Monday, February 21, 2011

Harlem Heartache on 137th Street and Beyond

Last week gave us a very clear glimpse into the heartache so many face in Harlem due to gang activity, and we also were alerted last week to the challenges Harlem's girls face as they battle for ice-time for figure skating with hockey teams from expensive private schools far from Harlem.

137th Street Drug Gang

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance announced last week that 14 arrests had been made as part of an anti-gang sweep in Harlem. The gang members are accused of operating an intense drug market on 137th Street between 7th Avenue and Lenox Avenue, and nine of the 14 individuals arrested were minors. Cyrus Vance said:
The gang, over years, created an environment where residents lived in a state of fear, waiting for the next gunshot, or the next drug deal, or the next act of
In the sad reality of life under attack from gangs, the residents of 137th Street have been abused for years. Some of the alleged gang members are also residents of 137th Street, and they have been abusing their neighbors without suffering consequences for years.

One particular young woman from the 137th Street Drug Gang has attracted special attention because she has attended elite high schools. She seemed headed to an Ivy League education when she was derailed by the drug arrest last week. Her current problems are an example of the destructive reality of the drug trade. She was drawn into the 137th Street Drug Gang and has now been drawn out of a promising trajectory.

While Mayor Bloomberg has invested enormous financial resources and political capital in stopping and frisking innocent people of color in record numbers, dangerous criminals have been allowed to terrorize people of color across our city. The 137th Street Drug Gang flourished while 36% of Harlem residents are stopped each year by the Bloomberg stop-and-frisk occupation forces. There is no excuse for the racially discriminatory approach that Bloomberg has taken in his law enforcement strategy: stopping more than a third of the innocent residents in Black neighborhoods while allowing criminals to inflict enormous harm on Black New Yorkers.

The Mayor has engaged in a conspiracy to arrest people of color for marijuana. Since 2002, there have been 350,000 arrests for low-level marijuana possession. Eighty-six percent of those arrested are Black and Latino in a city where 53% of the population is Black and Latino. Studied consistently show that white communities use marijuana far more heavily than Black or Latino neighborhoods, but the Bloomberg Administration focuses on making arrests of Black and Latino New Yorkers rather than on reducing crime.

The 14 arrests related to 137th Street are evidence of efforts aimed at protecting Manhattan residents from crime, while the 600,000 stops of non-whites each year and the 350,000 arrests for marijuana possession since 2002 are evidence of the Mayor's obsession with racial discrimination.

Ice Time In Harlem

Controversy is emerging in Harlem as a result of the lack of ice-time at Riverbank State Park's ice rink for young women who are training in the sport of figure skating. High-priced private schools far from Harlem are using the Harlem ice rink for their hockey teams, and the women are being left out.

We need to remind all of our readers that Riverbank State Park is in Harlem because Harlem residents stood up for themselves when a water treatment plant, with all of its odors, health risks, and annoyances, was planned for their community. Harlem's residents were convinced to accept a bargain: wealthier communities would benefit from the treatment plant while Harlem's residents would endure it, but Harlem residents would get a first-class athletic facility and recreational park. It is ultra-ironic for the park to now be captured and controlled by expensive private schools without any meaningful connection to Harlem.

Riverbank State Park needs to have a preference from community groups from Upper Manhattan rather than a preference for far away private schools. Let us hope that more Harlem girls get to benefit from the ice rink and that the battle for these young women reminds us all not to take for granted the public resources in our community. Other communities will take advantage of the resources in our community if we don't stand up and demand to be able to use them ourselves. In case of the Riverbank State Park rink, the resources have been transferred from Harlem to other communities despite strong objections.


  1. You have easily confused yourself.

    You criticize the police for both being too aggressive in stopping crime in neighborhoods like Harlem and for being unsuccessful. (By your unspecified standard.)

    You criticize White hockey players for using public city facilities in Harlem but not a Black Harlem girl for attending an exclusive private school on the Upper East Side. Must we stay segregated in our own neighborhoods as you demand, or may we venture out? Are you likewise an interloper each time you enter Midtown or the Upper East Side? Do not Blacks use public facilities in White neighborhoods?

    You criticize the percentage of Blacks criminals arrested but not the percentage of Black criminals. Blacks commit 50% of violent crime in the United States while comprising 12% of the population. (Seven times as likely to commit murder as a White and six times as likely to commit rape as a White.)

    Or, are you saying that that is a White gang terrorizing 137th Street? Because you egregiously omit the gang’s race while obsessing over the race of the victims. Highlight both or neither.

    You criticize the police for arresting marijuana offenders specifically while criticizing them for not stopping the drug trade in general. Or, do you think that the police are free to enforce the rules that they choose? If you think that marijuana should be legalized, then put it on the ballot and see where the people stand. But until then, marijuana is illegal, just as much as the illegal drugs you don’t condone.

    Finally, because you obsess over the color of one’s wrapper, you miss the 99% of our individual constitution that are alike across the races, made in God’s image as we are.

  2. We can go point by point.
    1) The ice rink at Riverbank Park in Harlem (as well as the rest of Riverbank Park) was specifically to compensate for the environmental racism of placing a water treatment plant in Harlem that would not be tolerated in many other communities. The fact that the ice rink is monopolized now by non-Harlem organizations is a breach of the agreement between the Harlem community and the State.
    2) 90% of those stopped in NYC are innocent and 90% of those stopped are persons of color. The police should be focused on preventing crime rather than terrorizing and harrassing innocent people of color. If the NYPD invested its energy in preventing crime with the same dedication it has demonstrated in harrassing innocent people, we'd all be much safer.
    3) The NYPD cynically arrests individuals possessing marijuana who are no threat to themselves or their community, and they make these arrests only in communities of color. Again, this energy should be invested in preventing crime rather than arresting and harrassing people of color based on a marijuana pretext. As you know, people of color use less illegal drugs than other New Yorkers, but more than 90% of those in prison for drug use are persons of color.
    4) If the NYPD and other private and public entities did not abuse New Yorkers for being people of color, your focus on the similarities between ethnic groups would be the right place for everyone to focus. However, given that skin color is the single largest determinant of one's treatment in the criminal justice system, one's income, one's economic opportunities, one's educational opportunities, and the quality of one's healthcare, we should focus our efforts on eliminating the disadvantages faced by people of color caused by their skin color.

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