Tenants Are Anxious as Group Returns

The New York Times/November 11, 1996

New York -- A week after the police raided the headquarters of a heavily armed fringe group in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, some group members were back on Sunday, busily bagging leaves, sweeping, painting -- and making some of their tenants and neighbors exceedingly nervous.

A few tenants, still unnerved by the raid, made an impromptu bid for professional help. They went across the street to Medgar Evers College, where the New York Association of Psychologists was holding its monthly meeting, to talk about their fears.

"They're suffering a kind of fearfulness," said Richard Green, chief executive of the Crown Heights Youth Collective, a youth guidance organization, who organized the tenants' visit. He said the children of the 19 families who live in the building are "definitely traumatized."

The group, calling itself the National Labor Federation, or the Provisional Communist Party, was established by Eugenio Perente-Ramos, who died last year. The police and experts on cults say he was a cult leader with a following of several hundred in the Brooklyn complex and around the nation.

While the group possessed a cache of weapons and talked about armed revolution, law-enforcement officials and cult experts said they doubted it was a threat to anyone but its own members, who endured virtual isolation and labor that was both endless and exhausting.

Tenants said that the people who ran the buildings at 1107, 1111 and 1115 Carroll St. kept close watch on who came and went. After dark they would come alive with activity, holding meetings downstairs where they would sing and shout until dawn.

Clara Gomez, a resident of 1115 and the mother of a 17-year-old girl and 13-year-old son, said her children had been afraid since the group's return. "My kids can't sleep," she said. "My son wants to go live with his grandmother. He doesn't want to live here anymore, and my daughter asks me to watch her walk home from the window."

Natalie Reis, 62, a resident of 1115 for 30 years, said she had trusted the group but was now anxious enough to seek a few days' escape at a friend's house in Massachusetts.

"When anything happens, they help everybody," Mrs. Reis said, describing how the group had helped her husband after his car was in an accident. "But finding the guns scares me. And who's to say if they won't get more? I don't know what I'm going to do."

At least one tenant at 1119, George Lamont, 43, said he was glad they were back. "I don't believe they're like Branch Davidians. They're not going to destroy themselves. As you can see, they're organizing stuff, they're cleaning stuff, it's good for the block," he said.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.