Reliving the “Gangs of New York:” How Budget Cuts, Unemployment, a Stumbling Economy and an Aloof Mayor Empowers Gangs.

The principal was complaining that he spent all his time
“putting out fires,” potential or real fights around the building. I asked him whether he ever spoke with the gang leaders in his school.
He asked, “Why would I do that?”
I replied, “Because they run your building.”
Gang membership and gang violence is on rise, gangs are younger and more violent. In the 80’s and early 90’s the crack epidemic drove gang violence. Today gangs battle over turf and reputation. Modern media:
Twitter and Facebook were at the core of the Arab Spring rebellions and is an integral part of our growing gang entanglements.
A new teacher from Kentucky, working in Brownsville asked,  “What are those popping sounds, I’m a country girl and they sound like gunshots, but this is New York City”? Her Assistant Principal smiled, “Welcome to the ‘hood”?
The fatal shooting in front of an elementary school at dismissal, the shooting a week earlier at a McDonalds on a crowded street in
Flatbush made the headlines while almost daily reports of gunshots or visible guns fail to make the press. DOE Regional Safety Administrators and NYPD precinct youth officers warn of escalating gang activity. The Mayor is silent and the Chancellor admits that
it’s a problem … and … we wait for a policy response.
In every inner city community across the nation gangs are a
reality as they are in poor communities stretching from Afghanistan to Somalia to Iraq. Gangs are not a modern invention, read, or take a look at “The Gangs of New York,” an amazing movie that vividly portrays a gang culture that purveyed the life of early nineteenth century New York.
I grew up on Gremlin turf. When a few kids slapped me around
and stole a few coins I ran and told a gang member who kicked the crap out of the “invaders.” Through a cracked lip the miscreant mumbled, “I didn’t know you wuz wid the Gremlins.”
A few of the Gremlins grew up to join an organization with a
more memorable name. Everyone knew that Tommy’s restaurant was a “laundry” for the ill-gotten gains of “the boys,” and the food was really good!
We knew the rules of the neighborhood and the rules of the
larger world.
The rise and fall of gangs is closely related to the economy, in difficult times, times of joblessness and foreclosures, of fraying social fabric gangs fill the void. Years of cuts to school budgets reduced after school
programs, the absence places for kids to go and places to connect with teachers and adult role models empower gangs.
Matt Tiabbi in the Huffington Post hits the nail on the head,
Bloomberg’s main attraction as a politician has been his
ability to stick closely to a holy trinity of basic PR principles: bang heavily on black crime, embrace social issues dear to white progressives, and in the remaining working hours give your pals on Wall Street (who can raise any money you need, if you somehow run out of your own) whatever they want.
He understands that as long as you keep muggers and pimps
out of the prime shopping areas in the Upper West Side, and make sure to sound the right notes on abortion, stem-cell research, global warming, and the like, you can believably play the role of the wisecracking, good-guy-billionaire Belle of the Ball for the same crowd that twenty years ago would have been feting Ed Koch.
The Mayor had a scare at the polls in 2009 as his grossly underfunded opponent came within 5% points. His monopoly of the media, the NY
Post and the NY Daily News act as Bloomberg house organs seemed to guarantee a smooth third term. A snow storm, a ludicrous appointment as schools chancellor and the reality that school data is deeply flawed is uncovering an emperor without clothes.
On one level Chancellor Walcott regales us with a goal of creating a “college and career ready” student body based upon acquiring “common core” skills. In the real world, the hours before and after school and in school hallways and stairwells gang culture thrives.
We cannot extinguish the gang culture. We can teach kids to be
bi-cultural, to survive in a gang infested neighborhood. To live within the kinship relationships of the “bloods” and “crips” and their spinoffs and to learn to live in the larger world of the rule of law.
To acknowledge the prevalence of gangs throughout the city is
an admission that the Mayor’s heavy-handed policing strategy is a failure as well as his abandonment of the school system. A school system so preoccupied with measuring and punishing that it forgets about the kids.
It’s the basketball coach, the double Dutch coach, that teacher who spends extra time to counsel and listen to a kid, the principal who
is tough and demanding as well as caring and sympathetic. The salsa band teacher has a hell of a lot more impact on kids lives than the bureaucrat at Tweed spinning numbers.
Rampant gang growth is an outgrowth of a stumbling economy and
a Mayor and his entourage more concerned with image and legacy than with Juan, Maria and Tyrell.

One response to “Reliving the “Gangs of New York:” How Budget Cuts, Unemployment, a Stumbling Economy and an Aloof Mayor Empowers Gangs.

  1. Lamont Fannullone

    The Mayor ghas increased the school budget to over $10 billion dollars giving untested 90 day wonders principalships at $130.000 each (over a billion for these new Principals )whose only gifts are the gift of gab, enabling them to get these outrageous salaries while heading schools that often have 250 to300 students’ And the truth is that if the kids come from homes with no fathers and mothers on welfare and no gray matter, he might as well give each student his/Her own teacher much as is done when children start piano lessons etc.
    He is a billlionaire and likes to spend our tax money as if it’s goingout of style
    His control of the schools has been disastrous.


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