Mayor Bill de Blasio responded directly to residents’ concerns about public safety and other qualify-of-life issues Tuesday at a Bronx town hall, his first in the borough.
He touted lower homicide and shooting rates citywide as well as the NYPD’s continued efforts to make streets safer from gang violence, but community members said more must be done.
“There are real challenges — and we’re going to talk about those — but overall, crime is going down in this city,” de Blasio said at the Claremont Neighborhood Center, where about 400 people gathered.
The Bronx was the site of a massive takedown of 84 gang members two months ago. De Blasio said police conducted 15 major gang takedowns in the Bronx last year and made five additional busts this year.
De Blasio has held eight traditional town hall forums, having resisted that method of directly fielding residents’ questions for the first 20 months of his mayoralty. It came at a time when there are criminal investigations surrounding campaign fundraising practices by de Blasio and his associates.
The scandal didn’t come up, at least in the first half of the forum.
Community activist Bernard Smith, 65, of Claremont, told de Blasio crime is about more than statistics.
“You say crime is down, but just today a young man got killed,” Smith said. “And when somebody gets killed in the community, it’s one too much.”
The mayor, who hosted the meeting with City Council member Vanessa Gibson (D-Bronx) and was accompanied by NYPD, public housing and education officials, said he understood the human toll.
“The job is to work for a day when no one has to go through that again,” de Blasio said of the loss of crime victims.
Sheila Edwards, another Bronx resident, said failing public schools can be blamed for young people who choose a life of crime.
“What chance do you have at making a dent in crime when we’re mis-educating the children?“ she asked.
De Blasio said he “aggressively” agreed with Edwards’ premise, and his administration was working to reverse the trend, by offering free universal prekindergarten and then “working literally up the ladder to change the school system step by step.”