Mayor Eric Adams held a community conversation Monday night on public safety in Harlem in the wake of violence that rocked the community.
Twenty-one-year-old basketball star Darius Lee who was gunned down in a mass shooting and the brutal stabbing of Ethan Reyes 14-year-old in a Hamilton Heights train station were on the minds of those who filed into Harlem’s Police Athletic League—441 Manhattan Avenue—to discuss solutions to the gun violence plaguing New York City.
Hundreds of community leaders, representatives from city agencies, elected officials and others gathered to reiterate the slogan: “We keep our city safe by working together.”
“We need to hear from you. We’re not going to always get it right. But we will be damned if we’re not going to focus on changing the conditions that we are witnessing all the time. And so that’s what this moment is about. And we’re going to keep doing this and bring us together as a unit and hear from each other to resolve the issues that we’re facing,” Adams said.
The event consisted of a round table discussing what Adams called violence interrupters, those who work toward uplifting members of the community and deterring them from crime. All remarks were promised to be transcribed and be distributed to city agencies as well as any questions those present had for these organizations. Additionally, Adams assured everyone in attendance that his office will ensure that there will be follow-up to everything that was discussed and inquired at the panel.
The meeting kicked off to a rocky start as the mayor addressed the crowd with an anecdote regarding his youth in Crown Heights when protesters began to heckle Adams to which he responded: “People want to spend time being disruptive. That’s what people want to do. But we got to stay focused and not get distracted.”
Adams went on to say that this is a moment in history that will showcase the way in which New York City dealt with gun violence and other public safety issues through community partnerships, patting himself on the back and almost comparing himself to a religious figure.
“This is the moment God made me for, such a time like this. I’m the right mayor for the right time to do what needs to be done in this city and we need you,” Adams said.
The event proceeded with questions presented to the mayor and his colleagues from each table in attendance. Some suggested creating year-round youth programming rather than merely seasonal, mental care access, cognitive behavior intervention, and helping youth cope with trauma.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg emphasized the impact of Cure Violence centers and how religious leaders have stepped up to reduce the trauma and get individuals to put their guns down. Adams chimed in and emphasized the students enrolled in the Summer Youth Program, Saturday Night Lights, and the role the Department of Education has in educating students in becoming well rounded young people.
“We’re telling our young people how to handle conflicts, how to communicate, but when did they learn it? That needs to be built into the Department of Education. You know, leaving school is not only being academically smart, but it’s being emotionally intelligent,” Adams said. “So, the goal is to infuse that in the Department of Education and make sure that in our moments of educating our children, we’re not only making them capable of being employed, but we also making them better well-rounded young people that are going to be adults.”
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.