Sunday, September 6, 2015
ANOTHER PAINFUL MARK IN TIME
14 YEARS GONE BY
The Twin Towers of our World Trade Center as they were and as they
remain in many of our minds
TAGS: WORLD TRADE CENTER, WTC, TWIN TOWERS,
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, MEMORIES, “BEFORE” & “AFTER”
(Sunday September 6, 2015 LWS, NYC) The slow, steady anguished crawl towards that date has begun in earnest. While those among us who were present at the scene of the crime on that fateful Tuesday morning or worked on “The Pile” for the months following, that day is never (if ever) too far removed from our conscious mind. We each live with what he saw and felt, what we tasted and smelled, what we thought and feared as events unfolded that morning now 14 years in the past. Since that day as we have lived with our recollections and grieve, anger, frustration and the ill-defined sense of loss, we have also said good bye to so many others who fought the good fight against the insidious internal malignant enemies from what was inhaled that day and the days there after. Yes, that day keeps claiming lives creating families broken by loss. September 11, 2001 is till killing and our community is all too familiar with this stark truth.
For some of us that day has become the “desktop” in our minds; the ever present neural image that separates our lives from "before" and "after", "then" and "now". Much of what constituted our personal “before” was lost on that day and has never been fully recovered. The “after” while only 14 years of collective living, thinking, dreaming, remembering, and all the other mental processes that define us as human, seems to stretch back to antiquity; the past 14 years occupy a disproportional amount of space in our cerebral attic, our day to day musings, and certainly, for many of us, our most dreaded dreams. It is as if our minds have yet to fully process that which occurred, the overwhelming flood of stimuli that threatened to momentarily paralyze some while automatically motivating others to rely on instinct. Some call that instinct “duty” or sense of purpose and those are, no doubt, component elements of some of the actions taken that day and during the pitifully short period of rescue and the brutally agonizing period of recovery.
We have learned much since September 11, 2001 about ourselves and others, about the fickle nature of circumstance and happenstance and, as some would say the very cruel machinations of fate. Yes, we each have learned and learned in our own way how to live and carry on with the losses, how to cope with the mental maelstrom ranging from self-doubt to self-medication. We see the faces of the victims, of those closest to us we lost that day in the youthful continences of their children; some too young on that day to have any true remembrance of a parent who was taken as those massive structures were lost in billowing clouds of constituent elements and lost souls that effectively occluded the sun. For in those angry clouds of dust and debris were the flights of souls lost, suddenly called home by their Maker for reasons known only to Him.
Among us are those who lost faith that day and those who found it. There are those whose entire existence was shattered and those who found the mending grit to carry on damaged but not destroyed. And there are also those who now live in a limbo-like fugue between those competing states of Grace; because Grace is not the absence or presence of equilibrium but rather a ready perch upon which to catch one’s emotional breath, to be given the room required to find the next step. Some of us have taken broad strides while others have maneuvered more tenuously in smaller steps because there are as many approaches as there are individuals; we each have our own pace.
The reverberations and ramifications from that day are tangible to this day. The world was dramatically altered on September 11, 2001 and many lives traumatically derailed as well. Two wars have been fought neither one to any semblance of a true conclusion: MOS of FDNY, NYPD, PAPD, the Operating Engineers, all the other Trade Unions and the legions of volunteers of every response agency as well as those simply compelled to help whose personnel labored in that monumental effort continue to suffer and die and with the passage of each year we continue to learn, to keep on keeping on.
On social media sites such as Facebook there are those in our community as well as outside it who feel the need to post images that some among us find deeply troubling, upsetting or simply inappropriate. No matter our private thoughts on such forms of expression perhaps we should all respect that everyone deals with the upcoming anniversary in their own way. Personally, images of the Towers in their fiery death throws are unnecessary and yes, a bit discomforting yet, the rights of those who choose to honor their lost and loved ones in that way certainly have the right to do so without guilt or misgivings.
