Residents of a New York town are raising hell over a notorious motorcycle gang’s plans to move its headquarters into a vacant church.
The Suffolk County chapter of the Hells Angels recently bought a church in Centereach that has been vacant for years and will serve as the club’s new headquarters, Fox 5 reported.
"Nobody wants this in their own backyard. This is something you have to be very concerned about," said one critic of the plan who did not want to be identified. "Drug dealing is their major [enterprise], prostitution. That's a lot of the stuff that goes on with these guys."
A Hells Angels sign already hangs above the building’s entrance, and the new owners have constructed a chain-link fence around the property.
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During its rise in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, the FBI said that the Angels and other gangs — like the Pagans, Bandidos and Outlaws MC — were involved in extortion, drug dealing, trafficking stolen goods and other criminal activities, according to a Life magazine profile of the club.
"I've been around for a long time and I remember motorcycle people and these people aren't good motorcycle people," a woman who lives three blocks from the Centereach church told the station.
Ron Kuby, the Hells Angels’ lawyer, says the community has nothing to worry about.
"Once people get to know them, the prejudices will fall away and I think they'll play an important part in revitalizing that block," Kuby said.
"We understand that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has a fearsome reputation, but once you get past that image, once you get past that prejudice, and get to know these folks as your neighbors, I think everything is gonna be just fine," Kuby told ABC 7 NY.
The Suffolk County Police Department told Fox 5 that it is aware that the motorcycle group bought the property, but they have no further comment.
"They're people who do what they want to do."
A member of the Hells Angels, who identified himself as Mario, says the group is civic-minded and cited its recent holiday toy drive.
"They have nothing to fear, believe me. They have nothing to fear," he said. "We’re business owners, family oriented."
“They should be more concerned about the safety of what was over here,” Mario said. “The MS-13, they are no longer here anymore,” he said, referencing the violent criminal gang.
“We stabbed and slabbed people left and right in the day, but that way is less common now,” Richard Mora, known as Chico, a Hells Angels member in the Phoenix chapter, said in a 2013 interview with the New York Times.
The Hells Angels, Suffolk County chapter, says it will institute a 24-hour watch in the community.
But others aren’t optimistic.
"They're not people who care," Centereach resident Barbara Frer King told ABC News. "They're people who do what they want to do."
"This is a residential neighborhood. Not a nice move," said Laura Fellone, another Centereach resident. "These poor people will never sell their houses. I mean who's gonna wanna buy them?"