Another grim fairy tale
Friday, January 5th, 2007
The gunshots that rang outside the Empire Roller Skating Centerin Brooklyn this week, sending four youngsters to the hospital, once again put the lie to the happy talk from City Hall about what a safe city New York has become.
In broad swaths of Gotham - including Crown Heights, where I live and where the shooting took place - guns, gangs and a violent street culture are getting the best of cops.
Average citizens can't get involved in the hard part of policing, like breaking up drug crews and snatching guns off the street. Leave that to the pros.
But every responsible adult can - and must - do his or her share by putting up a harder fight against the cultural poison that daily spews from radios, televisions and movies.
We need to refute the four Big Lies being aimed at young people from every direction: Life is cheap, greed is good, sex is recreation without consequences and the way to succeed in the world is by force and fraud.
Many young people have absorbed those destructive messages. And they are spitting them back in our faces.
Newspaper accounts of past shootings at the Empire Roller Skating Center tell the story:
In January 1988, two teens - one 14, one 17 - were shot outside the rink at 4 p.m.
In January 1992, cops arrested four young men from Bedford-Stuyvesant, ages 19 to 28, after a wild shootout outside the rink at 4:30 in the morning. Two of the men were firing weapons into the air, then began shooting at the cops who responded.
In April 1998, a guard at Empire, Michael Colon, was shot dead in the rink's lobby after refusing to admit two men who didn't have proper ID.
This week, the mayhem resumed with the shooting of four teenagers outside the rink by an unknown gunman who remains at large.
The latest violence is part of a disturbing local trend. As my Daily News colleague Robert Moore has reported, four men were slain in unrelated incidents on nearby President St. over a four-week period in 2006.
Homicides in this part of Crown Heights, served by the 71st Precinct, went down in 2006, although the 17 murders for the year represent an 89% increase over the past two years.
Deputy Inspector Frank Vega, the commanding officer at the 71st, is a smart and energetic leader with good ideas about how to tamp down the violence.
Last summer, Vega put 23 rookies on overnight foot patrols, and he has been trying to focus on getting guns off the street. What Vega needs - what all inner-city neighborhoods need - is more anger, outrage and inspired involvement from preachers, parents and other leaders. We should be marching in the streets in defiant protest against the shooters, corner bullies and dope dealers - and the cultural filth merchants who egg them on.
Columnist DeWayne Wickham of USA Today recently lamented the absence of an organized anti-violence movement in black communities.
"Most of this nation's black murder victims are killed by other blacks," he wrote. "And despite this chilling fact, nowhere have tens of thousands of people taken to the streets recently to protest this carnage. Not in New York, or Baltimore, or Atlanta, or Detroit, or Chicago. Nowhere."
Wickham is right. A march that shut down Empire Blvd. or Eastern Parkway - or Wall St. - would show the world that some of us, at least, will not stand idly by while our children get gunned down one by one.