A History of New York Auto Show ViolenceS

The New York Auto Show, one of the United States' largest, continued a growing association with violence last night. How'd the auto show become such a flashpoint for violence? Are car guys to blame?

The New York Auto Show, held annually at Manhattan's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, is known for having the highest attendance of any auto show in the United States. Some reports call this a six-year-old problem, but the earliest report of gang violence there goes back to 1998, when three people were stabbed at the BMW display over a dispute regarding pictures of a Z3 convertible.

The New York Times report of the '98 incident doesn't explicitly say the participants were gang members but there are a few clues. For instance, the guy who was stabbed also had a knife on him and stabbed the assailant back. And this quote from a BMW salesmen who witnessed the incident:

"A couple of punks got into some kind of turf battle over the car."

More recently, one person was arrested in 2004 for inciting a riot at the auto show followed by around 80 members of the Crips and Bloods showing up in 2005 and starting a massive fight. The violence appeared to crest in 2006 when around 200 "rowdy teens" sparked so much mayhem "the NYPD raised the white flag and told Times Square businesses to close for their safety" according to The NY Post.

Security was beefed up for 2007 and Jalopnik witnessed a massive display of NYPD force on the last media day of the 2008 show when at least 40 police vehicles and 100 officers quickly descended on the Javits in a dress rehearsal for any possible violence.

Police were patrolling the area this year for the public show days with more security but it wasn't enough to stop four people from being shot last night, though non fatally (and one victim was just hit with a BB gun), in three separate instances. More than 54 people were arrested in the mayhem, including three in connection with one of the shootings.

The show itself was reportedly peaceful and all the shootings occurred more than five hours after the NY Auto Show closed its doors, with one happening at 51st and 7th Avenue approximately 1.5 miles away on foot. So what's the connection to the show?

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The violence swarming over the area around Times Square happens every Easter Weekend and is characterized as a "Gang Initiation Day" by the NY Post, making the auto show the victim of circumstance and bad timing.

"The mayhem in Midtown appears to be a bunch of gang members wilding," said Mayor Bloomberg, a term meaning to travel in a large group and terrorizing/bullying people.

Whether the show itself or a weekend ritual of gang activity was the initial spark of the yearly hooliganism is mostly irrelevant as the two appear to be tied together and an increase police presence has merely pushed the violence away from the show and towards Times Square and upward toward Central Park.

The situation is made worse by the fact that the Javits Center isn't near any subways. Thus, attendees from different parts of the NYC area are attracted to the show, and then forced to mingle as they walk towards Times Square or the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 42nd Street to catch a train. Shootings occurred at both of these nearby stations.

Mayor Bloomberg wants to put an end to the violence saying:

"We're not going to tolerate it. ... This is just a bunch of people who shouldn't be on the streets if they behave this way and we're not going to stand for it."

There's already a large police presence and the Mayor hasn't elaborated on what he'd do differently to prevent yet another year of gang activity centered around the NY Auto Show. These aren't car guys causing crimes, these are idiot punks causing them.