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Kingsbridge, Riverdale braces for looters on otherwise quiet night

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Businesses up and down Broadway boarded up their windows and removed valuables from their stores Tuesday afternoon after police warned of potential looting once the city’s 8 p.m. curfew went into effect.

It happened after a night of protest and civil unrest on Fordham Road the night before, some of which turned violent. Those protests ran peacefully throughout the day, according to many observers, but culminated once the sun set with at a break-in at the Bronx Zoo and one police officer reportedly being struck by a car.

Protests and some ancillary looting and violence have cropped up in various cities around the country following the May 25 police-involved killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. One of the three officers involved in that incident has been been charged with third-degree murder.

On Tuesday, police said they received reports suggesting many of the looters from June 1 and other incidents over the past few days have turned their attention to Riverdale, Kingsbridge and Marble Hill. The New York Police Department’s 50th Precinct — which covers all three of these neighborhoods — spent most of Tuesday preparing for what they said was likely to be a very long night.

Officers started working 12-hour alternating shifts Tuesday, according to precinct spokeswoman Mercedes Conejo. Those alternating shifts have been extended until further notice.

“We don’t know when we are going home,” Conejo said of the looters. “There’s more of us and obviously we are more vigilant, and we have taken some more safety precautions around the precinct.”

Conejo did not want to reveal exactly what steps police planned to take in case they encountered looters later. She did say, however, the precinct had beefed up its presence in business-centric areas, warning stores not to leave any valuable items overnight, or leave windows unprotected.

Andy Zoitas, owner of Garden Gourmet on Broadway, said that while he hadn’t received a formal warning from the 50th, he was boarding up his windows and planning to send his employees home early.

“We’re going to close early, we’re going to leave early,” he said. “Usually we close at 11, but we’re going to close at 6 o’ clock tonight.”

He was worried about people trying to break in.

“If they get in there, they could destroy the store," he said. "It’s a lot of equipment in there.”

He bought some wood planks to board the windows, although finding them had been challenging as shop owners across the borough sought out ways to secure their businesses.

“There is no insurance that covers that,” Zoitas said. “That would be very hard for me, to be able to come back. It would take months, even if I had the financials, it would be extremely difficult. I just pray to God that nothing will happen.”

The main problem with policing looters, Conejo added, is the added element of unpredictability.

“As sad as it is to say, I wish we could do something to prevent it, but we see it coming and, unfortunately, there will be property damage,” she said. “It’s not like some kind of organization fills out a permit in order to have some kind of event or rally.”

Mario Curanaj, manager of Salvatore’s of Soho on Riverdale Avenue and West 236th Street, said he decided to close up early and send his employees home after reading reports of potential protests in the area on social media.

He hadn’t bought anything to keep the shop safe, he said, but was glad for the metal gate he could roll down over the windows. The potential damage to the store was what worried him, he said, not having anything stolen from the restaurant — especially since even if insurance would pay for the incident, receiving the money could take months.

““We already got killed from COVID-19,” Curanaj said. “We don’t need anything going on like this either. Breaking into the stores, doing the damages. What are they going to take? Really, nothing. It’s just the damage, that’s most likely. That’s what hurts.”