Crime Blotter

Customer Balks at Pricetag;

Optician’s Shop Gets Rowdy

Many customers consider the prices that Manhattan merchants charge for goods and services too high. But they usually keep their thoughts to themselves-and for good reason, as an incident on July 26 suggests.

According to the alleged victim, a 77-year-old East 63rd Street resident, he visited an optician on 84th Street and Madison Avenue around 1:20 p.m. to get his glasses fixed. When the store’s owner informed him what it would cost, the customer boldly stated that he thought he was being charged too much.

This affected the merchant’s mood in an unbecoming way, the customer claims, causing him to become angry, yell at the elderly gentleman and order him to leave. To further make his point, the bespectacled victim added, the perp punched him in the face, resulting in two scratches.

However, the alleged attacker saw the incident rather differently. He agrees that the client visited the store, asked to have his glasses fixed and balked at the price. But it was actually the customer who lost control, he says, becoming angry and yelling, “You fucking bastard, that’s too much!” The shop owner admits he told the man to leave his store. At that point, he insists, the perp knocked three trays of glasses off the counter. Then and only then did the merchant push him out the door.

The job of sorting out these competing versions of events will fall to the NYPD, since both combatants filed harassment complaints against each other at the 19th Precinct.

Stuck Truck

Have you ever wondered how the cops extricate trucks that don’t heed the maximum-clearance signs and get lodged in underpasses? The police faced that challenge on July 25, when a Virginia driver behind the wheel of a furniture truck with North Carolina plates found himself on the F.D.R. Drive shortly after 10 in the evening.

If the trucker wondered why there wasn’t any other commercial traffic on the road, the mystery was quickly solved when his vehicle, a 1998 International, slammed into an overpass at 88th Street, not far from Gracie Mansion.

The police found it necessary to close all three lanes of traffic for approximately 20 minutes for the safety of motorists, fearing the accident might have caused structural damage to the overpass. Then they deflated the truck’s tires in order to diminish its height by a few inches and yank it out.

Once the truck was freed by the Emergency Service Unit and the overpass deemed safe, the F.D.R. was reopened to traffic. The big rig, however, was escorted off the drive, and its operator was slapped with a summons for operating a commercial vehicle on a parkway. He also received a fine for driving a truck that exceeded the legal length-his International was 33 feet long-on a parkway. The furniture suffered no damage.

Doorman Defense

There are those Park Avenue residents who will probably admit that the only time they need to tell the difference between their doormen and the topiary is during the holiday season, when they give out Christmas tips.

However, one doorman along the great boulevard of bourgeois dreams certainly appears to have distinguished himself from the shrubbery on July 24, when he fended off a couple of trespassers. The 1199 Park Avenue employee was guarding the front door at 1:50 a.m. when a man arrived carrying a paper bag and stated that he had a delivery. It seemed rather late for such things, the doorman thought to himself.

Meanwhile, the visitor held the door for an accomplice and then pushed the doorman inside, ordering him to “Get behind the counter.” However, the building’s guardian valiantly wrestled with the perp and managed to break free. At that point, both suspects fled northbound on Park Avenue towards 96th Street.

The doorman, who wasn’t injured, helped the police to canvass the area for his assailants, but with negative results. The cops stopped possible suspects at both 96th Street and Fifth Avenue and 96th Street and Lexington Avenue, also with negative results.

Two Blocks in

60 Seconds

Car thieves are known for working fast. However, the perp who stole a car in front of an Upper East Side pizzeria on July 24 may have set some kind of land-speed record.

The victim, a Sanitation Department employee, parked his vehicle-a 1990 maroon Chevy sedan-in front of the pizzeria at 87th Street and First Avenue at 3:30 p.m. only long enough to pick up a slice. But when he returned to the sidewalk, he found his car had disappeared.

Fortunately, it hadn’t gone very far. Even before the cops could canvass the area or transmit a stolen-car alarm, the motorist found his wheels a couple of blocks away, on 88th Street between York and East End avenues. The only thing missing was the man’s wallet, which contained his New York State driver’s license, a Sanitation Department ID card and a Sanitation Department badge.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

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