Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) doesn’t want the city fooled by unseasonably cold weather — he says with summer and hot weather coming, the city does not have a moment or a dollar to spare as it plans for summer youth programs and services aimed at curbing street violence.
Wills was joined on April 25 by Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) outside the Cornerstone Community Center the South Jamaica Houses on 160th Street.
The press conference took place just over 100 feet from the street corner where two young men had been shot the previous weekend.
“Crime goes up in the warm weather,” Wills said. “We need the Safe Summer Program. We need Saturday Night Lights basketball. We need schools staying open for activities.”
Wills was speaking less than 48 hours after the City Council released its response to Mayor de Blasio’s proposed 2014-15 budget. The Councilman wants anti-violence youth programs to be paid for directly by the city with dedicated funds in the budget.
He said de Blasio wants to spend the same $7.5 million on summer youth programs that was budgeted last year.
“The Council is asking for $12.5 million,” Wills said. “I’m trying to negotiate for $14 million.” And he said time and publicity are imperative.
“We want our children finding out about these programs before the summer comes,” he said. “Before they are running there from trouble.”
While the city, police department and community have combined to bring down crime rates in recent years, Wills and Erica Ford of the South Jamaica Cure Violence Program said law enforcement is not enough.
“The city needs to treat violence as a public health crisis,” Ford said.
Talib Bey, a member of the Rochdale Village board of directors, said for all the funding and programs that are touted by the city “there just doesn’t seem to be as many as there were when I was young.”
Speakers Donna Hood and the Rev. Richard Hogan know all too well about the cost of doing too little.
Hogan, pastor of Divine Deliverance Ministries in Jamaica, lost his son Laseam, who was shot multiple times at the Pomonok Houses in Flushing in 2010.
Laseam was a member of a group founded by his father titled Brothers Against Killing Each Other.
“He was killed by a friend,” Hogan said.
Hood’s son, 13-year-old Kevin Miller, was walking from Campus Magnet School to a McDonald’s blocks away at the corner of Springfield and Linden boulevards.
He never made it, shot by a stray bullet that a gang member meant for a rival.
“I have three more sons, ages 10, 6 and 4,” she said. “They ask me about their brother. They ask me why he died, and if he’ll come back ... You carry on, but the hurt becomes a part of your lives. Can you imagine asking those questions at age 6?”