STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — August 3, 2010. On Tuesday afternoon City Council members Debi Rose and Christine Quinn unveiled a “10-point plan” to combat the hate crimes plaguing Staten Island.
Speaking at the St. Vincent’s Manor residence for seniors on Park Avenue in Port Richmond, City Council member Debi Rose and speaker Christine Quinn told the press that the “I Am Staten Island” initiative was being expanded to include a “10-point” program designed to bring an end to the bias crimes that have stunned the neighborhood.
Since April, 10 individuals have been assaulted in Port Richmond because of their immigrant status. In response, the NYPD has deployed 130 extra officers to the troubled neighborhood and assigned 15 officers to investigate the attacks as hate crimes. In addition to the attacks on Mexicans, two gay men, a married couple, were attacked in the Stapleton section of the Island on July 7. The assailant made homophobic comments to the victims as they sat inside a local White Castle — and jumped the couple when they left the restaurant. One of the men required sutures to close his wounds. To date the perpetrator has not been caught.
In the wake of the recent spate of hate crimes targeting Mexicans, the Guardian Angels began patrolling Port Richmond.
A short time later the police followed suit.
Mayor Bloomberg has declined to involve himself, saying that commissioner Ray Kelly has been tasked with solving what the mayor regards as a police matter.
Early on, Borough President James Molinaro seemed to agree with Bloomberg, saying that the assaults weren’t hate crimes and there was no need to re-convene the Anti-Bias Task Force, established in 1997. Molinaro viewed the attacks as crimes of opportunity, telling the Staten Island Advance that “In a couple of the attacks the victims were set upon as they walked out of bars in the neighborhood, most likely by criminals who saw them as easy prey.”
A number of comments have appeared on the Staten Island Advance’s silive.com discussion website echoing Molinaro’s assertion — and describing the Mexican victims as being “intoxicated” and therefore easy targets for robbers. The silive.com posts are perhaps as troubling as the attacks themselves – blaming the victims based on an assumption that all of the assaulted were “intoxicated” and “illegal.”
“These aren’t hate crimes, they are crimes of opportunity…INTOXICATED MEXICANS + CASH = EASY ROBBERY VICTIM…and they usually won’t call 911 for fear of being deported…this is nothing new, has been going on for years…” — “stevesi”
Ironically, Molinaro praised the NYPD for handling what he regarded as a criminal matter while the police department has stated that they are investigating the attacks as hate crimes.
Because of the flap over whether or not the attacks are hate crimes, Council member Rose introduced the press conference by saying that, “Some have questioned whether these crimes are crimes of opportunity or if they are crimes of hate. For me this debate is academic. Real life challenges, like the ones we face today, don’t fit neatly into a single category. I believe the victims of these attacks were targeted for who they are and because they were perceived as vulnerable. No matter how we view these attacks, one thing is certain: we cannot stand on the sidelines and simply wish this problem away. All of us, community leaders, elected officials, the police department, and our youth have an important role to play in addressing this challenge.”
In an effort to unite all affected and mobilize them to stem the attacks, Christine Quinn unveiled a “10-point plan” that she and Debi Rose have put together, with input from other elected officials, the police, the parks department and community members. The plan will involve local businesses, the Parks Department, the Department of Transportation, local clergy, the Department of Education and the College of Staten Island.
The 10 points are:
Borough President Molinaro was present at the conference and, in an apparent softening of his previous position on the nature of the crimes, said that, as the son of immigrants, he was “hurt” and “frustrated” by what is happening on Staten Island — a borough that has traditionally been welcoming to immigrants.
Ruben Beltran, consul general of Mexico in New York, drew applause when he told the crowd that “We are Staten Island.” Beltran has been involved with the “I Am SI” initiative from early on and he thanked both Rose and Quinn for their hard work.
Tamika Mallory, Executive Director of the National Action Network also addressed the press. Mallory said that her organization would like to be added to the list of groups endorsing the “I Am Staten Island” initiative. NY1 is reporting that National Action Network leader Rev. Al Sharpton will address the Port Richmond community this weekend.
Also happening this weekend: the LGBT Center is hosting three special events in response to the attack on Luis and Richard Vieira. The first event, “Take Back Your Right,” is a gathering that will take place at the White Castle where the men were attacked in early July. The gathering is scheduled to begin at 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Also on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., a healing garden will be planted at the same restaurant. Finally, on Saturday evening, a vigil will be held at Borough Hall. The vigil against intolerance and bias crimes will begin at 8:30 p.m.
To see photos and video clips from the I Am SI press conference click HERE.