SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEIGHBORHOOD RESIDENTS IN LEFFERTS GARDENS ORGANIZE TO PROTEST
RISE IN VIOLENCE BY STAGING A “PLAY IN” AT A LOCAL PLAYGROUND
What: Play for Peace - An Afternoon of Fun and Play for ALL residents of northern Flatbush, Lefferts Gardens, southern Crown Heights - areas just east of Prospect Park. It's basically a "play in." No need to scream in protest. Cops and officials know about the problems of gun violence in our neighborhood, and how concerned we are. But what are they doing? What are WE doing? We're inviting everyone to come out and play in a park that's become a symbol of official indifference and community outrage. Come play on the playground, bring a picnic, bring card games or checkers, play basketball, work out. Hang out. Share a day with your neighbors, knowing that something must be done to quell the violence.
When: Wednesday, October 9 (raindate October 10) from 5PM - 7PM. We will then witness the cops actually locking up the park at dusk as they've claimed they would do and peacefully head home.
Where: The Parkside Playground at PS92, enter on Winthrop Street between Bedford and Rogers Avenues.
Who: Play for Peace has been created collectively by concerned members of the neighborhood. The leadership team includes local parents and activists and members of local civic, educational and religious organizations. But the broader community has been actively involved in efforts for some time, and Play for Peace is designed to highlight the vast majority of residents united against gang violence, shootings and drug dealing.
Why: Play for Peace is a grass-roots effort to draw attention to the alarming uptick in violent crime in the Lefferts Gardens area of Flatbush, Brooklyn. Gun violence and gang activity have become visibly more pronounced in the last two to three years. In response, neighborhood groups have repeatedly called meetings with the 71st and 70th precincts and elected officials, created task forces, engaged the District Attorney's office, and created listservs to share information. Recently, and in an effort to take an even more active role, residents have started organizing an officially sanctioned Civilian Observation Patrol (C.O.P.) for the area. Folks are tired of the same answers and often useless forums and discussions. More needs to be done to address the number one priority for most neighbors - public safety.
Background: In 2012, the Parkside Playground was opened to much fanfare in the Lefferts Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn. Built to be a youth-positive, attractive, communal, dual-purpose park for both families with young children (the playground itself) and for active teens and exercising adults (the accompanying basketball courts and workout stations), problems began to arise immediately after the ribbon cutting. Trash went uncollected, little maintenance to the landscaping and playground equipment took place, and episodes of drug and gang activity, including iPhone thefts, led many to wonder if the park was being monitored or cared for. Just two weeks after the playground's opening, a 22-year old was shot in the playground at 9PM, an hour well after the supposed closing time of the park (the NYPD posted signs stating the playground is locked after dusk; locking is an all too rare occurrence). Repeated calls for vigilance at and around the playground went unheeded. Local law enforcement trumpets of the large number of arrests made in and around the playground - but isn't this just more evidence that the area is out of control? Regular patrols and park closings surely would have encouraged lawbreakers to move elsewhere. Such common sense solutions were not forthcoming.
In the past year, the playground has seen its slides spray-painted with gang graffiti. Five of the original six swings were destroyed. (They were since replaced after community protest.) A group was formed to address the trash and gardening issues that needed tending. More shootings have taken place terrifyingly close to the playground itself. Groups of teens hang out and intimidate youngsters from late afternoon til all hours. A virtual “fight club” of local teens has been allowed to operate, as young boys are fighting each other to audiences of their peers. Adults and teens are allowed to “hang out” in the area made for small children, creating an unsafe and inappropriate environment. Marijuana smoking is common just a few yards from where children are playing. Drug deals go down in the open. Where, we ask, are the authorities in all this?
Zoom out and you'll see a neighborhood struggling with issues seemingly beyond their control. In the past year alone, the following shootings have taken place within a few blocks of the playground:
10/20/12 Westside of Flatbush at Lefferts
12/27/12 McKeever and Montgomery
1/02/13 Rogers at Martense
1/31/13 Empire and New York Ave
2/7/13 Sterling at Bedford
2/14/13 Church and East 18th
3/3/13 Linden and New York Ave
4/5/13 President and Franklin
4/2/13 Bedford and Carroll
4/9/13 Hawthorne near Nostrand
4/15/13 Lincoln Road near Q/B Train Station
4/16/13 Lenox at Bedford
6/3/13 Rutland Kingston
6/23/13 Fenimore btw Flatbush and Bedford
6/2/13 Lenox between Flatbush and Bedford
8/22/13 Flatbush at Beekman
9/7/13 Caton at Argyle
9/14/13 Fenimore btw Flatbush and Bedford
9/16/13 Winthrop near Bedford (same block as playground)
The nearby 71st and 70th precincts have both seen major increases in shootings, this despite drops in neighboring precincts. It's the sheer number of shootings in a relatively small geographical area that have led residents to believe that their needs and concerns are not being addressed. Something is going on between young people and "street crews," and gunplay is becoming the accepted form of retaliation. The teens and young adults involved in the street crews tell confidantes that they're scared too. Many of us feel threatened, demoralized and even enraged by the seemingly empty assurances of the powers that be. On October 9 (rain date October 10), we hope to show the City that we're tired of the same ol' same ol'. New approaches, from direct communication with young people, to community centers, to after-school programs, to beat cops who understand their neighborhood, to better gang infiltration and an understanding of crew dynamics, to working with landlords to evict repeat offenders, to proactive measures like better lighting and cameras and locking playgrounds at night and better enforcement of quality of life crimes - these we ask in the spirit of cooperation to bring down crime and make the area safer for ALL neighborhood residents.
We ask that the media join us on October 9 and interview neighborhood residents and take a look at the many, many folks who are ready to try something new, ANYTHING at all, to bring attention to this seemingly intractable problem.
For questions and comments, please contact:
Tim Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org 917-822-5346