How Come Murder Has Returned To New York?

              Hey!  What happened? New York City was supposed to be a very safe place.  But yesterday the Mayor and his Chief of Police announced that homicides in the city during January and February had jumped by almost 30 percent over the same months in 2017, and if this murder activity continues at the current pace, the Big Apple will once again be known as a city where the streets aren’t so safe.

              What caught my eye about this situation, however, was the geography of where those murders took place.  Most of them were in neighborhoods that have always been centers of poverty an violence, places like Upper Manhattan, Bed-Stuy (Do or Die) and Brownsville in Brooklyn and Jamaica in Queens. But one other neighborhood jumped out at me, which was a neighborhood known as Parkchester which is in the northeast corner of The Bronx.

              I attended high school in Manhattan from 1958 to 1962, and I was a student at one of those specialized schools – High School of Music and Art – which drew kids from throughout the city. Several of my friends lived in Parkchester and I often visited them in their homes. I thought that Parkchester was a public housing project (it certainly looked like one) but in fact it was a private apartment development built in 1939-40 by Metropolitan Life. It was also racially segregated when it first opened its doors, which I guess is the reason why I never recall seeing a person of color when I walked to the apartment of one of my high school chums.

              According to the 2010 census, Parkchester’s population is now at least 75% Hispanic and Black. And given the spike in murders, I suspect that the demographics of the community have steadily gone downhill.  What this means is that possibly the geography of what we refer to as ‘underserved’ urban neighborhoods is changing in New York or in some areas getting worse.

              What’s DeBlasio’s plans for keeping violence under control?  The 43rd precinct in Parkchester will get some more men, there will be a greater presence of the CeaseFire street monitors to intervene in gang disputes and here’s the one I really like, increased efforts to get guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. – that’s a direct quote. 

            Maybe these efforts will make a difference, maybe they won’t. But if the Parkchester complex is beginning to attract the kinds of folks who put a dent into someone’s head with a baseball bat or a hole in their head with a gun, we may be looking at a more general problem, namely, the degree to which violent crime seems to go up as socio-economic conditions in  a neighborhood go down. 

              Next week I’m going to review a new book, An American Summer by Alex Kotlowitz, which is a series of first-person narratives from residents of Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods, in which these folks talk in graphic and chilling terms about the violence they see all around them which is often violence caused by guns. This book is a clear departure from most of the social science that explores urban violence because it doesn’t attempt to present a solution to the problem, it simply gives the reader  feeling of what life inn these brutal streets is all about.

              Over the last several years, there have been any number of projects mounted by organizations trying to reduce gun violence in which the survivors of shootings tell what happened to a family member who was a victim. You can listen to a collection of these stories collected by our friends at The Trace here.

              The news out of Parkchester, however, is a reminder that you just can’t reduce something as complicated as violence, particularly gun violence, to the usual data on income, housing, economic opportunity, all the issues which are always thrown up to explain why some people feel the need to grab a gun and let it rip.  We really have no idea why the streets around Parkchester have become unsafe, and I’m not sure we even know how to figure it out.


Did You Know That Gun Owners Are America’s Most Persecuted Minority? Just Ask Dana Loesch.

If I were an African-American or a member of some other racial or ethnic minority, it would really be comforting to know that the cause of racial equality is being championed by a gun-toting woman named Dana Loesch.  Not only does Dana understand gender issues, but she claims to be a gun owner, which by definition means she knows all about prejudice and being a member of the most persecuted minority group of all.  But thanks to the NRA and its video series, Freedom’s Safest Place, Dana’s now able to defend my minority rights and the rights of all law-abiding Americans who know they’ll be safer if they use and carry a gun.

When you’re a member of a persecuted minority like Dana, it’s easy for you to identify the people who persecute you the most.  And Dana’s been on a rant lately concerning the Numero Uno persecutor, the arrogant, elitist, New Yorker Michael Bloomberg, who keeps getting an assist from another no good, anti-gunner named Shannon Watts. Dana began issuing warnings about Bloomberg’s racism earlier this year when she linked to an audio of remarks made by Mayor Mike at an Aspen conference at which he allegedly stated that “ninety-five percent” of all murders were committed by “minorities” which, according to Dana, means African-American males.  And since, according to Dana, only about half of all murders in America are committed by African-Americans, here’s proof-positive that Bloomberg’s just another racist White guy trying to disarm all the Blacks.

bloomberg                Now in fact, if you actually listen to the Bloomberg tape, what he’s referring to is New York City where violent crime happens to be an uncontested feature of minority life, but the word ‘minority’ in New York City doesn’t refer only to Blacks, it means all the residents of economically impacted inner-city ghettos like Brownsville and East New York in Brooklyn, Jamaica in Queens, Upper Harlem in Manhattan, Port Richmond in Staten Island and most of the South Bronx.  Nobody living in a million-dollar co-op on Manhattan’s trendy Upper West Side needs to be worried about getting mugged, ditto residents in Brooklyn Heights or Forest Hills. And this is what Bloomberg meant in correctly using the term ‘minority’ when he answered a question at Aspen, and this is what Dana Loesch has consciously misrepresented in attacking both Mayor Mike and Shannon Watts in her recent tweets.

Believe it or not, I don’t really blame Dana Loesch for making up an argument about guns based on whole cloth.  A girl has to earn a living, and while I’m sure we’ll soon see a line of Loesch leather garments for professional S&M dommes, Dana’s just stupidly parroting a line about guns and African-Americans that the NRA has been pushing for the last several years.

Back in the 1990s, the gun industry discovered that people like me who owned guns for hunting and sport were slowly dying off and not being replaced.  So they invented a new reason to buy guns -protection from crime – which meant that gun owners were really protecting themselves from the you-know-who’s.  And if you doubt that gun ownership for self-protection wasn’t part and parcel of a racist appeal, take a look at the television spots that Charlton Heston produced for the NRA.

The good news is that the strategy kept people buying guns.  The bad news is that while gun sales continue to go up, the number of gun owners keeps going down.  So the industry and its promoters have to find new markets wherever they can. Enter the likes of Dana Loesch with messages crafted for both minorities and moms, neither group, incidentally, showing much inclination to run into gun shops and pull bangers off the shelves.

Dana, let me break the news gently to you and your like-minded friends.  You’re talking to yourselves and nobody who knows or cares anything about history, facts, or the reality of inner-city life is going to take you seriously. And gun violence is a serious issue, which is why you have nothing to contribute at all.