Perhaps many of us choose to remember our Twin Towers and all they have come to represent in our conscious and unconscious minds, in our thoughts and recollections, in that ugly gash between our personal “before” and “after” as the mighty valiant structures they were and of the unparalleled valor of all of those who perished within them as well as those taken from us to this very day.
Previous WTC and September 11, 2001 BroodingCynyc links:
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Tuesday, August 4, 2015
SPIKE IN MAJOR CRIMES
PROMPTS INFORMAL “SUMMIT”
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier listens to Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger
speak during a news conference following a meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
(Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
TAGS: POLICE CHIEFS SUMMIT, UPSURGE IN VIOLENT CRIME,
BIG CITIES SEEING HIGHEST HOMICIDE RATES IN DECADES,
DRUG AND GANG WARS, ILLEGAL GUNS IN THE HANDS OF CRIMINALS,
A BLOODY SUMMER COAST TO COAST,
POLICE OFFICERS UNDER ATTACK
(Tuesday August 4, 2015 NYC) Yesterday Washington, DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier hosted a hastily arranged meeting with many other Police Chiefs from some of our largest cities. The unofficial ‘summit’ was called to discuss the recent spike in shootings and firearm related deaths as well as other major crimes such as armed robbery, aggravated assault, gang and illicit drug associated activity, and the overall sense of foreboding that has descended upon the Members of Service (MOS) of some of the Police Departments represented at the summit.
Awash in statistical proof of this sudden escalation of primarily inner city violence, the gathered Chiefs sought to identify common trends that may suggest reasons for the upsurge in crime that has infected cities from Philadelphia to Baltimore, from Chicago to St. Louis, Atlanta to Houston, Milwaukee to Memphis, and many other large urban centers. What, if anything positive, came out of their meeting remains hazy at best. Clearly all participants expressed their jurisdiction’s statistical and anecdotal evidence with the focus on the numbers of illegal firearms, many that operate with high-capacity magazines, as the prime concern. Another factor that received some serious attention is the prevalent use of K2, commonly known as “synthetic marijuana” which can result in the users experiencing abnormal strength, resistance to pain, and extreme violence. Other street and “club” drugs including heroin and MDMA, popularly known as ecstasy or as Molly, has also been cited as a causative agent in street violence and territorial turf wars among rival drug dealing gangs. While none of these factors are new, there appears to be an odd confluence of elements that have led to the amount of raw violence on our streets.
THE SO CALLED “FERGUSON EFFECT”
This past twelve months has seen the advent of a new phenomenon within the inner city and predominately Black communities across the country that has been dubbed The Ferguson Effect after the events that transpired last August when an unarmed young Black man, Michael Brown was shot and killed by White Police Officer Darren Wilson. In the immediate aftermath of that episode, the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson saw several nights of violent protests, looting, arson and criminal civil disorder. Brown’s untimely death was the first of several other high profile deaths of unarmed Black men by White Officers. There followed a nationwide protest movement that was predominately peaceful demonstrations but violence flared again in Baltimore after Freddy Grey died while in Police custody. There were several other cases that seemed to suggest a pattern that the Black community coalesced under in the “Black Lives Matter” movement.
The Ferguson Effect seems to imply that in the wake of these incidents Police Officers have adopted a passive posture to policing the communities they serve and that has contributed heavily to the upsurge in violent crime. The corollary to this notion is that young Black men now feel empowered to challenge the authority of the Police by any means necessary which serves only to perpetuate the cycle of Black men being charged and arrested after a routine interaction with an MOS is escalated by the feeling of empowerment. How much, if any of the Ferguson Effect is a real prime mover within our inner city communities that are predominately Black and policed by predominately White Officers is difficult, perhaps impossible to ascertain. Whatever causative factors are conspiring to create the high level of tension and distrust on the streets between the Police and the Black community, this is certainly NOT the time when the Law Enforcement Community (LEC) be it a Sheriff’s Office, a State, County or City Police Department to “stand down” and step away from the tried and true methods of policing that have been so widely effective over the last 20 years. Despite condemnation from academics and “activists”, politicians and pundits, the “Broken Windows” approach to community policing led to the unprecedented, sustained drops in crimes across all categories over the past two decades. To abandon that philosophy now would be grossly misguided.
