JAMAICA — Elected officials and community activists, including Sean Bell's fiancée, are pushing the mayoral candidates to come to Southeast Queens and address issues important to the area, including stop-and-frisk.
Recently, local Councilman Ruben Wills and other community leaders created a group called "What about us."
On Monday, the group unveiled a billboard asking that very question on the corner of Sutphin Boulevard and Liberty Avenue in Jamaica, saying that Southeast Queens has often been ignored in terms of attention and funds.
Activists said they want mayoral candidates to come to the area for a neighborhood tour, which, unlike moderated forums, will allow them to speak directly to residents at churches, diners, barbershops and beauty salons, Wills said.
One problem the group wants the candidates to address is the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk tactic. A federal judge recently ruled that the NYPD had been conducting the practice in a discriminatory way.
Nicole Bell, whose fiancé, Sean Bell, was killed in a hail of police bullets even though he was unarmed, just a few blocks from the new billboard, said that stop-and-frisk is one of her major concerns because of the potential volatility of each stop. The 103rd Precinct in Jamaica had the highest amount of stop and frisks in the borough in 2012.
Susan Parker from "When it's real, it's forever," a nonprofit organization founded by Nicole Bell, said that a couple of hours before the deadly encounter, Sean Bell was pulled over by cops and frisked. "The problem with stop-and-frisk is that they consider you a criminal," Parker said.
“My fiancé was stopped twice that night,” Nicole Bell said. “The second time he was stopped he lost his life.”
Nicole Bell, who attended P.S. 123 on Sutphin Boulevard, said education is another problem in the area. She said when she attended the school, she played flute and violin and sang in the choir, but “my children no longer have that,” she said.
She also said that there were too few child care facilities in the neighborhood.
“This is an apparent inequality in our education when it comes to the communities of color — from test scores to outdoor trailer classrooms that are left in out school yards,” she said.
Wills said that Community Board 12 alone, which includes Jamaica, Hollis and St. Albans, "has over 65 percent of the entire borough’s homeless shelters.”
“But we don’t have 65 percent of the youth programs," he added. "We don’t get 65 percent of the summer slots for jobs, we don’t get 65 percent of day care programs.”