Before leaving office, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared gun violence in New York State a public emergency, creating the state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention and investing millions in programs. In the month since he made the announcement, anti-violence organizations in the city say little has moved to make things better.
As Gov. Kathy Hochul takes office, she has a myriad of unfinished business left behind by Cuomo, including the issue of violence. Shootings in the city continue to plague neighborhoods.
Between Monday night and Tuesday morning, three people were killed in separate shootings in the Bronx and Queens. Two people were shot on the Upper West Side in front of a beauty salon Monday night, including an 81-year-old man. Just weeks ago, a mass shooting left eight people injured during an outdoor event in Brooklyn when two men opened fire on the crowd of about 150 people.
As the days go by, more people are becoming victims of gun violence and the people who can help prevent it still don’t have what they need.
The public health emergency declaration created the state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention to coordinate efforts and direct resources to emerging gun violence hot spots. Funding is also supposed to go towards strengthening police-community relations.
“Just like we did with COVID, New York is going to lead the nation once again with a comprehensive approach to combating and preventing gun violence, and our first step is acknowledging the problem with a first-in-the-nation disaster emergency on gun violence,” Cuomo said last month. “When we see an injustice we don’t look the other way, we stand up and fight it because that’s the New York way.”
In an interview, Lance Feurtado, who serves as executive director of the anti-violence organization the King of Kings Foundation, Inc. in Queens, said the organization met with Cuomo’s team three weeks ago during a forum. Feurtado said he’s not confident that plans will iron out.
“My prayer and hopes are that that conversation was just to gauge or feel the temperature or the pulse of the community,” Feurtado said. “What they were talking about, to me, was a joke. They were talking about investing $5 million dollars statewide. It was a disrespect to folks like myself who are on the ground getting in front of this violence and mediating conflicts before it escalates into retaliation.”
Mike Perry, who serves as program manager of True 2 Life Cure Violence in Staten Island, said Cuomo’s team came to Staten Island to gauge what was needed. Perry said the only result he’s seen so far from the gun violence declaration is an expansion of the Summer Youth Employment Program, which only expanded to 15 youths.
“That’s cool, but it’s not enough,” Perry said. “That’s 15 kids out of thousands and thousands of high-risk kids in New York City that need to be serviced. We don’t have enough gun violence prevention to cover the hotspots. We need more funding. We need more programs. There are only two neighborhoods being serviced in Staten Island. We have another four or five neighborhoods that are being plagued by gun violence that need to be served.”
The state’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention operates within the New York State Department of Health. In a statement, spokesperson Abigail Barker said the department is still working on establishing the office.
“The Department of Health is actively working on the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which will lead a task force made up of more than a dozen state agencies to identify concrete steps that can be taken to curb senseless gun violence in New York State,” Barker stated.