Atlanta Police Chief George Turner made some salient points during the summit that were echoed by other participants. He commented that a “small” number of known repeat offenders perpetrate most of the violent crime in his city. He also noted that often there are “50 to 60 cartridge shells at a crime scene” indicating the use of high-capacity magazines as well as multiple shooters. In Atlanta, he continued, there are currently 150 “known individuals” who appear to be involved in 99% of the shootings and firearm deaths. Relevant or not he added that only one of the alleged murderers arrested this year finished high school while one in three of the victims managed to complete their high school education. Yes, employment opportunities for those who so happen to be born into the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder, are scarce indeed. This also begs the question: had these young men been employed in entry level, minimum wage jobs, would they not have participated in their criminal endeavors? This hypothetical question cannot be answered.
AN UNDERSTATEMENT STATED
If Americans have learned nothing from the violent events of the last year, they have certainly had their collective eyes opened to the harsh reality that the relationship between the Black community and those who police their neighborhoods are awful, to say the least. The level of distrust, the animosity towards and the embedded biases on both sides of the LEC/racial divide are as pronounced today arguably as they were 40 or 50 years ago; this is actually an understatement. The Black community typically perceives the LEC as an “occupying force” as Police Officers too often are seen to treat Black people differently than White people. Some Officers come to their jobs with long held racial bias, overt bigotry and do not perceive Black people as equals. Many in the Black community believe wholeheartedly that the Police are free to act with impunity. They feel that justice in a tangible sense has always and will always be denied them by a criminal justice system that is multi-tiered; White perpetrators are treated far differently than Black perpetrators. The historical basis for each of those stances is deep and wide. This seems to be the most challenging chasm to span; there are no easy or ready solutions. These ingrained mindsets are virtually indelible.
LOOKING FOR ANSWERS
If one truth emerged from the summit it was that there are no easy answers, no quick fixes to what is a societal-cultural divide and a criminal justice system that is admittedly often inequitable regarding how it handles Black perpetrators and suspects. As a burgeoning movement for jail and prison reform is taking shape the reality of the streets is unchanging.
Those Police Chiefs who participated in yesterday’s meeting were unanimous in their assessment that it is the repeat offenders who are responsible for the majority of the violent crimes plaguing our inner city neighborhoods. Some of the most egregious of recent violent crimes have been perpetrated by individuals with long criminal records, lengthy histories of arrests and incarcerations that leave the public wondering how these men ever got out of prison. Recent efforts in some states to cull nonviolent offenders from the inmate populations and nascent initiatives to “divert” younger, first time non-violent offenders to jail/prison alternatives are noble but ill-conceived. Our penal system is not designed towards rehabilitation despite some high-minded lip service to the contrary. The real crux of the matter is that by the time young boys and men end up incarcerated they have fallen through all the structural cracks. The dropout rates for violent and non-violent offenders alike is startling but, how do you keep boys in school who clearly have no desire to be there and see little or no value in obtaining an education? The blunt answer is, you can’t. There is also the undue influence of some of our pop culture that celebrates “thug life” portraying criminal pursuits such as drug dealing as a viable lifestyle that leads to riches and a life of ease. Such a belief system is virtually impossible to correct and far too many Black men wind up in some of our country’s most notorious prisons as no more than post-adolescent boys and they usually are “lost” forever. The Darwinian environment of prison life serves only to harden young offenders and, once they are released which assuredly the majority of them will be, they return to their neighborhoods to resume the very same activities that landed them in prison, angry, bitter, and better schooled in the life of crime. This is a terribly vicious cycle because every child, Black, Brown and White is born a blank slate and only with proper nurturing and a healthy home life can they have an equal chance.
