Jose Pimentel's Arrest For NYC Terror Plot Puts Hamilton Heights Neighborhood Under Microscope
Jose Pimentel, the American citizen of Dominican origin, who was arrested under the suspicion of plotting to commit a terrorist attack in New York, was taken into custody in Washington Heights, the neighborhood where he was allegedly building the bombs, according to authorities. Pimentel resided in Hamilton Heights.
The demographics of Hamilton Heights show a large percentage of Hispanics, with 32 percent of the total population, while the neighboring Washington Heights -- a populous district of northern Manhattan and where Pimentel was allegedly building the bombs -- are Latino almost in their entirety. According to a study by the Latino Data Project at the City University of New York (CUNY), in 2008, 71 percent of the barrio's population was Dominican, while Mexicans accounted for almost 10 percent, and Puerto Ricans and Ecuadorians about 8 percent each.
On Monday, the city's top Dominican elected officials held a news conference to praise the police work and urge the community to remain vigilant.
"Let's continue working together with the police department to prevent future attacks and to bring back the calm and pride of the Dominican community," city councilman Ydanis Rodriguez said.
On the teemting streets of Hamilton Heights, three mothers -- Maria Perez, Basilea Rincon y Carmen Mena -- talked about Pimentel's arrests.
Maria Perez said, “Young people are being lost. They're not concerned with doing what they have to do to earn a living. Instead, they go around inventing and letting strange ideas influence them."
The night before, those who shared their opinions with The Huffington Post expressed a mix of concern and rage that yet another terrorist was captured in the city. Some neighbors refused to comment; others simply said they were unaware of Pimentel's capture.
"Mayor Bloomberg said that the suspect is Dominican. Now all eyes are on us," said Alberto Ventura to The Huffington Post on Amsterdam Avenue and 147th Street on Sunday night.
"Dominican or not, the good thing is they caught him on time. Who knows the tragedy that he could have caused?" said Altagracia González, owner of a beauty parlor in the area.
"Around here, nobody has ever heard of this Mr. Pimentel. As Dominicans, we don't involve ourselves with terrorist attacks. So they must do a very thorough investigation," said Antonio Acosta, interviewed at the intersection of 147th Street and Broadway.
"The guy must be crazy. I do not see any another explanation. It's very worrisome that there are people like this living among us" said a local resident who identified herself only as Celia.
Since Sunday night, the neighborhood was under media siege as reporters were scrambling to discover any information about Pimentel.
According to authorities, Pimentel had converted to Islam and adopted the name of Muhammad Yusuf. He is believed to be a sympathizer of the terrorist group Al Qaeda.
The New York Police Department's Intelligence Division and Counter-Terrorism Bureau determined that Pimentel had managed to make at least three rudimentary bombs with materials he bought at Home Depot and at 99 Cents stores. He also edited and maintained the website TrueIslam1.com, where he detailed his ideology and plans.
Pimentel appeared last night in Manhattan Criminal Court, where he was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the first degree and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Pimentel was represented by Joseph Zablocky.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez (D) and State Senator Adriano Espaillat (D), both of Dominican descent and representatives of the northern district of Manhattan where Washington Heights is located, called a press conference on Monday afternoon to discuss the arrest and its impact on the neighborhood.
In a statement issued Sunday night, Rodriguez and Espaillat praised the work of the NYPD and its "success in preventing a terrorist attack." They also called on the community to cooperate with authorities and offer any information that could prevent any further attempts to attack the city.
"There are many Latin Americans who feel resentment towards the past relations between the United States and Latin America or third-world countries in general," Dominican journalist and analyst Julio Cesar Malone told The Huffington Post. "Dominicans, for example, were invaded twice in the past century by American troops."
"Organizations like Al Qaeda could appeal to some people who have these resentments," Malone added, suggesting this might have been the case with Pimentel. "They have arrested Puerto Ricans (Jose Padilla), Jamaicans (in John F. Kennedy airport), Haitians (in Florida) and now Dominicans, participating in attacks against this country."
A Spanish-language version of this article was first published in AOL Latino.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated Washington Heights as Pimentel's home neighborhood and the location where the reported interviews took place.