Anthony Corrado, a neighborhood shop owner, stands in the rear alley where Genovese finally died. He remembers her as a “cheerful girl”. Tribune Photo by Aaron Rutkoff
‘They Weren’t Going To Come’
The stranger stalked Kitty, attacking her as she reached a darkened bookstore on Austin Street. Kitty had been heading toward a local tavern, then called Bailey’s, to search for help. Kitty spun around to avoid contact with the man, but it was too late. She felt the coarse, cold blade of his knife twisting into her back and stomach. “Oh my God,” she cried collapsing. “He stabbed me. Please help me.”
Windows opened and lights went on in the 10-story Mowbray Apartments, situated directly across the street from the spot where Kitty was first stabbed. One man, looking down from the upper floor, yelled, “Leave that girl alone,” then turned off his lights.
“I ran after her,” Mosley said, “and stabbed her twice. Somebody yelled and I was frightened, so I jumped back into the car, backed the car back to the nearest cross street and backed down that street about a half-block.
“I decided that even though this person had yelled, they weren’t going to come down this street to see what happened to her. I had noticed as I was backing the car up that the woman had gotten up and appeared to be going around the corner, so I came back thinking I would find her.”
Kitty staggered and swayed, bleeding toward her building. She opened the door at 82-62 just feet from her own apartment and fell into the small lobby. Her attacker reappeared inside the building where he stabbed her once more. Again, she pleaded for help. “I’m dying, I’m dying,” she cried.
Mosley then raped Genovese and took her keys, makeup, pill bottle and $49 in cash before he went out the door toward his car. But before he left, he headed back to stab her once more and end her life.
Greta Schwartz, now deceased, was the only person documented as going to the street. In the weeks afterward, before police in Astoria arrested Mosley for a burglary and connected him to the murder, detectives discovered that 38 people saw parts of the grisly crime, but did not call the police because they didn’t want to get involved.
The murder made national headlines as an example of the coldness of urban life.
Remembering The Attack
The quiet Kew Gardens neighborhood where Kitty Genovese met her brutal demise remains largely unchanged by the intervening decades.
Forty years ago, Kitty tried to flee from her attacker into a small Austin Street pub, then called Bailey’s, located just below her apartment. Today that tavern has been renamed, but the sidewalk out front, where Kitty was first stabbed, looks much the same as it did the night of Kitty’s ordeal.
Anthony Corrado can still recall the splattered blood he saw on pavement outside the bar on the morning following the attack. His small upholstery shop, Fairchild Decorators, has been located on the same block for 54 years.
Corrado knew Genovese and her roommate, Mary Ann Zielonko, and even helped the young women lift a heavy sofa bed into their apartment. “She was always a very cheerful girl,” he remembered. “Always a ‘good morning,’ very quiet.”
Though Corrado will reluctantly discuss the murder, many longtime residents in the neighborhood prefer not to dwell on the incident. “Everybody wants it to be like it didn’t happen. They want to forget it,” said Corrado. “It’s a bad feeling about the neighborhood and the reputation the media gave it.”
A Different Story
Corrado, like many others in the neighborhood, disputes the grisly newspaper accounts the murder, which made Kew Gardens a pariah neighborhood for years afterward and a popular example of modern urban alienation and social decay. There were no street lamps back then, he says, and people mistook Kitty’s anguished cries for the regular nightly commotion from the bar.
To this day, Corrado reminds people that Ms. Schwartz, who was a friend of his, and another woman did come to Kitty’s aide shortly after her attacker fled for the second time, and remained by her side as she died in the moments before the police arrived. “I keep saying these were brave ladies to go down at that time of morning,” he insists. “[The attacker] could have still been there. They were trying to help.”
Another resident, Joseph DeMay, Jr., has set up an extensive website (www.oldkewgardens.com) devoted to debunking the common account of 38 witnesses who stood idle as Kitty was killed. He offers a lengthy, point-by-point analysis of the newspaper stories and courtroom testimony associated with the case, arguing that the number of witnesses was exaggerated from the start and illustrating how many of the bystanders may never have so much as seen the attack taking place.
But the number 38 remains indelibly associated with the Kitty Genovese murder, and though Corrado believes the neighborhood has moved on, he still remembers the chilling aftermath. “I just couldn’t believe they were saying how cold we were. It just wasn’t so. The stigma – people moved out after that,” he said, gesturing toward at the Mowbray Apartments, just out his storefront window. “You don’t know what it was like, people coming in and just pointing at the building.”
Why Did No One Help?
Nearly every college freshman enrolled in Psychology 101 stumbles across the murder of Kitty Genovese to explain “helping behaviors,” or the ways humans respond to emergency situations.
Howard Ehrlichman, a psychology professor at Queens College, said, “Most people’s murders are just tragic events and don’t lead to edification of any kind. The fact is, her death played a major role in our understanding of the conditions that will get people to help one another.”
In the ensuing years with the data from the experiments inspired by Kitty’s murder, psychologists uncovered a disturbing paradox – the more people observe a stranger in an emergency, the less likely that stranger is to receive assistance.
“The presence of other diffuses the sense of individual responsibility,” St. John’s University Professor Jeffrey Nevid explained. “With fewer people present, it becomes more difficult to point to the other guy as the one responsibility for taking action. If everyone believes the other guy will acts, then no one acts.”