Advice about racism proved to be prophetic

Posted: December 14, 2007

Looking back now, the older construction worker's words were downright prophetic.

Earlier this month, when Shawn Jenkins and his girlfriend decided it was time to move out of Feltonville, he asked his fellow construction workers for their opinions on his planned destination.

Jenkins had fallen in love with a tidy, red-brick Port Richmond rowhouse that was being rented out by a relative of one of his co-workers.

The neighborhood was quiet, tree-lined and clean.

The block of Edgemont Street near Cambria that Jenkins and his girlfriend - who are black - soon planned to call home was predominantly white, but he didn't expect any racial tensions.

"Everyone said we should be fine, but this one older guy at my job, he said, 'You don't want to do that. They'll burn you out of there,' " Jenkins said last night.

"I guess he was right."

Though they didn't actually resort to arson, vandals broke into 2917 Edgemont St. earlier this week, shattering windows and scarring the walls with hate-filled graffiti, declaring "All n-----s should be hung," police said.

Jenkins and his 21-year-old girlfriend - who was also verbally harassed when she visited the house over the weekend - were left shaken by the hate crime, which sounds like a leftover nightmare from the Jim Crow era.

"You just don't think that this kind of stuff would go on today," Jenkins said.

"Everybody's upset about it."

Jenkins, a member of the Laborers International Union Local 332, said his family was initially hesitant about his moving to Port Richmond.

But the landlord of the rental property, Robert Dunleavy, assured him that he had nothing to worry about.

"He said that everything was fine now, the neighborhood wasn't like it was 10 or 15 years ago. He said we'd be fine," Jenkins said.

Jenkins said he drove through the area afterwards and saw black and Hispanic families, which also reassured him.

So he plunked down a $650 deposit, and he and his girlfriend, a dental office employee who didn't want her name used, planned to move in on Dec. 8.

Jenkins wound up having to work that day, so his girlfriend and her mother went to the house to clean. When the two women arrived on Edgemont Street, they found several white men standing outside the rental property, Jenkins said.

A younger man paced in front of the house, drinking beer, Jenkins said. Later, the man yelled, "Y'all n-----s taking over the neighborhood!" Jenkins' girlfriend told him in a tearful voice-mail message.

At that point, Jenkins told Dunleavy that the couple would not be moving into the house.

On Monday, Jenkins said, Dunleavy called him and said the first-floor windows had been broken, too. It's unclear when the graffiti, which also included the phrase, "White is right" and "KKK," was added.

Jenkins said Dunleavy has not returned his deposit as promised, and "right now, he's not answering my calls."

Dunleavy did not respond to numerous calls from the Daily News yesterday.

Jenkins called the vandals "cowards" and added, "They're probably not even Ku Klux Klan. They see it on TV and think it's funny."

Capt. John Darby, of the police Special Victims Unit, said yesterday that detectives were still investigating the threat and the timeline of the vandalism. *

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