Death in the LES.

I’ve been thinking about  Wen Hui Ruan’s murder recently, specifically about the anonymous commenters over at EV Grieve totally getting off on how they’d like to see Jamie Pugh punished or killed. Because Pugh is so blatantly guilty, certain types of people feel they have carte blanche to run a young black kid through the wringer from the safety of their laptops, with all sorts of  bells and dogwhistles at their disposal. Of course when they’re confronted on those dogwhistles, the response is “You’re playing the race card!” (Honestly, anyone who says that—instead of apologizing and clarifying their statements—is definitely a racist who’s been called on their shit.)

Not that I think Pugh should get a pass. He did it, he’s been arrested, he’ll stand trial and do time. Even though I can’t afford to live in the LES anymore, I still consider it my home; the fact that this murder took place there upsets me greatly. My grandmother lives in the area and still gets out and about; that could have been her instead of Wen Hui Ruan. Indeed, if there are any “copycat” attacks (although hopefully Pugh’s quick arrest will  put paid to that) my grandmother could still be in danger.

Part of the commentary on those EV Grieve posts revolved around the tired old canard “You wanted the bad old days back, here’s what it looks like!” which…no, not really. Violent aggression between locals in the Lower East Side has been happening, still happens, and will certainly happen again. (That doesn’t make it any less upsetting for residents, however.) In fact, sometimes it even happens between locals and gentrifiers—usually those are the only cases where the cops bother to intervene. This particular attack got buzz because it was caught on tape (as was the non-response by police), so it had to be acted upon.

I hope this doesn’t become an excuse to “do something” about the folks in the projects, because whatever gets done will have nothing to do with finding jobs or educational opportunities for them. All that riverside property can’t be allowed to go to waste, you know!



  1. A sad and terrible event.

    I’ve been unsure of how to respond without it sounding like cliche, and pressing the ‘like’ button seems crass in the circumstances. Obviously, I hope your grandmother is safe. I hope the perp gets a long prison sentence. But yeah, people have to be given the opportunity for better lives. No excuse for stabbing an old man, but as a wise person once said “do not plant thistles and expect apple trees to grow”. That’s NOT to say that everyone who lives in the projects (or on council estates in the UK) is going to turn out bad, by any means…. do you see why it took so long to respond to this post!!

    • Apologies for taking so long to respond in kind, my friend! Luckily my gran, having lived in the same spot for over 50 years, is enough of a fixture that neighbors recognize her & will help her out when she steps out to the bodega (cornerstore) for the daily paper or runs other small errands. But with the hypergentrification happening in the Lower East Side inching closer & closer to where she lives, and the upheaval that always brings to native residents…I worry.

      It’s very true that people in adverse circumstances should be provided opportunities to change those circumstances, and it’s frustrating to see those opportunities smeared as “handouts” to the “undeserving poor”. Ideas manifest; treat people like shit and they’ll act like shit. That’s the Jamie Pugh situation in a (somewhat oversimplified) nutshell.

  2. It must be so frightening that your grandmother lives in the vicinity of this terrible attack, but it’s good to know that she’s known and has a community in the neighborhood – this makes a huge difference. Completely agree about folks taking the opportunity on the heels of a tragedy to jump on the less fortunate in general, and basically try to justify their own ignorance. Out here we’ve had a case that’s similar but different: in 2013, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot 7 times (!) and killed by police deputy Erick Gelhaus. The boy was carrying a toy gun that the officer mistook for a real one. Obviously, this case too is complicated – I believe the officer feared the gun was real. But, he was also a firearms expert and trainer (!), and as a cop should be trained for high-emotion situations like this. Why did he shoot 7 times, when his partner didn’t shoot at all? And, the elephant is of course that he entered my largely Latino neighborhood as a white man, with fears and prejudices of his own. So tragic!

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