November 10, 2014: Pirates of the Bowery

Someone has built a Crow’s Nest in the Liz Christy Bowery-Houston Garden.
They keep watch over the cross-section of Bowery and East Houston Street.

Outside of the Whole Foods a black El Dorado pulls to a stop. On its doors white, messy, spray painted skull and cross-bones.
I climb into the back, squeezing next to two giant men in black leather, bandanas tied over their faces.

The driver adjusts the mirror and smiles at me, her red lips closed over a long cigarette.

You’re the first person that gets to watch us do some old fashion pirating.

Her name is Willie Pond. She’s beautiful, deadly, and on a mission.
Pond rose to infamy through a series of extremely brutal bare-knuckle fights held on the basketball courts of Sarah D. Roosevelt Park.

Yeah, I was undefeated for 3 years. Only got knocked out in my first fight. Never let that happen again. They just leave you on the pavement, bleeding, and steal whatever they can get their hands on.

Pond gained a following, some were very protective. Quickly she rose up, protecting her streets, expanding violently.

No one sells drugs on my streets. We let prostitution happen, if the girls are in business for themselves. No pimps. We don’t even take a cut. They make their living, we protect them. Simple as that.

We glide down Crosby Street in the early morning. Not many commuters. A few homeless people picking through the garbage cans.
We stop on Howard St. Around the corner from the hotel, our destination.

I reluctantly follow them out of the car and into the hotel. Apparently Pond has a score to settle with someone who works here. A girl was hurt on her turf, the penalty for that is a beating as close to death as she can get it, without letting her victim fully succumb.

The three of them make their way to the front desk, Pond in the lead.
She swipes the computer and phone on to the floor and pulls the concierge across the desk.
One of her men grabs him by the hair and holds him standing up.
The other man joins him and they each take an arm.

You don’t have to watch this. I won’t think any less of you. It’s not easy to stomach, but these things just need to be done. It’s the way it goes out here.

Willie Pond begins.
Her first punch breaks his nose. Crunching it into a wet, bloody mess.
She’s whispering to him. I can’t hear her above his sobs.
She punches his stomach, his sides, his neck, his face.
She kicks him in the groin.
The man vomits and spits out teeth.
She’s right, it’s not easy to watch.
Pirate justice is brutal.

One of her men begins to look around the back offices of the hotel, looking for the owner.
The other breaks into the hotel safe, filling his pockets with cash.

Pond is wiping her hands off with a dirty rag, calling to her men and heading out the door.
She climbs into the front seat of the Cadillac and waves me over.

I hate violence. Always have, despite it being as big a part of my life as it is. It’s not always the answer, but it definitely speaks loudest. I will keep the Bowery as clean and as safe as possible – for my people and for everyone else.

She revs the engine as the two men climb into the car.
Her hand, sticking out of the window, gives a little wave with the bloody rag and they pull out into the street.
The black car with the Jolly Roger spray painted on its doors disappears into the SoHo morning.

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