After Stabbing, Residents Speak Out Against Nighttime Crowds Near University Place

Little Italy Pizza IIIDaniel Maurer Little Italy Pizza III on University Place.

The area around University Place has, notoriously, seen its share of action lately. But demonstrators aren’t the only ones clogging the area. At a meeting of Community Board 2’s SLA Licensing committee last Tuesday, members of the East 12th and 13th Street Block Association complained to the board about noise and congestion in the area, citing a recent early-morning stabbing outside of Little Italy Pizza III restaurant at 122 University Place.

The bloody fracas occurred on Oct. 8 around 3:30 a.m., according to a complaint written by officer Michael Bellagamba, who arrested four suspects on charges of second-degree assault and possession of a criminal weapon. His complaint noted that a witness allegedly saw Florian Brulaj, 20, stabbing an unidentified man, 23, in the chest; and “slicing the face” of another, age 36. A knife smeared with what looked like blood was recovered in the purse of a female suspect, Mobeta Ceka, 18, court documents stated.

The other defendants in the case are Vison Brulaj, 23, and Gentian Gjana, 19. All of the alleged perpetrators were arrested shortly after fleeing the scene in a car. They were stopped a block away by police who had received a radio report, according to a sergeant with the Manhattan South anti-crime unit who asked to remain anonymous. He said the victims, whose names were not released, had suffered “serious injuries but they were not life-threatening.”

Jerry Morgan, a retired real-estate reporter for Newsday who is active in the East 12th and 13th Street Block Association, noted sardonically, “This is the sort of thing that’s not supposed to happen in a nice neighborhood.”

He said that University Place and its side streets are often “mistakenly” regarded as a college neighborhood catering to students at New York University, and the New School. “But in fact,” he said, “this is a neighborhood of multi-million dollar apartments and townhouses on East 10th and 11th Streets.” He claimed noise, congestion and drunken brawls in the area were frequent and could eventually reduce property values.

“People come in here from different places. They get drunk and then they go out into the streets,” said Mr. Morgan. He added, “Basically there are a lot of fights on University Place. It’s becoming a street of bars. One woman was walking her dog at night and she said a drunk threw up all over the dog.”

He said many people in the neighborhood were uncomfortable with the noise, congestion and multiple liquor licenses in the area. “We don’t want drunks coming here at 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. The other side is that there is absolutely no police presence here.”

Bob Gormley, district manager of Community Board 2, noted that the police don’t walk the beat anymore. “That’s not something that police do anymore and they use other techniques for patrol, like cars.” He added, “There are 8,000 fewer police than we used to have. I think they’re doing a great job. And I don’t think they’re ignoring University Place.”