01/16/2013 05:59 pm ET

The Changing Face Of A Notoriously Crime-Ridden Strip In Staten Island

Beside a chatty pet parrot, a boa constrictor and a turtle, a large pit bull named Malo dozes in the corner of James Lee's snug Staten Island apartment on Jersey Street. Malo shatters most strangers' preconceived notions with his warm and welcoming nature, not unlike Lee, a burly, black twenty-eight-year-old security guard to the stars.

"People are like, ‘Oh, the big black guy'," says Lee. "They don't think I listen to Led Zepplin, and Linkin Park, and Green Day and Blink 182. You know what I mean?"

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