Council Members Apologize to NYC Youths for Gang Violence

Leaders, including Council member Ydanis Rodríguez (center), want more investments made on youth programs for Hispanic and African-American minors to prevent street violence. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

In the midst of the pain caused by the tragic death of Lesandro “Junior” Guzmán-Feliz, the 15-year-old killed by a group of suspected gang members wielding machetes, several council members in New York City came together to apologize to youths for the “lack of opportunities offered by the city.”

On Thursday, Council member Ydanis Rodríguez brought together a number of his colleagues and other youth advocates on the steps of City Hall to demand that the city work harder to end violence among minors and make a larger investment on Hispanic and African-American youths.

“Today we ask for forgiveness from our youth because we have failed to provide them opportunities and a clear path to success, and steer them away from violence. Our young men need us and our support,” said Rodríguez.

Rodríguez was accompanied by his colleagues Antonio Reynoso, Chaim Deutsch, Carlina Rivera, Rafael Espinal and Diana Ayala, as well as state Sen. Marisol Alcantara and Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa. The officials promised to advocate for the establishment of better mechanisms to ensure investments for community centers focused on education, art, music and leadership for youths.

“We also want to create spaces for conflict resolution in these community centers,” said Rodríguez. In addition, he recommended conducting a census to find out exactly whether existing centers are supporting communities of color.

The call for non-violence comes a week after the death of Lesandro Guzmán-Feliz, whose gruesome murder shook the country and drew attention to the need to review youth programs in New York City’s low-income areas.

Sen. Alcantara called for good judgment, and said that this tragedy affects her personally, as both Junior and the alleged gang members came from Dominican families like hers.

“Junior lived in a city that offered nothing to people who look like him,” said Alcantara. “We are as much to blame for Junior’s death as for the Trinitarios situation,” said the legislator, referring to the gang suspected of the youth’s murder.

Alcantara explained that every time a Dominican family is forced out of Upper Manhattan, they face deteriorating conditions.

“When these Dominican families are kicked out of their Upper Manhattan apartments, they end up in the South Bronx, where services for immigrants are scarce,” said the senator, who insisted on the need to increase legal services and create more programs for youths.

“Everyone is talking about the children at the border. Let’s also talk about these immigrant Dominican children who are in the streets because there are no jobs and there are no services for them,” she said.

Meanwhile, the eight alleged gang members arrested for Lesandro’s murder were processed on Thursday, charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and gang assault. They appear to be members of Dominican gang Los Trinitarios, which has been terrorizing the residents of Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

“[This investigation is] not over,” said Dermot Shea, NYPD chief of detectives. “He was never going to give up on his dream of being an NYPD detective, and we’ll never give up on him.”

Shea added that every angle will be analyzed and that “whoever is in these gangs will quickly learn that it is a dead end. If you flee to Paterson, if you flee to Wyoming, we’ll catch you.”

On Wednesday, the NYPD announced the arrest of another Bronx street gang named “MacBallas.” Twenty people are facing charges ranging from organized crime to murder.

As in the case of Los Trinitarios, the police used social media to track the suspects, a task it carried out from the NYPD’s Real Time Crime Center.

The NYPD is currently investigating why two police officers apparently failed to help Lesandro Guzmán-Feliz as he bled to death on the way to the hospital, said sources.

The security footage shows Lesandro bleeding on the sidewalk as neighbors attempted to stop the blood coming out of his neck. Two police officers are seen on the video doing nothing to offer assistance.

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