The Baisley Park Houses community in South Jamaica continued grieving Tuesday afternoon after 14-year-old resident Aamir Griffin was killed by what police suspect to be a stray bullet from a gang-related shooting.
In response to the shooting, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams gathered a coalition of local advocates, elected officials and Griffin’s relatives to decry the neighborhood’s long-term disinvestment and demand increased funding for community programs.
“The number of shooting incidents are up 3.7 percent. I would like the city to begin a serious investment in taking on the causes of these acts,” Williams said. “Police have a role to play in public safety. However, if police could have solved this problem, it would have been solved a long time ago.”
Williams’ demands included a universal youth job program, more funding for at-risk youth groups and athletic leagues and the re-opening of a community center in the Baisley Park development that shut down under Mayor Bloomberg in 2008.
Griffin’s death comes less than a week after Borough President and DA candidate Melinda Katz posed a similar preventive strategy to address Queens’ spike in gun violence over the past year. Williams took Katz’s idea a step further to suggest that southeastern Queens’ recent spike is a result of systematic disinvestment.
Gary Frazier, a local chaplain who has run sports programs for area students, said that the community center was closed as a result of a budgetary mandate in 2008 that shut down community centers in NYCHA houses across the city.
“We’ve been fighting and ever since and they’ve been telling us it’s not in the budget to do so,” Frazier said.
Williams specifically took aim at Mayor Bill de Blasio during the press conference, referencing his “historic resistance” to funding youth employment programs and framing the mayor’s $8.7 billion community-based jail plan as an impediment to at-risk youth funding.
Through tears, neighborhood Councilwoman Adrienne Adams echoed Williams’ call for resources and criticized of the city’s cessation of the area’s youth programs.
“Aamir was gunned down on the very playground that was supposed to cut down on gun violence in these houses,” said Adams.
Councilman Donovan Richards, also a candidate for Queens borough president, called out the racial disparity in how resources are distributed throughout the city.
“If Aamir’s complexion were a little whiter, we wouldn’t be out here begging for resources,” Richards said.
In his address, he called it unfair that southeastern Queens’ large population of homeowners should pay more in property taxes without getting youth services in return.
“When a 14-year-old is taken from a community, it’s not just the community that has to take that burden. It’s the community, city, state and the country,” Frazier said.