CENTEREACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club claims members are not to be feared. The infamous group bought a Baptist church on Long Island and are turning it into its local headquarters.
The welcome mat, however, is not out.
The notorious Hells Angels just opened a Suffolk County chapter in a former Centereach church, right in the middle of a residential block.
Uneasy neighbors told CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan on Tuesday the move came without warning.
“Usually when the town has something like that going on, they send letters to everybody,” homeowner Farro Paul said. “But we didn’t receive any letters or anything, so we are very concerned about it.”
“We have kids on these blocks. I don’t know how many kids. We don’t need this,” homeowner Barbara Frerking said, adding when asked her biggest fear, “Violence.”
Suffolk residents remember past feuds between the Hells Angels and Pagans. Physical force resulted in numerous arrests and confiscation of a multitude of weapons.
But town officials say times have changed. They cannot prevent the group from using the site, as long as members abide by local code.
“I know a lot of bikers. They wear all their garb and everything like that, but they are not necessarily bad people,” resident David Fernandez said. “They do good things. They do charitable things.”
“We had toy drives in the past and they went over very successfully for the children,” Hells Angels member “Mario” said, adding when asked about the church, “Yes, this is our private congregation.”
The biker gang’s attorney, Ron Kuby, said once neighbors get to know club members, prejudices will fall way, and the Hells Angels will play an important part in revitalizing the block.
“Historically the Hells Angels have been very, very good neighbors despite their fearsome reputation as an organization. They tend to leave people alone and want to be left alone. Within that, if there’s a problem on the block, they’re usually the first people to offer aid,” Kuby said.
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Still, some neighbors stopped CBS2’s McLogan to complain about how scared they are. One person even asked not to have his face shown.
“If any problems, repercussions, them coming after me, I’d be very nervous about that,” the person said.
A chain link fence is now up surrounding the private property. Flood lights illuminate signage at night.
The Hells Angels plan to redo the interior, and modify the structure into a club atmosphere similar to what we saw during a New York City tour in 2007.
“They should be more concerned about the safety of what was over here,” Mario said. “The MS-13, they are no longer here anymore.”
The Hells Angels say they will institute a 24-hour watch in the community.
A recent toy drive attracted 200 members and a live band. Neighbors said they saw neon lights and an influx of cars and called police.