There are mothers and children and elderly residents on the streets of Woodhaven’s shopping district, picking up a few things before they head home. The last thing they expect to witness is a deadly attack. That sort of thing happens elsewhere, it happens in the middle of the night.
It doesn’t happen right in front of your eyes during rush hour on Jamaica Avenue. Except, it did.
A group of about a half-dozen young men, described as being between 15 and 17 years of age, surrounded one young man and began kicking and beating him. During the melee a knife was drawn, the young man was stabbed in the neck, and the group fled.
For witnesses, the next few moments were surreal as the young man, covered in blood, walked down Jamaica Avenue before collapsing in front of a supermarket. Police were on the scene almost immediately, rendering life-saving first aid to the victim while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
Police officers cleared the area and swiftly secured it with yellow tape, but shoppers from the supermarket continued to exit the store and, with no place to go, were forced to tiptoe around the victim’s blood to exit the crime scene.
In the week since the attack, very few additional details have been revealed. According to police, there is no known motive, though some seem to suspect the attack was gang-related. The victim’s condition has stabilized and we hope he has a swift and complete recovery.
As word of the attack spread, reactions from residents ranged from shock to anger to fear. I heard or read comments along the lines of “it’s not safe to walk outside your door anymore” to “you can’t even go shopping without being attacked” to “the gangs have taken over Woodhaven.”
The first thing to keep in mind is that you live in a city and violent crimes happen in cities. A recent census listed Woodhaven’s population as topping 61,000 people, so it’s no surprise that we’re going to have a few violent offenders out there.
The second thing is don’t be afraid. You’re no less safe than you were two weeks ago. Go out and live your life unafraid. You cannot control fate or what life has in store for you, and living your life hiding behind the curtains peering out every time you hear a noise is no way to live.
And finally, and most importantly, get involved. One day after the attack, the NYPD held a meeting in Woodhaven and there were more empty seats than residents.
Month after month there are meetings where issues concerning our community are discussed – the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, the 102nd Precinct Community Council, Community Board 9 – and generally, we see the same faces month after month.
And we see far too many empty seats.
When it comes to getting our share of city services, and when it comes to getting better results from our interactions with the city, turnout at these meetings matter.
People are fond of complaining about problems – about noise, crime, graffiti, and parking – but they aren’t willing to spare two hours a month to help solve them. Two hours, that’s what it takes to get involved.
Clicking the “Like” button on Facebook doesn’t count. Retweeting a tweet isn’t enough.
Our biggest problem here in Woodhaven may be apathy, and if it doesn’t get better gangs and criminals won’t have to “take over” Woodhaven, the people will be handing it over to them.
There are two upcoming meetings you can attend. On Tuesday, March 15, the 102nd Precinct is holding their monthly meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. at New Heaven Ministries, 130-05 101st Avenue in Richmond Hill.
And the next Woodhaven Town Hall hosted by the WRBA will at noon on Saturday, March 19, at the American Legion Hall, 89-02 91st Street (behind PS 60). Here’s your chance to get involved.