With Brownsville residents searching for answers during a violent 2020, a local outreach group points to the impact of COVID-19 as a potential explanation, reports NY1.
Anthony Newerls, director of BIVO (Brownsville in Violence Out), an organization that seeks to provide alternatives to violence for young members of the east Brooklyn neighborhood, said that “COVID definitely exposed some of the underlying conditions that we have in our community today.”
The pandemic has taken away many of the healthier outlets that local youth can turn to, he said. “We have so many people unemployed now who can’t get jobs,” he explained, also pointing to the closure of afterschool programs and community centers.
Newerls also believes that the city’s decision to take down the rims at local basketball courts in order to prevent large gatherings may have raised tensions. “It keeps kids out of trouble because kids come together, you know,” 18-year-old John English, a regular at Chester Playground, told reporters. “You make so much friends playing basketball.”
In Brownsville alone this year, homicides are up 72.7 percent with 19 compared with only 11 last year at this time. Similarly, the number of shooting victims in the neighborhood has increased by 95.5 percent with 86 compared to 44 in 2019. In a recent interview on Inside City Hall, Mayor Bill De Blasio expressed worry around the trend, describing it as a “real community concern.”
For BIVO, the solution begins with outreach, both in the street and on social media: “We have to do more canvassing. We have to be on the street more now,” Newerls stated.
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