In my youth I’ve been the unlucky recipient of many criminal court summonses, more than any responsible and well adjusted young person should probably receive. Majority of the tickets were alcohol related, and the most common offense was “Open Container.” Section 10-125 (2b) – Consumption of Alcohol on Streets Prohibited.
In Queens, during our formative teen years and beyond we lived at the park, Memorial and Twenty-One respectively, and cops rolled on us daily. Of course they had more pressing matters to attend to, but we were a nuisance, no doubt about that, and so they came often and aggressive.
On St. Patrick’s day in 1997, the day before my sixteenth birthday I was issued what I believe was my first summons, or the first one I can clearly remember. I was approached by an undercover cop, who spotted a conspicuous twelve ounce bottle peeking out of the pocket of my ill fitting hand-me-down jeans.
The day was full of skirmishes as large groups of drunken kids bumped shoulders while navigating through the heavy crowds. Some fights were random and others not so random, but something more fatalistic like serendipity. We ran into some herbs who rushed me on Frannie Lew after leaving a 73rd Keg, and we set it on them in front of the Plaza Hotel, which put a damper on the fun, ending the day for some of the boys, as they left in bracelets and detained in the back of a paddy wagon. Next stop, Central Bookings.
“Come by the Plaza Hotel. I got work for you.”
I wish I would’ve thought to quote Christopher Walken before throwing a punch. I can’t think of the Plaza Hotel without associating two distinct things: that brawl and Walken’s grimy portrayal of Frank White in the 1990 gangster flick, King Of New York. If your name is Jimmy and you didn’t think to use “Jump” as your tag name, you fucked up, such a missed opportunity. Anyway.
As the detective filled out my pink ticket, in close proximity to FAO Scwartz, a block over another brawl spilled out into the street. This one made the news. Michael Sarti, an eighteen year old from Throgs Neck was beaten into a coma during a melee with a group of teenagers from Bay Ridge. Sarti died three weeks later on April 7th. Five individuals were arrested on various charges ranging from first-degree and second degree manslaughter, riot in the first degree and assault. Jason Andrade, who allegedly delivered the fatal kicks was acquitted on all charges and the others involved received probation.
The whole thing is fucked up and it’s not unrealistic to think that any one of us back then could have easily found ourselves on either side of that particular situation. We were no strangers to that type of behavior and knew both sides of the bum rush well. It wasn’t that the parade was violent but that people attending the celebration were violent. It was a different type of wild then. It was fun and exciting, frightening and mean-spirited and sometimes, painful. In retrospect, it was mostly senseless and easily escalated and spiraled out of control.
The police were more heavy handed the subsequent parades. I’m sure the numbers in arrests and summonses spiked the following St. Patrick’s day.
When you got caught out there and got a summons it was annoying because you had to go to the courthouse, and sit for fucking hours for your ticket to get called and then stand before the judge, and he banged the gavel and set the fee, which you paid before you left. Once in a while the judge dismissed it, either because he was in a good mood or the cop filled out the summons incorrectly. It was even more of an inconvenience if you had to travel outside of Queens to take care of this bullshit. And if you didn’t handle your business a warrant was issued for your arrest, which you’d find out the hard way when they had you in custody for something else, or when NYPD would send a squad out house to house to round up all the idiots who didn’t pay or remember to show up to court.
Now you can just pay online, but then again today you can drink alcohol and smoke weed in the street. Shit, I’ve seen people shooting heroin and smoking crack in public so I guess having a cold one on a corner isn’t that big of a deal anymore. New York City is looking real classy these days. Frank White and Jimmy Jump would’ve thrived in this era.
I guess the younger generation will never know the joy of sitting in a courtroom when the court officer calls out a person’s name, rattles off a bunch of numbers and follows it up with a loud, “Public Urination.” The thought of it alone makes me smile.
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