By Rich Bockmann
In summer 2011, South Flushing’s Pomonok Houses were rocked by gun violence when four people were shot outside the housing projects within a span of four hours, including a 39-year-old woman who died.
“Recently, things have been good,” Police Officer Steven Gutmann said at an anti-gun rally at the houses’ basketball court Saturday. “It’s had its moments in the past.”
The rally was organized by Pomonok resident and grandmother Beverly Riley, who said she wanted to build support as Washington considers gun reforms after the state passed tougher legislation earlier this year.
“I wanted to get ahead of the curve. I did not want a rally to start with the name of a victim,” she said. “I have three grandsons I’m bringing up in Queens. I don’t want them to be the victims of guns on the street.”
In July 2011, two young men were injured when shots rang out around 10 a.m. outside the houses. Later that day, in what police said may have been a case of mistaken identity and retaliation for the earlier shooting, Christina Coleman and her son were shot near Parsons Boulevard and Jewel Avenue.
Coleman was hit fatally, and two men were arrested and charged with her murder.
Riley, 73, distributed a flier listing the names of New York’s two U.S. senators and the 27 members of the state’s congressional delegation, with U.S. Rep. Grace Meng’s (D-Flushing) name in bold.
Meng, a member of the Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, said she was surprised how difficult it was to get comprehensive gun reform passed.
“It’s looking like it’s going to be easier to pass immigration than to pass gun reform,” she said. “Unfortunately, you have to make compromises on bills.”
Meng said she and fellow task force members are hoping to close a loophole in federal laws that considers a gun seller’s inventory a personal collection once the seller loses his or her license, meaning if those guns are sold, the transaction does not require a background check.
Mary Washington, who works with community-based groups in Brooklyn in her role as deputy director of re-entry services at the state Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, said it is important to realize gun violence can affect any community.
“I think people in certain parts of Queens say they’re surprised this is going on in their neighborhood,” she said. “You have to be aware of it before it comes to your neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.