Returning to the specifics addressed at yesterday’s summit, how to halt the surge in violent, gun and drug related crime is the top priority. It will be only after the bloodletting on our streets begins to ebb that the etiology of the social pathologies present in our inner city neighborhoods can begin to be discussed.
One of the most disturbing elements of the current violent crime wave is the “war” against the Police. Police Officers are being killed at a rate never before seen in our country in modern times. The use of the word “war” is not hyperbolic considering the daily headlines and the perpetrators braggadocio on social media. It is a twisted street culture “badge of honor” to kill a Cop and, as long as the LEC is under assault as it is there can be no discussion about sentencing and prison reform of any kind.
The all too real price that all of society will pay in the long run is in the reality that we are losing a generation, in particular, a generation of young Black men. The cycle of violence will be passed on via osmosis to the children of the children killing each other, innocent bystanders and Cops. For all the alarm expressed by “community activists” and self-appointed spokesmen for the African American community, they need to get down to work. The fixes or any meager efforts to begin to help the youth trapped in the vicious cycle must start in the neighborhoods; a micro approach not a macro approach is the only viable point of intercession.
Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2015 © All Rights Reserved
Monday, July 20, 2015
A LOOK BACK
IT TOOK 20 YEARS FOR THE LIGHTS TO COME BACK
(Photo courtesy New York Daily News)
TAGS: NYC 1977 BLACKOUT, CRIMINALITY, LOOTING, ARSON, RANDOM VIOLENCE
FOR 25 HOURS, 1977 LOW POINT FOR NYC, MAYOR ABE BEAME, PRESIDENT FORD
TO NYC “DROP DEAD”, “The Bronx is Burning”, SON OF SAM, “THE WAR YEARS” FOR THE
FDNY & NYPD, FORT APACHE – THE BRONX
THE BRONX OF 2015
(Monday July 13, 2015 Simpson St., The South Bronx) Once home to the 41st Precinct which was self-designated by the MOS who worked here as Fort Apache in the mid 1970’s, this stolid building is now the home of the Detective Bureau Bronx and is surrounded by gentrified housing that bears little resemblance to what this neighborhood was like during “The War Years” of the mid 1970’s through the late 1980’s. The 41st precinct moved to their new, modern facility on Longwood Avenue in 1993 at the time The Bronx and all of New York City was just beginning to turn the corner on its dark, crime-ridden, violent past.
The infamous reputation The Bronx acquired in the 1970’s was in part due to a quote credited to Howard Cosell allegedly broadcast in October 1977 during a World Series game at Yankee Stadium. As an aerial shot of Yankee Stadium was aired from coast to coast, a building fire blazed in the foreground. Cosell did not actually utter that famous phrase and its origins remain murky. No matter who truly coined the phrase, it became an apt declaration for a Borough and City that was on the brink. Crimes in all major categories as recorded by the NYPD and Department of Justice were the highest in the nation particularly violent crimes such as assault, rape, robbery and crimes against property especially the epidemic of arson; arson “for profit”. The City was on the verge of fiscal insolvency and the real specter of declaring bankruptcy consumed then Mayor Abe Beam. The Son of Sam was into his second summer of terror stalking “lover’s lanes” shooting young men and women as they sat innocently in their parked cars ; his wave of random, serial murder that began in mid-1976 ended with the arrest of David Berkowitz on August 10, 1977.
One of the most powerfully illustrative events depicting the nadir of life in our City occurred 38 years ago this evening during rush hour when several lightning strikes tripped circuit breakers at Con Ed stations north of the City triggering a rapid progression of cascading technical failures that thrust the City into total darkness for 25 hours. July 13, 1977 was another in a long scorching string of extremely hot, humid, sweltering days that had tempers on short fuses and tensions high. What transpired during those overnight hours was not fully realized until sunrise on July 14. As that dawn broke over the preternaturally unlit City, the damage caused by widespread looting and arson told the tale of opportunistic criminality as well as more controversially, the release of years of frustration and perceived neglect in predominately Black enclaves from The South Bronx, through Harlem and out to Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn and various points in between. The NYPD had essentially declared Marshall Law and over 4100 arrests were made in the overnight hours.
