Fort Apache, The Bronx
y first precinct assignment was Fort Apache, known as "the 4-1", where back then theNYFD would be responding to infernos and false alarms, with sirens blaring all hours of the night. I walked a foot post on the 4-to-12 shift on Southern Boulevard from 149th Street to 156th Street. The area was predominately Hispanic, working class people, and a small Black community of also hard-working, respectable people. Bodegas (grocery stores) seemed to be every so many feet, separated by social clubs and cuchifrito shops. Those were the restaurants that kept all the fried food in the window under 50-watt bulbs. All these business people knew me and I was on a first-name basis with some.
There I was, crosstown from where I had been raised in the Melrose section, working there and going home to Throgs Neck . I had no problems at all; this setting was familiar. Just the faces had changed, as well as the storefronts. I didn't try to impress anybody; what I did was listen intently, respect and trust them and just be myself. It was given and received equally and shown with all the different affairs I was invited to. They would even call from their windows and invite me for café or meals. I didn't drink beer back then , but Mister Softee's garage was on my post and I'd wait for them to pull in. I offered to pay and they said they wouldn't charge me for garbage, because they cleaned out the machines daily. Score! The Sergeant would cry out roll call, assign posts and pass on any info with regards to conditions in the different sectors. I had a foot post for some time and loved it. I was given a wad of bulletins to be hung in the different storefronts, pertaining to fires and the use of city garbage cans as a means to keep warm on the stoop or corner. I was told to pay particular attention to the gangs down on my post.
The Savage Skulls' clubhouse was on the corner of 156th and Fox Streets. I would always give a look-see to show my presence. These were the thugs that would terrorize a super in a basement to let them hang out and then gradually use threats, violence and extortion and send the residents fleeing. Crimes never were reported to the police because the people feared these mutts. I knew because I listened and made believe I didn't understand and would just gather info and log it. I knew for some time what they had been doing, but without a complainant the police couldn't do Jack.
I walked my post one night and hung all the posters and told the storeowners I'd be back to see them. I finished up and grabbed a cup of coffee, made a call and headed back up to 156th Street. As I was going along I saw all the posters were down and no one knew who did it. There on the corner of Fox Street was a blaze going in the front of their burnt-out, abandoned clubhouse.
"Hey big man, how's the streets, free of all the bad men?", asked their wise-ass leader.
I didn't let my height of 5'7" stop me in my performance. I reached for my holstered radio and called for a couple of radio cars and told them to bring an ambulance as well. Placing the radio back in the holster I removed my night stick and proceed to put them all against the wall for a SPECIAL frisk. At the same time I heard sirens coming from all over. It turned out that neighbors had called 911 and the stationhouse directly to report that the cop on Southern Boulevard was in trouble. I wound up recovering a gun, knives and drugs and of course got them for destruction of city property. The following week I walked that post again and saw them under the hood of a car and figured I'd repay them for the height joke. The plates were hung on by spit and when I called the plate in to the DMV, it came back as registered to another vehicle. I asked who owned the car and they had no response. I went over to a pay phone and called the sanitation garage in Hunts Point, and they said they're on their way. I went over to the driver, winked and in a soft tone asked for a screwdriver with which I proceeded to remove the license plates. The truck backed up, hooked up and poof, no more car. They tired of my affections and eventually moved to another neighborhood, and so did we all...