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Police Step Up Job Site Patrols After Melee

May 01, 2002
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Police Step Up Job Site Patrols After Melee

by William K. Rashbaum, The New York Times

Two days after a violent clash between two rival groups outside an Upper East Side construction site, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said yesterday that he was taking aggressive action to stem further violence.

In two letters sent to the leaders of construction industry groups and released yesterday, Mr. Kelly said the department was taking several steps to prevent violence and intimidation directed at the industry by loose-knit groups of nonunion workers often known as construction coalitions. The groups have been around for decades, claiming to represent the interests of minority workers battling racial bias. But they have often served as engines of extortion, shaking down contractors for payoffs and no-show jobs.

"There's been a long history of this," Mr. Kelly said in a briefing with reporters. "I'm told this has waned in the last few years but we don't want this to be a precursor of more violence."

The rush-hour clash Monday on Lexington Avenue near East 87th Street, between the United Hispanic Coalition and the Positive Work Force Coalition, was brief but intensely violent. It sent pedestrians scurrying for cover and left three men injured, one critically. Afterward, the street was littered with baseball bats and ax handles.

In the letters to the heads of the Building and Construction Trades Council and the Contractors' Association of Greater New York, Mr. Kelly said the police would distribute fliers to construction sites all around the city that declare, "Extortion of any kind is a crime," and urge contractors to immediately report any illegal demands for money or work.

Mr. Kelly said that all officers on patrol would be briefed on the groups and that officers would pay close attention to construction sites. Also, groups of patrol officers in each borough who supplement precinct patrols are being readied for any disturbances, with a focus on Manhattan and the Bronx, centers of activities by these groups.

And a deputy police commissioner, Paul J. Browne, will regularly meet with construction industry officials to discuss their concerns.

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