On July 13, 1977 hundreds of thousands of commuters where stuck down in the broiling, pitch black subway tunnels; other thousands hung from immobilized elevator cables trapped for reasons they had no way of knowing . The sense of social order was tripped to the off position as effectively unleashing waves of violence and looting as the tripped Con Ed breakers cut the lifeblood of modernity – electricity – paralyzing NYC in one way and empowering some of the darker motivations of others. The question “where were you when the lights went out”? asked in 1977 had an entirely different meaning than it did during the massive Blackout of 1965 when people were more civil, neighborhoods more closely knit, and social order was the norm of the day.
By the time of the Blackout of 1977 we lived in a vastly different City and, for that matter, a different country. The 1970’s were in many respects the hang-over years after the tumultuous 1960’s that had left no corner of our society, culture, politics, and institutions untouched by upheaval. After the failed programs of President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” Agenda, cities across America were feeling the odd gnawing “growing pains” of “urban renewal” and many policies and practices that were in essence intentional or accidental endeavors of social engineering. The advent of massive housing “projects”, concrete and brick edifices that housed the poor only served to isolate them from the surrounding neighborhoods as well as easy access to local stores and the economy of the area. Integration in the form of busing was creating culture shock in cities in the Northeast as much as in the Deep South. Public assistance initiatives had devolved to the role of abdicating the absence of a “breadwinner” in the family and encouraged the poor, predominately Black in those days, to have more children. Yes, the United States of America was still reeling from the Sixties, licking our wounds from the debacle of Vietnam, race riots, political assassinations, “women’s lib”, draft dodgers and the traumatic societal cleavage that became known as “The Generation Gap.”
But that is all well known if not personally recalled history for those of us Baby Boomers of Bronx vintage circa 1955 - 1965.
The lights that went out on the sticky summer night in 1977 did really not come back on for almost 20 years. There were more dark days ahead for the City and her people. TIME magazine may have called her derisively “The Rotten Apple” but most New Yorker’s knew better. Somewhere in the back of most of our minds we knew what our City was, who we were, and that we were better collectively than as miserable, fed up individuals. Certainly the stalwarts during the smoldering, violent War Years were the MOS of the NYPD and FDNY; the top agencies of their kind in all the land. It would be block by block, building by building, vacant lot by garbage strewn reeking alleyways that we would reclaim our City. Giuliani was the right man at the right time and was the one leader to finally pull the City away from that dark, gaping abyss of urban blight and decay.
The Bronx and the City as a whole began to turn the corner in 1994 with the election of Rudy Giuliani. Love him or hate him he proved successful across a wide range of quality of life matters, was supportive of the NYPD, and was a straight shooter. After the abysmal years of the David Dinkins administration Giuliani was just what the public needed. A former Federal Prosecutor in the Southern District of New York which includes NYC, he was a relatively well known personality before his first run for office which was unsuccessful. The continued decline of the City over the ensuing term of Dinkins made a believer out of the predominantly Democratic majority of registered voters in NYC. He was actually swept into office on a tidal wave of support; most could not have cared less if he was a democrat, Republican or Martian. All New Yorkers wanted was an effective Mayor to take control of the City and begin to cure all its epidemic of societal ailments. And that he did. His reign was not without controversy but as the City began its stunning transformation through the second half of the 1990’s, his tangible results muffled some of the controversial policies, practices and reforms he championed. He virtually bent the will of the City by the force of his own.
Today New York City is the number one tourist destination among foreign travelers as well as the “Safest Big City” in America by any metrics employed to analyze crime statistics. Even the once notorious neighborhoods of The South Bronx are rejuvenated, vibrant communities with robust local economies and a better quality of life than anyone ever thought possible in 1977.
Yes, the lights are back on in NYC and have been for some time now.
ARCHIVED NEWS ARTICLES FROM JULY 14, 1977
RECENT COVERAGE AND RETROSPECTIVES
NYC DURING THE “WAR YEARS”
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