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Doing our job, amidst scandal and death

The Brooklyn Paper
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So much has transpired since we last met; yet, as we’ve come to expect despite the fearful disillusionment imparted by 9-11, the world still turns.

In my previous column, three weeks ago, I recalled Fulton Street’s mini-riots of the late 1970s. My assertion that these disturbances (part economic revolt, park hooliganism, part block party) took place under the watchful, unhindering eye of local police, generated an incredulous response from some readers. My promised follow-up, along with more on the demise of A&S, must wait, however. This week, current reality trumps historic truths.

• • •

On Wednesday, July 23, as we were putting the finishing touches on The Brooklyn Papers that would be distributed the next day, gunfire erupted inside City Hall. When the dust settled, James Davis, one of our city councilmen and a unique advocate for his constituents, was dead, slain by a delusional, impatient rival.

Our editor, Neil Sloane, and reporter Patrick Gallahue went into overdrive and, together with our production staff, emerged at 4:30 Thursday morning, having remade The Papers, which were printed and distributed by noon.

Over the next week, we covered all aspects of the Davis tragedy, including the budding embarrassment of an aggrieved family seeking to replace the councilman with a less-than-perfect sibling. Of brother Geoffrey’s bid, we suspended judgement as we joined the Davis family and the entire community in mourning our common loss.

• • •

The breaking Davis story forced us to delay by one week publication of a lengthy report by Deborah Kolben into the affairs of Bay Ridge attorneys John Gangemi Sr., Frank Gangemi and Ursula Gangemi. This story, headlined “Criminal Law; Husband, former clients are set to sue the Gangemis,” ran last week.

A community newspaper is part cheerleader and part conscience. Above all, the newspaper must be a mirror of reality, of truth.

We don’t relish publishing news that might embarrass individuals or organizations, whether they are “ordinary folk” or ostensible community leaders. When a tough story must run, we work overtime to be fair and to give all parties a voice.

Over the years, most of our communities’ icons — politicians, business people, educators and arts and civic leaders — have recognized The Papers’ role. There were, however, a number of memorable contrary instances. Which leads me, briefly, back to Fulton Street.

• • •

After the Christmas Eve disturbances finally made the papers, as the federally funded “malling” of Fulton Street was underway, police ultimately capped the riots. The new outdoor Fulton Mall would be joined in quick succession by the indoor Albee Square Mall. We greeted both projects with boosterism tempered by a skeptical eye.

On the day of the Fulton Mall’s grand opening, our paper included an article that raised questions about the Albee project and its developer. It also featured an illustrated police blotter headlined, “Woman raped on Dime bank steps.” The Dime Savings Bank was Albee’s neighbor.

I carried a stack of Brooklyn Papers among the celebrants on Fulton, approaching a group that included a Citibank official who, it developed, had already seen The Paper and was evidently not pleased with our Albee reports.

She opened a Paper to Citibank’s ad. “You see this ad?” she said. “You’ll never see another.”

It was years before we did.


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