Today’s news:

Looting isolated in boro as calm night prevails

That was small comfort...

By Alex Ginsberg

In his customary calm monotone, Mayor Michael Bloomberg told New Yorkers last Thursday night that there were no “unusual crimes” in the city and that looting did not appear to be the problem it had been during the blackout of 1977.

That was small comfort to Jose Araque, who arrived Friday morning to his Myrtle Avenue telecom store to see the window smashed and the display rack cleaned out.

Because the store uses an electric mechanism to move the protective metal gate that covers the windows, store workers had no choice but to leave the gate in the “up” position when the blackout forced them to close late Thursday afternoon. With the window exposed, and roughly $1,000 worth of mobile phones on display, it was an easy target.

As the city emerged comparatively unscathed from a night without streetlights and security alarms, at least three stores in Ridgewood appeared to be unfortunate exceptions. In addition to the mobile phone store, Telediscount, Queens Wines and Liquors on 71st Avenue sustained a broken window and a KB Toys on Catalpa Avenue was burglarized, employees said.

Araque said neighbors who saw the break-in at his store called 911 at about 4 a.m. Friday morning, but nearly 12 hours later he was still waiting for police to arrive. Not sure what else to do, Araque decided to clean up the broken glass rather than keep the crime scene intact.

Police and emergency services were understandably hard-pressed to keep up with a steady stream of calls last Thursday night and Friday morning. The Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps answered 10 calls during the night, more than the usual load, according to volunteer Mike Grabowski. And one source said the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol had to give supplies to police officers who were caught short — although the source was clear that those under-supplied officers were not with the 104th Precinct.

The 104th Precinct covers Glendale, Ridgewood, Middle Village and Maspeth.

The owner of the liquor store, Herman Hochberg, who has been in business at that location for more than a half century, said it was the first such incident he could recall.

“Very disappointed,” he said. “It’s the first time we’ve had a window broken in 55 years. I had a car run into the store but that was an accident.”

Police at the 104th Precinct characterized the incidents as few and isolated. And the break-ins on Myrtle Avenue were few enough that many civilian law enforcement sources in the area were not aware of them.

When informed of the incidents, Mike Hetzer, president of the 104th Precinct Community Council, said they needed to be looked at in perspective.

“I was around in ‘77,” he said. “Both in Bushwick and the Bronx ... It was wild. This was really nothing compared to that.”

Other areas of the borough reported few disturbances.

In Astoria, some businesses stayed open after the power went out, serving heavily discounted ice cream and food in the dark. But neighbors and police reported no problems.

On Jamaica Avenue, police said there were no unusual crimes or incidents.

“Everything is working for us,” said one officer. “Our radios, our equipment. Everyone’s staying pretty calm.”

In Flushing, Nicholas Beugoms, 59, noted that both pedestrians and cars were calmly waiting their turn to cross the intersection.

“People are walking together very well,” he said as he walked across Northern Boulevard at Main Street under the direction of a traffic officer. “I think there is going to be no problems, no nothing.”

The calm reality was surprising to many who expected terror, chaos and mayhem with the power out.

“It’s smoke in the city!” shouted Shelly King, 44, as he waited in downtown Flushing to board a bus to his home in the Bronx. “The city is hot! The city is burning up!”

“There’s going to be a whole lot of smoke tonight!”

The TimesLedger staff contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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