Sazzi Islam, 24, is one Subway restaurant employee in Brooklyn who seems to take the wrong shifts at the wrong time. Within the two and a half years he has been working at one outpost in the Cobble Hill neighborhood, he has been the victim of three armed robberies, two of which took place in the same week, just before and after Hurricane Sandy hit New York City.
On the Sunday before the hurricane, Islam said he was standing behind the sandwich counter with a fellow employee, when the suspect walked into the restaurant at about 3 p.m. Islam said he was wearing a black leather jacket and jeans.
“He said, ‘Can you do me a little favor and stand over there?’” Islam said. “He took out the gun and pointed the gun. We let him take all the money.”
On the following Friday at 8 p.m., Islam said the same suspect returned, but this time, wore a New York Yankees fitted cap while he robbed the restaurant. This time, he didn’t have to say anything. On both occasions, there were no customers in the restaurant, he said.
Police said the suspect is a black male, approximately 40 to 50 years old, between 5-feet-10 to 6-feet tall and weighs about 180 pounds with black hair and browns eyes.
Though the New York Police Department reported that one week after Hurricane Sandy overall crime went down 31 percent from the same week the year before, the Subway restaurant on 216 Atlantic Avenue is not the only place the suspect has hit.
The man is wanted in connection with 12 robberies between October 17 and November 5, police said. All but one robbery in the Upper East Side took place at businesses in northwest Brooklyn. There were no reported injuries at all of them, and the suspect has yet to be apprehended.
Among the other places was an ice cream parlor called the Blue Marble Ice Cream Restaurant around the corner from the Subway on Court Street and a frozen yogurt parlor called Tasti-D-Lite Restaurant on 7 Avenue, police said. The suspect also robbed Tasti-D-Lite twice and other sandwich shops in the area, which might have some employees of these businesses feeling worried.
“I don’t feel that comfortable now here,” Islam said.
The Subway restaurant is part of the 84th police precinct, and according to its crime statistics there were 145 robberies in 2011. By November 4, the reported number has already increased to 152. Still, it remains a fraction of total citywide robberies.
The employees at Blue Marble Ice Cream Restaurant declined to comment on its recent incident. Tucked between a sandwich shop and a toy store, the ice cream parlor is among many small and cozy stores in the area. But, Zoey Sachs, the store manager of Cobblestone Foods across the street, said most shops visibly have multiple employees in them. In Cobblestone Foods, Sachs was with other employees who ran the register and cooked food in the kitchen.
“There’s not a lot of stores with one person in it. That might be the only place. He’s young, he’s by himself,” she said, referring to the ice cream parlor employee who was present at the time of the robbery. “It’s a small store.”
Despite the crime numbers, several families and young people walk down Court Street and other streets around the Cobble Hill neighborhood. A string of robberies almost seems surprising.
“I think that’s what makes it a good area to go [rob],” Sach said. “Everyone doesn’t expect it.”
After three robberies at gunpoint by two different men, uncertainty and heightened fear, Islam said he is considering leaving the Subway in Cobble Hill if he finds another job.
“I might quit the job after one month or two months,” he said. “Because, here it always happened, the robberies. It’s dangerous.”