Sanders Announces New Initiative to Combat Gangs,Drugs
"This spot is a focal point," said Sanders, standing on the corner of Beach 54 Street and Beach Channel Drive by Ocean Bay Apartments. "It is the poorest part of Rockaway - crime, diabetes, health - it is ground zero."
Sanders has obtained $40,000 through the New York City Council's Anti-Gang Initiative, which helps communities that are plagued with gang violence.
"We're going to have security in some of the more troubled areas to work with gang people, to reason with them to leave the [drug] trade alone," said Sanders on Wednesday morning.
The councilman has already hired CLH Security, whose president is Mark Claxton of 100 Blacks In Law Enforcement Who Care, to patrol Ocean Bay Houses and throughout the Arverne neighborhood.
"Basically they will be patrolling the streets, in particular sites where the community needs to be strengthened," said Sanders in an interview with The Wave in June. "If they see trouble they can head it off." Sanders recalled how rivalries between housing developments went from basketball games to "being twisted in the '80's with the influx of crack and twisted with gangs. It stopped being a youth rivalry and became dangerous."
Recognizing the need to use people who have credibility on the streets to convince those involved in gangs to turn their lives around, Sanders has turned to Lance and Todd Feurtado of the King of Kings Foundation. The former gang members once ran a $30 million drug business in 23 states.
"They have been through hell and back inflicting on innocents and on individuals who participate in the [drug trade]," said Sanders, about the selfdescribed former drug kingpins.
"We're in Rockaway since the early 80's," said Lance Feurtado. "We were part of the blame. We tried to take a shortcut in life. We did what we did to make ends meet." After spending a total of almost 20 years in prison between them, and finding Christianity, it is now the Feurtado brothers' mission to keep young people from falling into the same trap they did.
"We are preparing to launch an extensive mentoring program in community centers from Redfern to Hammels," continued Lance Feurtado. "Originate right at the heart of the matter - in the projects. Reach out to gang members and help them recognize the devastation [they've] caused.
"We'll use our lives as testament to deter them [from gangs and drugs]. We've been there, and done that. We're ex-gang members, ex-drug-kingpins."
The two brothers said they would go into the streets and knock on doors to get their message across.
In addition, they are scheduled to host workshops on the dangers of gang violence and drug use, as well as HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
Joining the Feurtados will be Ralph Greer Jr., who will conduct ongoing workshops in life skills for youngsters 8 to 12 years old, in community centers. Greer also works with the Queens Educational Opportunity Center, teaching teens and adults computer skills to prepare them for the work force.
The program - security in Ocean Bay Apartments and the Arverne neighborhood and the mentoring and workshops by the Feurtados in community centers from Redfern to Hammels - is scheduled to begin in two weeks. There is no schedule yet for the workshops Greer will be holding.
Among the other community representatives lending their support at the press conference were: Renee Brown, president of the Ocean Bay Tenant's Association; Rashford Mendez, president of the Arverne Civic Association; Denean Ferguson, site coordinator for the Far Rockaway Weed and Seed and Michelle Pike, treasurer of the Ocean Bay Tenant's Association.