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Uptown Youth Aren't All 'Angels,' New 33rd Precinct Council President Says

By Carolina Pichardo | September 20, 2016 8:46am
 Washington Heights Democratic District Leader Maria Luna was recently elected to be the 33rd Precinct Community Council president.
Washington Heights Democratic District Leader Maria Luna was recently elected to be the 33rd Precinct Community Council president.
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DNAinfo/Jill Colvin

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — An uptown community board meeting to discuss a recent event to connect the NYPD with community youth devolved into a shouting match after the newly elected head of the area's precinct community council warned that all young people uptown aren't "angels."

“Every time we meet here, [I hear] 'the police are doing this [and] the children are doing that. The little children are angels and the police are bad',” Maria Luna, who was recently elected 33rd Precinct Council President, said at a Community Board 12 youth committee meeting on Monday.

"The police have to deal with a lot of issues, not just dealing with youth," Luna added, saying that her father was a police captain.

"Police are a law enforcement agency. It’s not a teacher, not a priest… They’re doing a job to keep order in a community," she said, according to recordings of the meeting obtained by DNAinfo New York.

Luna said she was tired of hearing about anti-NYPD sentiment, particularly as it came to young people, who she said needed to learn to respect authority.

“It’s our right to control and to make a child — a young person and another adult — to show some respect and have some pride,” Luna said.

She added that many youths need to learn respect for themselves as well, adding that baggy pants that show off undergarments are a sign of disrespect.

"My nephew would never dare to walk out of his house — in my community or any community — showing his underwear. There is no way."

Fe Florimón, chair of the youth committee, who agreed with Luna's comments, said "something had to be planned differently."

"We also have a great number of young people who don’t give a hoot and there are parents that don’t care, but they’re the first one that come and jump up and down when one of the 'little angels' does something wrong," Florimón said.

The comments came as CB12's Youth Committee met in its first meeting back after the summer break, to debrief about its June youth and police partnership walk and community fair.

The event — which included a march with youth and the NYPD to promote “building bridges and improving the relationship” as well as a fair at the George Washington Campus building to allow local organizations to share information about their resources for families — was the first of its kind, CB12 officials said.

But several committee members and guests said they were disappointed in the event, saying it ended up being a shallow “photo opportunity” for police officers that missed an opportunity to address national concerns about police-community tensions.

“I think that because of the times we’re in right now, and the community that we represent, we have to be careful to represent the community’s concerns,” said the assistant committee chair Priscilla Mota-Willis. “And I think that one of the concerns I heard time and time again from the community members is that they don’t feel there was an honest conversation from the NYPD.”

Mota-Willis went on to say that although the event was positive, a forum involving the youth would have demonstrated the committee’s intention to represent the community in a more “transparent way.” 

CB12 youth committee member Ayisha Oglivie, who helped organize the event, said it was far too rushed.

“Before we can even take the right steps, we have to be hearing each other and we have to be hearing what the community is saying — and I think that was absent in executing this event,” Oglivie said.

“I think we absolutely needed more time. I think we spoke to the fact that we needed more time. If we took the extra time, then we could’ve ensured those things were present,” said Oglivie, who later stormed out of the meeting in frustration.

Newly appointed committee member Luis Tapia, a former center director for the Police Athletic League, said he knows how important it is for committee members to use “our privilege and our skills to facilitate with [the youth], alongside them, but not for them.”

“From my understanding, we are using our power to be the voice for the young people. Not to decide what they need in their life, [or] for us to make decisions about the way they should live, but to really listened to what they need," Tapia said.

"If that’s not what we’re doing, this is going to be my first and last meeting.”