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Slope parents, teachers, kids blast NYPD’s ‘racist’ teen-shooing tactic

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Stay in the neighborhood.

That was the resounding message of a community meeting held at Park Slope’s John Jay Educational Campus on Friday in response to the just-launched police initiative to disperse groups of teens wherever they gather, in neighborhoods from the Slope to Dumbo. Officers from Fort Greene’s 88th Precinct and Downtown’s 84th Precinct detailed the larger anti-teen hangout initiative in an exclusive report by this paper.

Parents, teachers, and students assembled in a cafeteria at the Seventh Avenue schoolhouse, many of them wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the message “I love John Jay” and an anti-racism logo, blasted the tactic, saying students of all races have a right to congregate in the community.

“This is unwarranted, unfair, harassment,” said Adam Stevens, an African-American Flatbush resident and parent of a sixth grader. “The moment they leave the building, they’re made to feel unwelcome.”

Parents called the forum after white Sloper Sara Bennett said at a 78th Precinct community council meeting that she witnessed police following a group of black teens down her block in a squad car last month, ordering them to leave over the loudspeaker. Bennett, a yoga teacher and former lawyer, said the scene reminded her of apartheid.

“The police were following the kids yelling at them to get out of the neighborho­od,” she said. “It felt like South Africa.”

A neighbor said she saw officers shooing the youngsters that day and, though she didn’t hear the inflammatory command, she thought the tactic was the wrong way to handle the situation, and that it wasn’t anything new.

“This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen the NYPD behaving this way towards students,” Lee Solomon said.

Brass from Fort Greene’s 88th Precinct, Park Slope’s 78th Precinct, Downtown’s 84th Precinct, the police Transit Bureau, school safety agents, and managers from Atlantic Terminal mall, the Barclays Center, and MetroTech Center all met in mid-September after a group of teens brawled with cops in the plaza in front of the Barclays Center. Cops later told residents at a Fort Greene community board meeting that fights break out when large groups of teens gather, and that the precincts’ top cops decided the way to deal with the problem is to keep the kids moving. A civil rights lawyer called the strategy “straight up unconstitu­tional.”

A Community Affairs officer with the 78th Precinct said its officers weren’t invited to the Friday town hall forum, and none attended. A commander from the division that patrols the campus did show up, and told a reporter his officers don’t shoo youths.“We don’t tell the kids to leave,” said Lyndsey Martinez, deputy director of the School Safety Division. “We just want to make sure the dismissals are orderly.”

The claim runs contrary to an NY1 report in which a camera crew filmed a school safety agent telling students, “Let’s go. Let’s go. Let’s go.” The agent then broke the lens off the news camera and, when the team reassembled it, tried to block the camera with her hat. The NYPD is investigating the behavior, according to the NY1 report.

Martinez told the crowd of about 100 that there is a problem with police-teen relations, and that he will try to fix it.

“There are clearly some issues. This is the first we’re hearing about it,” he said. “We’re not perfect. We’ll make some changes at this school if need be.”

The words did little to assuage the anger of the stream of black and Latino students who took to a microphone to talk about the persecution they feel outside school walls.

“I can’t go anywhere in the neighborhood without being looked at in a certain way,” said Phedon Thomas, a junior from Park Slope Collegiate, one of the four schools that share the campus. “It’s overwhelmi­ng.”

Ethan Edobor, another junior from Park Slope Collegiate, said he had been kicked out of a restaurant by police for a fight he had nothing to do with. He just happened to resemble the people involved, he said.

“They’re judging people by the way they look,” he said of the police and store owners in the area.

Park Slope Collegiate’s principal echoed the sentiment and said she was glad everyone turned out to sound off in support of the youth.

“They absolutely have every right to be here,” said principal Jill Bloomberg, who is white. “It was great to have community members come out and say to the kids that they are welcomed. It’s very sad that they needed to do that.”

— with Noah Hurowitz

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at mperlman@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mel says:
Jill Bloomberg makes me laugh when she says the kids have a Right to be in the area. What about the rights of local parents to have a safe and decent school for kids? She doesn't want white kids in her school.
Oct. 14, 2014, 7:41 am
jjm from c. hill says:
Nobody saying the school should be unsafe. All that she & other people with common sense are saying is these kids can be wherever they'd like to be after school just like everyone else. What the police are doing is violating their right to gather in a public place. I bet if it were your kids, you'd feel the same way.
Oct. 14, 2014, 3:15 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Sit in the subway reading, hear a loud and rowdy crowd get on, you don't even have to look up to know what the demographics are.
Oct. 14, 2014, 4:12 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
And that's just the girls!
Oct. 14, 2014, 4:40 pm
Black in Park Slope from Park Slope says:
I applaud the community members for speaking up. I live in Park Slope and if I ever have kids and raise them in Park Slope I do not want them to be treated any differently than a white kid. Additionally, I do not want my neighborhood harassing less fortunate kids who live in other neighborhoods. They have a right to be here. We all do. Shame on the fake limousine liberals here in Park Slope who support any such harassment.
Oct. 14, 2014, 5:03 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
Besides, Park Slope used to be damn near all minority years ago anyway so who are these newcomers coming into PS to make complaints to the police to run them out after school? Some nerve.
Oct. 14, 2014, 7:56 pm
DMC from PArk SLop says:
I am all for kids that belong there they have every right to walk the streets. My thing is these rowdy kids that come from out of the neighborhood causing problems headed for the buses and subway. And yes i seen it first hand
Oct. 16, 2014, 1:22 pm
DMC from PArk Slop says:
And I am not a LIBERAL Yuppie/Hipster I grew up in PS an Original It has not turned for the better withe these ingrates moving in
Oct. 16, 2014, 1:25 pm
GMM from florida says:
I would like to say how sad I am to see what Park Slope has become a snobbish and judgmental place. The PA I grew up in had everything Low, Middle and Upper class everyone said Hello Nobody was better then the next! All these snobbish to good for you can't even take their own kids to the park kind of people moved in and forced all the Real families of PA who made them want to live there in the first place . John Jay is and will All ways be a melting pot yes for generations it's had up and downs but it makes us stronger
Oct. 17, 2014, 8:50 pm
GMM from florida says:
Sorry PA is supposed to be PS.We need to stop all of this of this race garbage. Park slope Hell NYC was never like that!! Till others who lived in placed like The South or out West brought it here. My melting pot has saddle melted away :(
Oct. 17, 2014, 8:58 pm
Roy from East Williamsburg says:
"What the police are doing is violating their right to gather in a public place. I bet if it were your kids, you'd feel the same way."

It's called loitering!! MOVE ALONG!!!
Oct. 21, 2014, 4:51 pm

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