Post reporter investigating vagrants gets punched in the head

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I went to the East Village to check out a tip that the young vagrants inundating the area — “crusty punks” — were amping up their aggressive antics.

Consider it confirmed. I know this because one punched me in the head.

Zeke described himself as a “traveler” from Kansas, and the proof was in his farm-animal musk.

He answered a few of my questions, took a few swigs of his vodka and flew into a rage. Crusty vs. Postie.

The millennial with Charles Manson eyes grabbed me in a headlock and slugged me. He screamed that he “wanted his name back.” You see, as a journalist, I had written it in my notebook.

Sorry, Zeke. Zeke, Zeke, Zeke.

Police arrived 10 minutes later, which shocked business owners on Second Avenue. At least one said she called the 9th Precinct about the rowdy vagabonds a few hours earlier but nobody responded.

“It’s getting worse and worse. It’s depressing coming to work every day,” lamented Mariann Marlowe, owner of Enz’s retro fashion boutique, saying the crusties’ drug-using, defecating, urinating and harassing is killing her business.

“All the police say is their hands are tied, and the squatters know it,” she said. “It seems there are rules for everybody and separate rules for them.”

Enz’s, a neighborhood staple for decades, is adjacent to a vacant lot near East Seventh Street where three buildings were destroyed in a deadly gas explosion in 2015. As many as 15 crusties at a time camp out on the sidewalks around the lot, scaring passers-by with their shocking, often violent behavior.

“You never know what mood they’re in,” Marlowe said. “Anybody would be intimidated to walk past this.”

Yolanda Fernandez, a 40-year East Village resident, said the vagabonds treat the block like it’s “their own living room.”

“The police totally ignore them. They sit there and allow them to do anything,” she said.

When I asked Zeke about this, he barked, “We have a relationship with the police. They say some people are talking s- -t about us.”

One terrified 64-year-old retiree blamed the city’s decriminalization of quality-of-life offenses.

“The fish stinks from the head,” he fumed. “From de Blasio on down. He doesn’t care. He’s too busy at the gym.”

Jose Amigon, co-owner of Paul’s Da Burger Joint, was beaten with his own broom in June when he asked a sleeping crusty to move as he swept outside his store.

Not long after I was crusty-creamed, 9th Precinct Capt. John O’Connell called me to make sure I was OK, saying, “This is upsetting to me.”

Marlowe said my Wednesday-afternoon whipping prompted action. O’Connell has stopped by her store at least three times since, and a cop is now posted on the block.

Marlowe said that she hasn’t seen the crusties in a couple of days and that she made more money Friday than she had all week.

“It was very unfortunate what happened to you, but because of it, the police are now taking our problem seriously,” Marlowe told me. “We called the police every day, and they’d never come or they would just drive by.”

The NYPD said in a statement that it was addressing the problem, with patrol and neighborhood-coordination officers focusing on the area and “actively engaging” with residents and businesses. It also said marked patrol cars were in the area at least two hours a tour.

As for me, I’m asking my boss for hazard pay.

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