It’s one after-school activity not sitting well with local business.
Sometime around 3 p.m., on school days, a group of students make their way down West 238th Street toward West 236th Street and Riverdale Avenue. They don’t just head home, however.
Instead, according to some of the managers and employees along that stretch, the teens have knocked down sidewalk business signs and damaged property. The main targets appear to be Moda Realty at 3727 Riverdale Ave., and Mandy’s Hair & Spa at 3701 Riverdale Ave.
“It’s like they terrorize this block every single day, Monday through Friday,” said Michelle Carrington, Moda’s office manager.
It first started about a month ago when the real estate company attached balloons on top of Moda’s outdoor sign, itself sitting on the sidewalk in front of the office. The balloons never made it to dinnertime because the group — which sometimes grows to nearly 10 kids — popped them, Carrington said.
On another occasion, Carrington said the students snatched a shopping cart from a nearby CVS store, pushed it into Moda’s sign.
That was enough to get Moda’s owner, Greg Kochanov, to intervene, confronting the kids on the sidewalk. But that did nothing more than escalate the issue, he said, as the teens cursed him and flashed obscene hand gestures at him. They allegedly followed that up soon after by throwing a rock the size of a baseball at the sidewalk sign, damaging it, and forcing Kochanov to replace it.
From the very beginning, Kochanov and Carrington said they reached out to local police. But until they actually committed a crime — like allegedly damaging the sidewalk sign — there was little investigators could do.
Representatives from the 50th Precinct wouldn’t comment on the incident. However, Carrington said a patrol car was parked in the area Nov. 13, and with it came peace and quiet — until Nov. 17 when the teens allegedly hurled another rock at the sign.
Mandy’s Hair & Spa has a similar story, except kids weren’t bothering a sign, but instead a candy jar in the salon’s front entrance.
“We have a table and we have candy, and clients could come in and they could take the candy,” said Ina Proko, a receptionist at the spa. The teenagers “would just come in, a few at a time, and they would just take the candy without asking.”
Proko and her coworkers brushed it off initially as kids just being kids, and moved the candy jar to another part of the salon where it was harder to reach. The teens, however, grew more aggressive, targeting yet another sign.
“They would start kicking the sign, pushing it, making it fall, tilt over,” Proko said. “Just last week, we ordered a new one, and they kept doing the same thing with this one.”
Mandy’s black-and-white sidewalk sign — which shared services and discounts — sits on a flexible base, which can remain upright if someone were to accidentally bump into. Although the new sign had been up little more than a week, it already has scratches because the teenagers deliberately bump into, knocking it over, Proko said.
“We don’t know what to expect every day,” Proko said. “Some days, they’ll just walk by and they’ll shove it. On other days, they’ll completely knock it down and make faces, or they’ll curse at us.”
The alleged daily harassment has changed how some of the businesses on the block operate on weekday afternoons.
“People are staying off the street between 3 and 3:30,” said John McKeon, owner of John’s Botany Bay Florist, a few doors down from Moda and Mandy’s, who says he has not been targeted. “They don’t want to deal with the kids running by. We know we’re not going to have any business for that half hour.”
Instead of showing homes to clients mid-afternoon, Kochanov now makes sure he’s at his office. He said he‘d like police to do more the catch the kids and end their spree of harassment and destruction.
“It’s like we’re being terrorized the same time every day,” Kochanov said.
“It’s not hard to stop it. It’s not hard to prevent it. It’s not hard to do something about it. But no one’s even trying to help us.”