Responding to the recent rash of shootings that have plagued the city, the Reverend Al Sharpton (pictured) convened a closed session of his National Action Network Monday morning to announce the creation of an “Occupy the Corners” program. The meeting was joined by New York City’s top-elected officials, community leaders, and clergy, including Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, head of NYC Housing Authority Chairman John Rhea, and dozens of others.
Loosely based off the Occupy Wall Street movement, Occupy the Corners (OTC) is a city-wide initiative designed to create a community-based presence in high-crime neighborhoods.
“A lot of our young people don’t think anybody cares,” said Sharpton. “We need a presence. You can’t lead where you don’t go.”
For four consecutive weekends starting August 17th — from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night — community activists, politicians, church leaders, and the like will stand on corners in “hotspot” areas throughout the city, watching for any signs of violence, talking to residents, and taking back the streets. OTC is not a patrol, says Sharpton, but an opportunity to show strong real-life neighborly support in our communities most plagued by gun violence.
One major target OTC has in mind is the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), whose 600,000 residents alone would be enough to make up the 20th largest city in the country. Shootings at NYCHA developments have risen 27 percent within the past year, an issue Chairman Rhea attributes in part to poor funding.
“There are no dedicated dollars being funded anymore for security or violence in NYCHA,” argued Rhea lending his full support to Occupy the Corners. “The existing neighborhood associations need all the help they can get.”
“I ask for us all to make sure this becomes a long-term program,” added Stringer, who pledged the support of his office, as did the New York City comptroller John C. Liu.
OTC also announced its plan to call on Mayor Michael Bloomberg for an immediate meeting to identify in detail the funding that is currently being given or is available to be distributed to local community service efforts that are starving for resources.
OTC will push the Mayor’s office to re-ignite private fund-raising efforts in the fight against neighborhood violence. This will not be a general ask for funding, says Sharpton, but a specific request of Bloomberg and others to solicit cash from corporations that profit from the lives of those most affected.
“The EBT cards used for food stamps are run by Citi…but where is that interest going?” asked NYC Councilwoman Letitia James.
Over the next week, NAN and its coalition partners will release more information about the exact locations for Occupy the Corners, and there will be a loud call for volunteers to support the movement across the city.
“We need tried and true soldiers,” said Hazel Dukes, the N.Y. Conference President of the NACCP. “We don’t need a whole lot of talk. We need you to take your corner.”