NYPD Investigating Two instances of Assault and Harassment Against Students On Wilf Campus
Four students were victims of assault and antisemitic harassment on Wilf Campus last week in two separate incidents, leaving one student with minor injuries. Both incidents took place along West 187th St. between Amsterdam and Audubon avenues, beside YU’s Zysman Hall building, home to Muss Residence Hall and Yeshiva University High School for Boys (YUHSB).
YU’s Security Department sent out an advisory to students last Friday about the assault, but it never notified students about the harassment. The New York Police Department (NYPD) told The Commentator on Wednesday, March 23, that an investigation is ongoing in both cases, although no arrests have yet been made.
According to the NYPD, the first incident, which occurred at 12:15 a.m. on the morning of March 15, involved a man walking up to two students, telling them to “Get the f--- out of the way” and yelling “I have a gun and will kill you guys!” Shortly afterward, he yelled, “You f------ Jews,” before walking away.
One of the two students involved, who requested anonymity from The Commentator, said that the man, who appeared to be a white male in his thirties and “clearly high,” first yelled at them “to get out his way,” prompting them to move to the side. After passing them, the man turned around and claimed that the students were talking about him, which the students reassured him that they weren’t.
The man then threatened to kill them with a gun, prompting the students to attempt to de-escalate the situation while walking away. (The NYPD noted that a “firearm was not observed or simulated by the suspect.”) The man then followed them for a bit as they left, yelling “you f------ Jews,” before leaving and walking north on Amsterdam Avenue. At the advice of YU Security, one of the students filed a police report, which prompted a hate crimes investigation.
YU Security did not respond to several of The Commentator’s inquiries as to why students were not notified about this incident.
The second incident occurred at 7:45 p.m. on Purim, March 17, at 526 W. 187th St., which is right next to Muss Hall’s 187th St. entrance. The incident was sparked by two cars running a red light, almost striking two students, the NYPD shared. The students were subsequently chased by the driver and two passengers. One of the students was then assaulted, leaving a bruise on the left side of his face and causing his mouth to bleed. The student refused medical treatment at the scene.
Either before or during the chase, the students had some verbal altercation with the driver and passenger, though it is unclear due to discrepancies in YU Security’s and the NYPD’s emails.
In response to the assaults, the NYPD will patrol the area and YU Security vehicles will patrol past Muss Hall, according to information provided by the hall’s residents. It is unclear how often patrol vehicles will drive by nor what periods of the day that will be.
Following YU’s email regarding the assault, students living in Muss raised questions about the available entrances to the building. A passageway to Muss, accessible through Zysman’s main entrance on Amsterdam Avenue, closes most nights at 11 p.m. and only reopens at 7 a.m., forcing students to the West 187th St. entrance at all other times. Some students told The Commentator that they find that entrance to be discomforting, as there is frequent “partying” and alcohol and drug usage.
“I think it would be safer for students to enter Muss Hall through the Zysman building,” said Daniel Malinsky (YC ’24), who lives in Muss. “Otherwise, they need to walk through the 187th St. entrance, which is notorious for incidents that cause students discomfort and brings up concerns about safety.”
As of publishing, Wilf Director of University Housing and Residence Life Avi Feder declined to answer inquiries as to why the Zysman entrance continues to close at its current time and referred The Commentator to YU Security, citing the issue as being a “security related matter.”
Even for those not living in Muss, the incidents still feel unnerving. “This is really concerning because we are all just trying to live our best lives, go between classes and our apartments, and we want to feel safe in the process,” said Yoel Halbert (SSSB ‘22), who lives in an apartment near Wilf Campus. “YU needs to step up and take better control of the situation.”
Halbert suggested more security hours and self-defense courses as possible ways for YU to be proactive.
“It’s concerning,” said David Brodskiy (SSSB ‘23). “You should always keep your eyes open in general, and I will probably be more cautious when walking around.”
He added, “I suggest people walk with a buddy [in Washington Heights] when they can.”
In recent months, many students have witnessed “reckless driving” along Amsterdam Avenue, including drivers speeding, running through red lights and performing “donut” maneuvers.
In response to a Commentator inquiry about this, the NYPD said that Peter Andrea, the commanding officer of the 34th Precinct covering Washington Heights and Inwood, is aware of the concerns people have with reckless drivers and encourages people who see this behavior to call 911.
“If residents make such an observation, we strongly encourage residents to call 911 so that the groups can be tracked and the NYPD can alert adjoining precincts,” the NYPD said.
The NYPD also said that officers will take “appropriate action” if officers can stop any of the vehicles and that body cameras worn by responding officers will help gather more information.
Outside of the March 15 incident, students have faced infrequent instances of antisemitism. Several years ago, the NYPD investigated swastikas carved along buildings in the YU area, and back in January, a phone call threat was made to YU and investigated by the NYPD, though it was not concluded to be antisemitic in nature.
In the security advisory sent to students, security advised students to be aware of their surroundings and if possible, travel with friends when traversing the streets. If students encounter suspicious individuals, security continued, they should leave the area and report the incident to YU Security or the NYPD.
The Commentator has also reached out to the Department of Transportation (DOT) to ascertain whether Yeshiva University or YUHSB will receive traffic and speed cameras as part of NYC’s Vision Zero Program, which has now received authorization to install cameras within a quarter-mile radius of 750 New York schools. As of publishing, the DOT has not provided the information.
Photo Caption: The NYPD is investigating both cases, though no arrests have yet been made.
Photo Credit: The Commentator