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Fordham drug ring busted
By Philip Shishkin

he sound of running feet and the commotion of unmarked police cars pulling up to her apartment building woke Nancy Rivera in the middle of the night. Looking out her window, she could see police leading people in handcuffs out of the building and she guessed what was going on: a drug raid.
Photo: Kids play outside the Creston Avenue building where drug dealers were busted.
LAURIE CUNNINGHAM
Kids play outside the Creston Avenue building where drug dealers were busted.

She was right. After several months of investigation, police and narcotics detectives arrested 17 people on April 27, including nine in Rivera’s building who police said were part of a marijuana- and cocaine-selling ring based in three buildings in Fordham.

Those arrested ranged in age from 17 to 65, according to the district attorney’s office. Two defendants have been indicted, and will go to trial later this month. Two others have pled guilty to attempted criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The others have not yet been arraigned.

Those arrested could face terms ranging from seven years to life if convicted, according to the district attorney’s office. A trial date has not yet been set.

In the raids, police confiscated four kilograms of cocaine, 21 pounds of marijuana, nearly $3,000 in cash, a loaded AK-47 assault rifle and a "Street Sweeper" shotgun, among other weapons, the district attorney’s office reported.

"It was a nice hit," said Lt. Walter Hickey of the South Bronx Initiative, a police narcotics unit. "It might have been the biggest one we’ve had recently."

The charges hardly shocked local police officers and residents, who say the area surrounding Fordham Road has become known as a haven of drug activity, with dealers yelling out code words and telltale crack pipes littering the ground.

Nearly half of all felony indictments in the Bronx stem from drug-related offenses, said district attorney’s spokesperson Stephen Reed. "This is a fairly large operation, but it is not unusual," he added.

The arrests were made at 2600 Creston Ave., where Rivera lives, as well as 2645 Morris Ave. and 1440 Crotona Parkway.

Local police consider Creston Avenue and 183rd Street to be among the most drug-infested spots in the area. One police officer said he’d seen furniture thrown off the roof on 183rd Street, aimed at police below. Dealers "don’t want you to stay too long. You are bad for business," said Mike Williams, who works in a transit police unit and has made drug arrests.

The building at 2600 Creston Ave. is a red-brick structure with clean and quiet hallways. Yet, for years, Rivera said, every time she walked in or out of her building, she saw people with packages of marijuana.

"They used to hide it by the stairs," she said. "They did it very obviously like they would never get caught." Rivera’s two children would see them too, and that’s what worried her.

The dealers, she said, would yell "nickels, nickels" at passers-by—a code word for bags of marijuana. Sometimes, police would come and arrest them, but "they used to be right back out the next day," Rivera said. But since the raid, she said, they haven’t come back.

Rivera’s building overlooks St. James Park, with benches on its tree-lined alleys. The park is a popular destination for local kids, who go there to play basketball or tennis or to simply hang out.

Drug dealers are also frequent visitors, said Sam Foertmeyer, who lives nearby and spends an occasional afternoon in the park. Just the other day, he said, he saw a drug deal broken up by police.

"Drug traffic here is unbelievable," he said, as he walked along Aqueduct Avenue, kicking at the little plastic crack pipes stomped into the ground.