Community Reflects On 20th Anniversary Of Crown Heights Riots
Friday marked the 20th anniversary of the Crown Heights race riots, and though many community leaders are making efforts towards bringing the area’s black and Jewish populations together, residents remain split as to whether or not things have improved. NY1’s Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
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Crown Heights residents went about their morning routines Friday at the corners of President Street and Utica Avenue and President and Brooklyn Avenue, the sites where Gavin Cato was run down and Yankel Rosenbaum was stabbed.
"It was a very, very difficult time, to say the least, but thank God we are 20 years past that," said one resident.
"Thank God everything is over,” said another. “You know, we've got to move on with our life."
Black and Hasidic Jews still share the neighborhood and have spent the last 20 years trying to bridge the divide between them. They've come together on many fronts, including their involvement at the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, which was created in response to the turmoil.
"It's a neighborhood problem solving center where we all work together to collaborate to make the community a better, healthier, safer place,” said Amy Ellenbogen of the community center.
The center conducts a leadership training program and an anti-violence campaign called “Save Our Streets.”
"It's an opportunity for us to build our community back and really look at our community for what it is: a haven of diversity," said Sharon Ife Charles, also of the center.
Community leader Richard Green saved newspaper clippings and photos documenting the riots and its aftermath. He recalled Friday some of the basketball games he helped organized with Jewish leaders.
"At first, people were like ‘blacks and Jews don't play basketball,’ but we did it. The youths got together and they played," said Green.
"We mixed up the teams so we had blacks and Jews on one team, blacks and Jews on another team,” said Rabbi David Lazersen of Dr. Laz and the CURE!
Lazersen has also been using music to improve relations.
Opinions are split as to whether or not the efforts have worked, however.
"For the most part, we get along. People make it work," said one resident.
"The relationship hasn't improved. It's the same. Each keep to itself," said another.
Leaders admit the work is far from over.
"It is important to continue to believe this is a community and a community that's healing, and we have a lot of structures in place,” said Charles.
It is a time to look back, but also a time to look ahead.