“I Am Staten Island” Launches A 10-Point Plan To Combat Hate Crimes by Thomas Good

Christine Quinn (left) and Debi Rose
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

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.

Christine Quinn looks on as Jim Molinaro expresses his frustration
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

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:

  1. A Staten Island Ferry campaign — The New York City Department of Transportation will launch an educational campaign on Staten Island ferries as well as in and around ferry terminals.
  2. An Interfaith Weekend Against Hate will take place on the weekend of September 18. Religious leaders across Staten Island will dedicate their services to a unified message against hate.
  3. Religious Roundtables will continue the work begun on the weekend of the September 18. They will continue to explore ways they can build bridges between communities in Staten Island.

  4. Gonzalo Mercado of El Centro del Inmigrante
    (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

  5. Respect for All Campaign — With $300,000 from the New York City Council, the Department of Education will expand the “Respect For All” program to include a high school level anti-bias curriculum and training. Throughout the 2010-11 school year, the Department will offer this resource and professional development to high school teachers and school leaders throughout the City, and will start its efforts in Staten Island this fall. In addition, the Department of Education will also provide additional support to Staten Island high schools to engage students in actively promoting respect for diversity in their schools and communities. A cadre of student leaders in each of the high schools will receive intensive training to prepare them to be diversity peer trainers.
  6. Local business involvement will be fostered through Public-Private Partnerships — The New York City Council will spearhead an effort to raise public-private funds that will go towards providing security cameras for increased monitoring in the Port Richmond Business Corridor.
  7. Safe Zones — Businesses will also take part in a new neighborhood safety program. As participants in the program, they will identify their businesses as “safe zones” where anyone who feels threatened in any way can seek refuge and will be assisted in finding help from the appropriate authorities.
  8. Improved Lighting and Safety — The Department of Transportation will explore existing lighting conditions in the Port Richmond area and determine whether or not improvements are needed.

    Project Hospitality’s Rev. Terry Troia speaking at the conference
    (Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

  9. Social Service Organizations will receive specific training in how they can combat bias and assist attack victims.
  10. CUNY / The College of Staten Island — which has notable experience at diversity training — will provide diversity and tolerance training for the local community.
  11. Parks Programs — The Parks Department will conduct an assessment of safety at all parks in the Port Richmond area and throughout Staten Island and will increase safety where it is needed. They will also explore with the City Council whether other measures, such as improved lighting, seasonal sports and recreation and Park Ranger programs, and other programs could be introduced to encourage community unity and public safety.

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 of the National Action Network
(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)

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.

For more information on the LGBT Center’s special events, contact siprideevents@gmail.com.
For more information about the “I Am Staten Island” campaign visit iamsi.info.

To see photos and video clips from the I Am SI press conference click HERE.

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