Admittedly, we live in dangerous times. Nonetheless, what are the
odds of discovering not one but two mortars
in two different Upper East Side apartment buildings within 24 hours of each
other? That’s what happened on Sept. 16 and 17, when the World War II–era
weapons were discovered in a part of town better known for its upscale
boutiques and tony apartment houses than for its Sadr City–type munitions
In the first incident, which occurred at 12:45 p.m. on Sept. 16,
a porter at 205 East 69th Street found what appeared to be a miniature missile
in the garbage on the third floor. Perhaps imprudently, he removed his
discovery from the trash and carried it down to the lobby three flights below
to get the super’s advice.
Upon reflection, the super locked the projectile in his basement
office and hurried over to the 19th Precinct—the station house conveniently
located a couple of blocks away—where he informed the desk sergeant of his
Police Officer Gregory Sayers was dispatched to the location,
where he observed what indeed appeared to be a missile (or what the NYPD
described as a “rocket-shaped device”). Officer Sayers alerted the Emergency Service
Unit, which shut down traffic on 69th Street and called in the bomb squad.
When the bomb squad responded, they quickly deemed the device to
be a mortar—luckily, an inert one—and removed it without further difficulty.
The building’s tenants, who had been evacuated in the meantime, were allowed to
return to their residences.
In a potentially more precarious incident the following day,
three small children were playing in the basement at 208 East 85th Street when
one of them noticed what appeared to be a mortar shell in a pile of old stuff.
It’s unknown how long the items had been sitting there or who they belonged to.
But the building’s owner called 911, who dispatched an Emergency Service Unit
truck to the scene.
The E.S.U. examined the mortar shell and didn’t like what they
saw, suspecting it to be a live round. The bomb squad was brought in again, and
they confirmed the E.S.U.’s suspicions. All surrounding businesses and
residences were evacuated, and all pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the
vicinity was frozen.
The live shell was removed from the basement and placed in what
was described as a “containment vessel.” From there, it was transported to an
NYPD firing range to be detonated. The case remains under investigation by the
NYPD Detective Bureau’s arson-and-explosion squad.
The cops also searched the basement for more explosive devices,
but none were found.
There are many sound reasons to wear seat belts, not least of
which is that it gives the cops one less excuse to pull you over, as one
motorist discovered to his regret on Sept. 8. The driver was proceeding along
63rd Street between First and Second avenues at 1:18 a.m. when he encountered a
He apparently gave no indication of being intoxicated. However,
because his seat belt was unfastened, the police asked to see his driver’s
license. When he was unable to produce it, the cops undertook an on-the-spot
Department of Motor Vehicles check and determined that the individual’s license
had been suspended.
That wasn’t the end of his difficulties. When the cops put the
suspect, a 53-year-old Reading, Penn., resident, under arrest for the
violation, he told them that he happened to be carrying a large quantity of
cash—a truly large quantity of cash ($218,000, to be exact)—concealed in a
briefcase on the car’s passenger seat.
The man and his money were
removed to the 19th Precinct for processing by both the NYPD’s nightwatch unit
and the aptly named asset-forfeiture unit; when the suspect failed to come up
with a convincing explanation for why he was carrying so much spending money,
the asset-forfeiture unit counted it and took into safekeeping.
“He had some weird story,” explained a police officer. “He said
something like he had a partnership that was breaking up; he was
depositing $9,990 here and there” (so as not to reach the $10,000 threshold at
which banks are required to report deposits to the government). The officer
added that the car the suspect was driving, an ’88 Oldsmobile, also didn’t seem
to reflect his net worth: “It wasn’t a Lamborghini.”
According to the police officer, the suspect may well get his
money back if he’s able to prove that he acquired it legitimately. “It’s not
like we’re stealing it,” the policeman said. “We’ll give him a receipt for it.”
Crime may be down, but that doesn’t mean that anybody would
mistake Manhattan for Copenhagen, where you can leave your bike on the street
unlocked and return the next day to discover it still there—as a Danish visitor
to the Big Apple learned, much to his chagrin, on Sept. 17.
The victim was just inside Central Park, at 73rd Street and Fifth
Avenue, when an unknown suspect ran up behind him, swiped his knapsack (or
“rucksack,” as they say in Scandinavia) and took off at an impressive velocity.
Not only did the tourist fail to catch him, but he also couldn’t provide much
of a description of his assailant, except that he was about 5-foot-11 and 160
The already remote chances that justice would be served, the perp
caught and the property returned to its owner were made less likely when the
33-year-old Copenhagen resident, sadder but wiser, departed for his homeland at
5 p.m. the following day.
The $100 black Nike rucksack contained a $700 Sony Cybershot 3.2
camera, a $150 French Connection sweater, a $25 tourist guide and a $150 pair
of what were described as “police” sunglasses.
A homegrown cop had no idea what “police” sunglasses were.
“Unless he’s a big CHiPS fan,” the
officer observed. “Maybe they were the kind Eric Estrada used to wear.”
Using the opportunity to lobby for a pay raise, the cop added, “I
can assure you there aren’t too many police officers wearing $150 ‘police’
sunglasses. We get the knockoffs.”