If you’ve been buying your crack at East Harlem housing projects, you may need to find a new commodities distributor — the crack distribution operations of two alleged gangs were shut down yesterday, and nearly 20 alleged gangsters are on the hook for multiple crack-related felonies.
The two gangs — the “Flow Boyz” and “20 BLOCC” — operated out of the Wagner Houses and Taino Towers housing projects in East Harlem, where Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance says the thugs operated an “open-air drug market,” and residents were forced to “pass through a gauntlet of drug dealers” just to get to their homes.
“The defendants are accused of holding their neighborhood hostage for three years while they dealt crack cocaine on sidewalks, playgrounds, in residential buildings, stairwells, lobbies, and even in front of a community center,” Vance says. “By working with the NYPD and NYCHA, we are doing our part to make New York safer neighborhood by neighborhood. It is my hope that this case will help return the community to its residents and families.”
Authorities have been investigating the crack-slangin’ operations for nearly three years. During that time, authorities captured video footage of several alleged gangsters selling what was later determined to be both crack and powder cocaine. Additionally, undercover NYPD officers made hand-to-hand deals with some of the defendants.
When asked this morning why it took so long to make the bust — considering these gangs have been on the radar of law enforcement for years, and they allegedly sold crack to cops — Vance says the investigation needed to be thorough “so when the take-down happens it’s impactful.”
Authorities say the two gangs are “loosely knit,” and don’t have a traditional top-down organizational structure.” But investigators were able to identify leaders of the gangs through surveillance over an extended period of time.
Vance says the two gangs weren’t necessarily working together, but they were “not in opposition” to each other. He says they operated as separate entities, but that if a gang from another housing project stepped into their respective territories around the Wagner Houses, they would join forces to run them out.
This is the seventh major take-down of a drug-distribution ring in Harlem in the past 18 months. In the previous busts, a total of 132 gangsters were taken off the streets for various crimes, including gun trafficking and distribution of PCP.
In yesterday’s bust, 19 alleged thugs were hauled in by police for various crack-related crimes, including criminal sale of a controlled substance and conspiracy. At least one gun — a 9-millimeter handgun — was recovered during the bust.
“They thought they were immune from law enforcement,” Anthony Izzo, chief of the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau, said this morning. “They thought they could operate with impunity. This case illustrates that clearly they were wrong.”