JERSEY CITY — Astor Place runs for three blocks in a section of Jersey City one mile south of Journal Square. It’s a quiet neighborhood that is home to an elementary school, a community garden and three strips of row houses.
The street is also home to a neighbor-versus-neighbor battle that has brewed for years, a dispute that escalated from nasty messages on Facebook to Hudson County Superior Court, where four indictments were recently handed up, including one against longtime community leader Tinia Bland.
One side says they are victims of homophobia. The other says they’ve been targeted with racist attacks. One party was beaten until his jaw was broken. Another was bitten on the arm during a block party brawl.
This is the story of that feud. The matter has roiled this tight-knit community that sees itself as an oasis amid the urban clamor of Jersey City.
"I don’t know when the culture changed on the block," said Carol Harrison-Arnold, an Astor Place resident for 30 years. "It’s bizarre."
Tinia Bland in the Astor Place community garden in 2016.
Residents gathering for the Astor Place Neighborhood Association's 2016 block party. To the left of the crime scene unit truck is the small party hosted by Fidel Hernandez and Glenn Trickel outside their row house.
Vera Bland displays her wrist after telling police Fidel Hernandez bit her at the 2016 Astor Place block party.
Security footage from a camera on Astor Place on Sept. 15, 2016. The volume is very low, but at :21 you can hear a small explosion (the incident happens off screen) then at :48 you can hear someone yelling.