Before they were known the world over as the Three Stooges, the Howard brothers called the - then - Jewish enclave home.
|Brownsville... in Brooklyn? I'm not delivering there!|
Today, Brownsville is a community whose primary form of domicile is public housing. More than 80 percent of the 116,000+ people who live in the community are black, with 15.8 percent being Hispanic. Roughly 1.2 percent of the residents are white, relics left over from an era when America once existed in some form or another in the area known as Brownsville.
The good folks at Wikipedia give this quick history lesson of Brownsville, reminding the astute reader of how rumor/conspiracy in the black community works to their advantage:
As early as the 1910s, the area had acquired a reputation as a vicious slum and breeding ground for crime. It has been known throughout the years for its criminal gangs and in the 30s and 40s achieved notoriety as the birthplace of Murder, Inc. It was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood until the 1960s, when its population had become largely black and Brownsville's unemployment rate was 17 percent. Half of all families in the district lived on less than $5,000 a year.
Journalist Jimmy Breslin wrote in 1968 that Brownsville reminded him of Berlin after World War II; block after block of burned-out shells of houses, streets littered with decaying automobile hulks. The stores on the avenues are empty and the streets are lined with deserted apartment houses or buildings that have empty apartments on every floor.
In September 1967, a riot occurred following the death of an 11-year-old black boy named Richard Ross who was killed by a black NYPD detective named John Rattley at the corner of St. Johns Place and Ralph Avenue due to his suspicion of mugging a 73-year-old white Jewish man. The riot was additionally fueled by Brooklyn militant Sonny Carson who spread false rumors that a white policeman killed the youth for no reason and was only quelled after Brooklyn North Borough Commander Lloyd Sealy deployed a squad of 150 police officers to the riot to prevent further looting. The officer responsible was later cleared after a grand jury refused to indict him.One Brownsville business owner compared the climate of the city to that of Wild West in 1879, lamenting the high crime/murder rate in the community compared to that New York City. One black resident of the community called the city just "one big prison" -- without figuring out its the people of Brownsville who create the conditions in the community that are best described as a war-zone [Brownsville, the 'hood that New York left behind, Reuters, 7-20-2010]:
Josephine Spearman alternately fought back tears and grew defiant with anger when discussing the murder of her son, one of 11 shootings in 15 days recently that have made the neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn, one of the most dangerous in the United States.
"You can get a gun like a box of Pampers around here," said Spearman, 57, whose 31-year-old son Maurice was shot dead on the main street in Brownsville, a volatile, predominantly black area that has failed to keep pace with New York City's famed reduction in crime.
Brownsville for decades has been one of the city's most dangerous neighborhoods, and gun violence is up nearly 50 percent this year from a historic low in 2009.
Passed over in the gentrification of Brooklyn, its people cram into low-cost public housing projects, trapped in a world of unemployment, teen pregnancy and extreme tension with the police -- decades-old problems that the world's wealthiest nation has not figured out how to solve.
The New York City Police Department, which is proud of falling citywide crime rates for eight straight years, targets "impact zones" like Brownsville with a heavy police presence made up largely of cops on their first assignment out of the academy who are supervised by veterans.
As a result, it is common to see young, mostly white officers concentrating around the entrances to the projects, often employing the tactic of "stop, question and frisk" that allows them to pat down just about anyone they deem suspicious.
In one eight-block area of Brownsville, police stopped 93 of every 100 residents versus a citywide rate of 7 per 100 residents, according to an analysis by The New York Times based on police data obtained by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Knowing all of this is important before addressing an article highlighted on the Drudge Report on May 5th. From the New York Post, we learn US Postal workers are too scared to deliver mail to Brownsville. [Postal workers too scared to deliver mail in crime-ridden Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York Post, -5-5-13]:
"The projects are like one big prison," said Brownsville resident Darryl Odom, 46, who knows what real prison is like, having served 13 years for armed robbery until his release in June.
Snow, rain and gloom of night might not slow Brownsville mailmen down — but gangbangers sure will.
Postmen are too scared to deliver letters and packages to one of Brooklyn’s most crime-ravaged neighborhoods, a US Postal Service worker told The Post yesterday.
“The neighborhood is bad,” the worker said outside the Brownsville Station Post Office on Bristol Street. “I wouldn’t want to go into those buildings.”
Snail mail that goes undelivered finds its way back to the post office, where it can stew for several days until a carrier decides to deliver it — or residents are forced to come pick it up.
Have you seen this neighborhood? It’s on the news every day,” the terrified employee said.
About 50 angry residents — organized by the neighborhood chapter of New York Communities for Change — gathered in front of the post office yesterday to protest the epidemic of late mail and parcels that never arrive.
Letter-starved residents acknowledged their nabe — rife with gang violence — is frightening but said that’s no excuse for them to miss out on their mail.
“The postal workers have a right to fear for their life,” said Quantanya White, 38, a home health-care worker. “It doesn’t give them the right not to deliver the mail. Just because this place is bad, you’re not going to deliver the mail?
“But I do understand why the mailmen feel fear. If I feel unsafe going into certain buildings, they must also.”
Most galling is that the situation contradicts the postal service’s unofficial motto, according to state Sen. Eric Adams — who said he would be ringing the postmaster to request an investigation.
“That is unbelievable. Government services can’t be stopped at the boundaries of high-crime areas,” he said. “They need to re-read that motto — through hail, sleet and snow.”
Adams, who represents Brownsville and is running for borough president, said he hasn’t heard anything about postal carriers being assaulted or robbed in his district but added that, if that’s the case, the police should start protecting them.
But fear isn’t the only factor — some couriers are just mailing it in, other residents said.
“We do pay taxes,” said Crystal Caesar, 30, a social-service worker. “They could make more of an effort to ring my bell when I have a package. It’s a headache to come to the post office.”
Other couriers just can’t hack it.
“Our carrier had a heart attack, so she can’t walk upstairs,” said Yolanda Matthews, 58. “Now we have a different person delivering every day, and it’s inconsistent. They don’t deliver mail until after 8, and if they can’t get in the building by buzzing someone, they don’t come in because they don’t have a key.”
She has missed letters from her lawyer and her doctor, as well as checks from the state.
“We’re getting bad service here because it’s Brownsville — people on Riverside Drive get their mail at 10 in the morning,” she said “Something’s got to change.”Close your eyes.
Image if for one week the New York Police Department stopped policing Brownsville; imagine if for just one week the US Postal Service stopped delivering mail to Brownsville, strategically making that week the first of the month when social service checks were issued.
Imagine if for just one week in Brownsville the EBT Card (SNAP/Food Stamp) stopped working.
Now, open your eyes.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, writing at Atlantic, has blasted New York's usage of stop-and-frisk as 'racist.' He argues the continuation of this police policy is a good reason for black and brown people to leave New York.
Close your eyes.
Imagine the black and brown population of Brownsville leaving for, let's say, Clayton County, Georgia.
Now, imagine those public housing buildings that once sheltered a population who collectively turned Brownsville into an open-air prison, were torn down.
Imagine white people rebuilding the community, planning for large amounts of green space, parks, bike trails, and honest-to-goodness sustainability -- meaning the institution of restrictive covenants.
Open your eyes.
We could have been on Mars.
Instead, we have 2013 Detroit; we have 2013 Brownsville, where the almost entirely black or brown residents have created a community whose deplorable conditions are doing what rain, sleet, snow, and dogs couldn't do -- drive away the US Postal Service.
Having lofty dreams of returning to space and exploring the universe are important, but taking back Detroit and Brownsville in the name of civilization is more important.