President Barack Obama should appoint a gun violence czar to end the epidemic of shootings in the country’s poor neighborhoods, a prominent City Council member Jumaane Williams said in an interview hours after a shooting in his East Flatbush district left one man dead and two others injured.
Cops arrived at the Cascades Catering Hall on East 45th Street just after midnight and found three men, ages 20, 25 and 16, who had been shot outside the venue by an unidentified gunman. The oldest and youngest victims were shot in their limbs. The 20-year old, Quaron Isaacs, was shot in the back and died after being taken to Kings County Hospital.
"The President appointed an Ebola czar. I don't know why he wouldn't have appointed a gun violence czar, since that is killing a great amount of Americans," Williams in a telephone interview.
On Monday afternoon, blood still splattered the front of the catering hall as detectives investigated the venue's exterior and questioned nearby business owners.
Monday's events marked the second time in the past month that an altercation at an East Flatbush catering hall turned fatal. On November 30, four people were shot after a baby shower outside Remsen Hall, including a 22-year-old man who was shot in the chest. All victims survived that shooting, but those passing by the scene of Monday's incident said crime is common in the area, a sparse portion of Brooklyn that is part industrial and part residential.
"We have to get at this in two different ways," Williams said of gun violence. "We have to deal with the supply of guns to these communities. We have to get sensible gun legislation… And then, we have to deal with the demand for violence that too many people have. Even if there is a gun there, it doesn't mean you have to pick it up."
One teacher at P.S./I.S. 109, a new school that stands directly next door to Cascades Catering Hall, called the location surrounding it a "dead area." She said most teachers and students clear out by 4 p.m., and at night the neighborhood is desolate.
"In the day this area is fine, but at night things change," said a worker at Fazio Bros. Collision, an auto body shop around the corner from the club. "The clubs make a big difference. It's a big hangout,” said the man, who asked not to be identified. “The residents complain about it but no one is doing anything about it. That club is supposedly one of the worst."
Gen Chavanes, an employee of nearby Glenwood Tires, said the opening of a homeless shelter on Glenwood Road has led to an increase in local crime. “We need more cop presence around," he said.
The area surrounding Cascades is in the center of a "square block of controversy and people who do not get along,” said Errol Velazquez, one of the few local residents who would speak to a reporter.
“You have to attack the demand for this violence," Williams said. "I don't think people fully understand what they're doing to these families. They're destroying these families."
"It's a ghost town," Velazquez said of the area. "It gives reason for anybody passing through to do what they do and take advantage of one another. There's nobody around. No patrolling, no nothing," he said.
East Flatbush "needs a lot of attention,” said Williams.
New York City’s 2015 budget includes $13.7 million to improve community outreach and boost police presence in precincts with the highest number of shootings. Williams said the 67th Precinct, where Monday's shooting occurred, qualifies for funding since it is typically in the top three in shootings in the City.
Still, Williams said he remains confident in his fight against violence in his community.
"At a time like this, it's really hard to say one thing, but really this is when you have to attack the demand for this violence," Williams said. "I don't think people fully understand what they're doing to these families. They're destroying these families."