2006-09-29 / Front Page

Teen's Shooting Death Prompts Emergency Meeting

Councilman Urges Community To End Violence
By Miriam Rosenberg


Gelisa Norman, a student in Far Rockaway High School, told those at the meeting "There is nothing going on  [for young people] in Far Rockaway."Gelisa Norman, a student in Far Rockaway High School, told those at the meeting "There is nothing going on [for young people] in Far Rockaway." Councilman James Sanders Jr. hosted an emergency town hall meeting in Far Rockaway Wednesday night to address violence in the Rockaways, and urged community members to unite to end youth violence.

Sanders' meeting was in response to the shooting death of Mario Young, 16, on Monday. Young was confronted by two black youths near 13-12 Beach Channel Drive where he was shot once in the head, according to police. He was taken to St. John's Episcopal Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The two suspects fled into the Mott Avenue subway where, minutes later, two riders were stabbed on the platform, according to the New York Post. Police did not say if the stabbings and the shooting were connected.

Monday's shooting was the second time Young was the victim of gun violence. The first time was last month when he was shot in the leg.

Councilman James Sanders Jr. takes notes on problems and solutions provided by area residents at Wednesday's town hall meeting.Councilman James Sanders Jr. takes notes on problems and solutions provided by area residents at Wednesday's town hall meeting. Sanders' meeting provided a forum for people to speak out about Young's death and give their thoughts on how to curb youth violence.

"I live on the block where Mario was shot in the leg," said a woman at Wednesday's meeting held at the First Church of God in Far Rockaway. "There was a police presence for a few days afterwards. I don't know why it was stopped. This next shooting could have been prevented."

Sanders also expressed his concern about the lack of police presence.

"I did a merchants meeting with the captain of the 101 Precinct this morning and alerted him to my displeasure that I didn't see any cops on the street," said Sanders, who said he expected to see a show of force to stabilize things.

Gelisa Norman, a Far Rockaway High School student, made comments that may speak for many young people in Far Rockaway.

"They don't do nothing for us as children," said Norman. "There is nothing going on in Far Rockaway. We don't want to sit in the house all the time."

Kevin Alexander of Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation said there are many programs available through his agency.

The lack of communication with police and between parents and children was also addressed. Some, like Maria Gauntlett and Monique Daily, spoke about the relationship the youngsters have with each other.

"Kids have so much hatred for one another," said Daily.

Gauntlett, the vice president of the 41st Street Houses Tenants Association, had a solution.

"I suggest that each development get groups together to teach children to get along with each other," she said.

An angry Lucille Ward said she thinks young people in Far Rockaway are frustrated because they can't find local jobs.

"A lot of stores in Far Rockaway won't hire our children," said Ward. "That makes them frustrated. They need a job to have responsibility and self-esteem."

Ed Williams of the Rockaway NAACP, who said he has attended more funerals of young people in the area then he wants to remember, asked this question of those at the meeting: "When is the community going to come together as a community?"

"I did this fast, because I did it from the heart," Sanders said of his quickly-arranged meeting. He then issued a challenge to some notorious street gangs. "I am willing to meet with the Crips, the Bloods any place, any time, by myself.. so we can sit down and reason together."

"I was born in Hammel Houses, so I have a special feeling for folks in developments. I understand that 99.9 percent have as much wishes and hopes as anyone else," Sanders went on to say.

"There is a role for everyone...the police...the city needs to put real resources into the community...why are there no vocational schools to help people get out of the hole," said Sanders. He also spoke about arranging a community agreement to create jobs for the Arverne East development

"These things take time," Sanders said about various projects in the works.

In the meantime, Sanders issued some other challenges. He proposed funding a mentoring program if the pastors in the area can get a program going. In addition he called for more job training and the possibility of hiring a private security force.

"We should not allow another youth to perish," the councilman said.

"Together we can organize ourselves, hold our heads up as we should and turn things around and [earn] the respect we deserve.

"I challenge you - what are you as a people doing?" Sanders queried as he asked those as the meeting to sign up for a committee to work on the issues discussed.

Quoting Martin Luther King, Sanders said, "Either you build a community or you have chaos."

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