Crime Blotter

World’s Oldest Parking Debacle

Brings Motorists to Blows

When is the average New Yorker at greatest risk? Could it be while standing on the packed 72nd Street and Broadway subway platform at rush hour as a train approaches? Hardly. Is it when the F.B.I. announces a “code red” (or is it “code orange”?) terrorist alert? Unlikely.

No, if you really want to put yourself in harm’s way in this great city of ours, just try claiming a parking space at the same moment that a fellow motorist spots it. That was the cause of cross-harassment complaints that two couples filed against each other at the 19th Precinct after their desire for the same parking space on 82nd Street between First and York avenues brought them to blows on Nov. 10.

According to the complaint of the first couple, who hail from Queens, they got to the spot first. The 26-year-old man who was behind the wheel was parking when, he says, the other couple decided to pull a fast one by backing into the space. Both cars emptied and a verbal dispute along the lines of “We were here first”-“No, we were here first” ensued.

It only got physical, the driver of the first car claims, when the other guy grabbed him by the throat while the other guy’s wife pushed his girlfriend. That’s when the girlfriend called 911.

According to the second couple, who live on the block where the incident occurred, the parking spot was all theirs. They were backing into it at 2:45 p.m. in the most law-abiding of fashions, when they discovered their way blocked by the other vehicle, which had succeeded in backing halfway into the spot.

“I know you saw me,” the victim in the second complaint said he told his rival.

According to him, the other driver’s girlfriend taunted him, stating, “What are you going to do? Run us over?”

Perhaps the only thing upon which both couples agree is that their altercation started with an exchange of words. At that point, their accounts differ: While the first complaint claimed that the blows were brought on by the husband-and-wife team, the victim in the second complaint said it was the boyfriend who started the ruckus by punching him square in the eye and then pouncing on his back. It was then, he added, that his wife came to his defense.

The police responded to the scene and interviewed both couples. There were no injuries, no arrests and no word on who won the parking space.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Cash

Religion has often been used to hoodwink the righteous, but rarely in so flagrant a fashion as it was on Nov. 17. A young woman was standing in front of a check-cashing store on the northeast corner of 90th Street and First

Avenue at 7:30 p.m., apparently after having just cashed a check, when a gentleman approached. He explained that he was from Africa and looking for the African Baptist Church.

The two were then joined by a woman, supposedly a stranger, who helpfully offered to escort the visitor across the street to meet her husband. She said that her spouse was a church deacon and thus likely to know where to find the house of worship in question.

After everyone got to know each other, such a feeling of good fellowship apparently prevailed that the African gentleman revealed that he was carrying a bag filled with money. He’d inherited it, he went on, from his dead brother and was searching for the aforementioned church because he wanted to give it to them as a donation.

The woman and the alleged deacon invited the young woman, a 24-year-old East 90th Street resident, to join them and their new African friend in their car so they could all go hunting for the church together. She declined, but her assailants, deciding she wasn’t beyond redemption, didn’t give up.

The “good Samaritan” explained that he had to return home to Africa, but that he wanted to entrust his money to his new friends to give to charity. And he asked them to join him in prayer.

He instructed the deacon and his wife to put their money in a handkerchief with his-apparently so that the spirit of the Lord could bless their partnership-and then prayed over the parcel. When he’d finished, he gave them their money back, and they took his money and put it in the trunk of their car.

Then the African-described as freckled and sporting an afro-asked the young Upper East Sider to do the same thing. She agreed, placing $300 in the handkerchief and praying with him. The service complete, the deacon and his wife volunteered to drive the fellow to the airport.

After they’d departed, the victim learned the true power of prayer: She opened her handkerchief and discovered that her $300 had been replaced with worthless paper. While her eyes were closed, as she was praying, the con artists had switched handkerchiefs. She was unable to tell the cops much about her assailants besides the fact that they drove off not in a chariot of fire, but in a gray Subaru.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at rgard135@aol.com.

Crime Blotter