Meeting Held To Discuss Ongoing Problems With I.S. 78 Students
A community meeting was held last week to address the ongoing problem of students from nearby I.S. 78 harassing merchants and residents along a Mill Basin shopping strip after dismis-sal from school.
Host John Rogers, president of The Avenue N Board of Trade and owner of a store on the street, was joined by State Senator Marty Golden, Olga Fiore, a representative for State Senator Carl Kruger, GOP City Council candidate Mary Madden and 63rd Precinct Lieu-tenant Robert Bocchino, who were present to hear complaints from some of the 200 people who showed up at the tension-filled meeting at Mary Queen of Heaven School. Golden said that Roy H. Mann’s principal, Jennifer Canton, was invited to attend the meeting, but did not respond.
Business owners along the shopping strip from East 50th to 59th streets and nearby residents have complained for years, according to some, that when students are dismissed from Roy H. Mann I.S. 78, at 1420 East 68th Street, and they decide to walk to public transportation rather than board buses closer to the school, they “create disturbances” that force some businesses to close until the youths are gone.
According to Madden, several youths have been seen wielding box cutters and have reportedly knocked down and mugged seniors, destroying private property and robbing and harassing business owners in the Mill Basin area.
“The problem has been ongoing for nine years and the 63rd Precinct needs more control over these kids,” said one resident.
Other residents demanded action, stating that people are afraid and that merchants close their businesses on weekdays from 2:45-4:00 PM “to avoid burglaries and other altercations.” A few merchants estimate that when they close, it results in a daily ten percent loss of income.
Teresa Donald, president of the Roy H. Mann PTA, explained that students cannot be forced on the buses. “If the kids want to walk, and it is usually a group of fifty of them, then no one can force them not to,” she said.
Donna Salta, an Avenue N travel agency owner, said that the problem is “getting worse” and that her store’s window was smashed over a year ago. “We are losing a good portion of our profit. Some merchants want to sell their businesses and leave,” Salta said.
Avenue N storeowner Regina Harris said that she also closes to avoid problems. “Students from Mary Queen of Heaven are also being bullied by these kids,” Harris added.
According to Lieutenant Bocchino, things seemed to go down hill when a new principal was assigned to Roy Mann. He pointed out that since Sep-tember at least sixteen students from the school have been arrested for truancy and ten other kids were arrested for various crimes.
One resident suggested assigning auxiliary officers in the area to help curb the problem, along with the help of the school, the MTA and the community.
A former Mann student, Carla Goodman, felt that these kids should “just go straight home” and need to be disciplined by their parents.
According to 63rd Precinct Com-munity Affairs Officer Derek Sutton, if officers see any crimes being committed, arrests will be made. “We do what we can with the manpower we have,” he said, and then added, “Parents should be held accountable for their children’s behavior.”
Golden suggested that any future meeting on this issue should include residents, 63rd precinct personnel, merchants, the MTA and the Board of Education to solve this matter.