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A Modest Proposal

To the Editor:

I found the article on skateboarders by Tanya Leet very interesting [Newsfront, June 6]. Very much so, in that I was the project architect a few years ago to restore the Soldiers and Sailors Monument shown in the photograph. I get very disconcerted when I see youth on skateboards entertaining themselves at the expense of public monuments and spaces. They appear to have no respect for these spaces and what memorials stand for. It should be a crime for the damage they have done throughout the city. For example, the new WWII Memorial wasn’t open more than a day or two when they started to enter this wonderful place to honor those who gave their lives to keep America free.

On the other hand, I really feel for these kids. We all were kids at one time, living life without too many restrictions. I think I made my own similar skateboard or scooter, with a board, an orange crate and an old roller skate. What really gets me is the city of Albany is refusing to build a skateboard park for the kids. This is what kids want to do in 2002, so why not provide a place for them? Not too long ago, while I was visiting my son in Montrose, Co. (a town less than a third the size of Albany), I got to see their brand new skateboard park.

It was beautiful, with graceful concrete ramps and curves and all the kids having a great time. Fortunately, the same day, a local newspaper did a feature on this skateboard facility. I saved the paper and sent it to Mayor Jerry Jennings with a note that this might be a good idea for the youth of the city of Albany. I never heard a word about it. I guess it’s not politically correct to provide a skateboard park for the youth of our capital city.

Steve Brown

Gang Land?

To the Editor:

I just had a few comments after reading your cover story on gangs [“A Thug’s Life,” May 30]. I got the sense that you were trying to be partial in reporting about gang life in our fair city, but in my eyes it came off sounding like you were downplaying its significance and its seriousness. “Just kids playing games?” I think not. “Violence normally only directed at other gang members”? Unfortunately I can say that is just not true.

My girlfriend and I were recently the victims of some “kids just playing games” in our neighborhood, which happens to be Center Square. We were walking from Lark Street to my apartment on Chestnut Street. We started being followed by four African-American youths about halfway down Jay Street. We didn’t think anything of it at first, until they started to catch up to us. At this point we not only noticed the blue bandanas that were hiding their faces, but that they were taunting us. “Stop walking whitey. Yo, white devil, I’m gonna fuck you up. . . . Turn around before we rape your bitch.”

We turned on Dove Street, and as we approached Lancaster Street, the four youths were right behind us, and it was obvious what their intentions were. Our only thought was to head back toward Lark, back to where there were people, cars, light and, hopefully, police. We didn’t make it that far.

As soon as we turned up Lancaster, the four youths made their move. Two grabbed me, put a gun to the back of my head, and threw me face down on the pavement. At this point, I’m yelling to my girlfriend to run. She didn’t make it too far. The other two youths jumped out from behind a car and cut her off. One pushed her into the other, who promptly spun her around and punched her in the face, knocking her to the pavement.

Meanwhile, the two holding me down are slamming my head into the street. They are saying to me, “Look at what my boys are doing to your girl, look at it whitey: They’re gonna rape her, and you can’t do shit about it.” They’re laughing at me, taunting me. One man is sitting on her shoulders, holding her down, smacking her in the face; the other is spreading her legs, trying to rip off her pants. By the grace of God she was able to get to her Mace. She Maced the men on top of her, which led them to jump off and retreat down the block. The two men holding me down let up and ran over to her, punching at her again. At this point, she’s spraying Mace wildly, scared for our lives, just hoping to keep them far enough away. I’m barely conscious at this point, due to repeatedly having my head slammed into the pavement. I come to and pull out my cell phone. The two youths that are still trying to attack see the phone and scream, “She’s got a weapon! he’s calling 5-0, run, run!” And that was the end of our incident.

All four youths were wearing their blue Crip-style bandanas over their faces, and they weren’t trying to rob us. My wallet was in my back pocket, and I was face down. If they wanted it, it was theirs. This was about something totally different. This was classic gang-style initiation. They set out to rape a girl and make her boyfriend watch, and they almost succeeded, one block from my front door. So don’t tell me, or the rest of us for that matter, that the gang violence in this city isn’t real, because it is. And no one is doing a goddamn thing about it. I could have died that night, and my girlfriend was very nearly raped.

Just kids playing games, right?

Name withheld to protect identity

Metroland welcomes typed, double-spaced letters (computer printouts OK), addressed to the editor. Or you may e-mail them to: Metroland reserves the right to edit letters for length; 300 words is the preferred maximum. You must include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers. We will not publish letters that cannot be verified, nor those that are illegible, irresponsible or factually inaccurate.

Send to:
Letters, Metroland, 4 Central Ave.,
4th Floor, Albany, NY 12210
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