or end up dead," said 
Maurice Gilreath, a convicted drug dealer who accepted Rice's deal. 
"I would be doing what I was doing before if I didn't have the program."

When Gilreath, along with 12 other suspected drug offenders, walked 
into a packed community meeting Jan. 8, so familiar were their faces 
and activities that tenants called them by name as they viewed 
footage of undercover drug buys.

"That's John."

"That's Hannah."

"That's 100 Terrace, you can tell by the cabinets."

On a recent evening, three police cars were on the block, and the 
only activity Grafton could see from her window was a police officer 
with a flashlight checking an alleyway.

"These corners belong to the kids and we've got to get those corners 
back so they can play basketball, hopscotch and jump rope - the 
things they enjoy," said Bottoms. "If you don't clean up the corners, 
kids are going to use them to sell drugs."

Teddy Johnson, 47, is raising his son at 100 Terrace Ave., where he 
has lived for three decades. He talked about the shootings, the 
fights and the drug-dealing he has seen over the years and wanting 
something different for his family.

As his son, Keiwan, 14, jumped off the school bus, Johnson looked 
around at the empty corners, taking in what he saw and wondering 
about what lies ahead.

"It's quiet right now, but how long?"



The police officer

Marlon Bottoms

(Referring to the victim of a drive-by shooting)

'Instead of him running from me, he needed me. I held his hand. He 
was gasping for air. ... Drug dealers don't see this side - what it 
is to be a victim."

The tenant leader

Inez Dingle

President, Progressive Tenants Association

'The entire block was prestige, not just this building. But then it 
started to deteriorate and I had a struggle with the owners to make 
it better. There was an open-air drug market, all types of cars 
coming in and out, so much has happened over the years."

The resident

Barry Johnson, 21, left

'You can't live on Terrace and say you haven't been affected by 
violence. My father was shot [and killed] in the building in the 
basement when I was 2. I saw my friend get killed ... we were outside 
and it was during the day and the dude saw him on the block and ran 
up on him. I saw it when he dropped. I was young, in the sixth or 
seventh grade. I was hurt, that was like my brother. That broke me down."

The convicted drug dealer

Maurice Gilreath, 26, right

'I've been in the game since I was a little kid, I've seen it since I 
was a little kid. It's always been around me. I never thought that I 
would do it but I ran into hard times and in hard times you have to 
adapt to what you know. ... The game doesn't stop unless you get 
caught or end up dead. I would be doing what I was doing before, if I 
didn't have the program."


Nassau County prosecutors had identified Terrace Avenue and Bedell 
Street in Hempstead Village as the county's worst open-air drug 
market. In 2007, police conducted a long-term investigation there. 
After making arrests, drug trafficking continued. Prosecutors 
concluded the traditional "buy-and-bust" tactics weren't working.

Looking for a solution, police considered alternatives to making 
arrests, like shutting down streets to disrupt the drug market.

After a tenants' meeting at 100 Terrace Ave., police and prosecutors 
reached out to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

There they found professor David Kennedy, who steered police through 
an award-winning initiative that had given a second chance to drug 
dealing suspects in High Point, N.C., in 2004.

In Hempstead, more meetings, involving Assistant District Attorney 
Meg Reiss and Hempstead Police Chief Joseph Wing, were held with 15 
community members to gauge feedback.

After a positive reception, larger community meetings were held. With 
community support, the initiative proceeded, with the Jan. 8 meeting 
where District Attorney Kathleen Rice unveiled the initiative to the public.


Using videotape and surveillance photos, police gathered evidence 
against 39 people identified as dealers or participants in the 
narcotics market in the Terrace and Bedell neighborhood.

They prepared arrest warrants. Seventeen were chosen for possible 
participation in the initiative. They had prior records for narcotics 
violations. Those with a violent history weren't selected.

Instead of serving the 17 warrants immediately, police sent the 
suspects letters stating, "After we conducted an extensive drug 
investigation on Terrace Avenue and Bedell Street, you have been 
positively identified as selling drugs on the street."

The letters, which are delivered by police, offer a deal: Turn away 
from the illegal drug trade and avoid arrest and prosecution, and 
take advantage of job training, employment placement or a GED program.

Thirteen of the 17 offered a second chance were accepted into the program.


Rice's critics questioned why a mostly African-American neighborhood 
was chosen for an unprecedented initiative in Nassau County. One 
accused Rice of "putting a black face" on the problem of drug 
dealing. Critics also wondered how the participants who avoided 
arrest were selected.

In response, Rice said the neighborhood was chosen because of its 
long history - decades - of being the busiest open-air drug market in 
Nassau County. Race, Rice said, had nothing to do with the selection.

Rice also said there are ongoing drug investigations all over Nassau 
County, including neighborhoods with white residents.

With community support, Rice said, prosecutors looked for a new way 
to tackle an old problem that traditional police tactics failed to solve.


SOURCE: Nassau County police; Village of Hempstead

Drug Arrests

'05 '07

Hempstead 408 411

Terrace Ave. / Bedell St. 68 83


'05 '07

Hempstead 211 121

Terrace Ave. / Bedell St. 21 9


'05 '07

Hempstead 168 175

Terrace Ave. / Bedell St. 27 14 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake