The community Rx


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Civic meetings’ local concerns need coverage even when members’ minds and hearts are on the murder of 15-year-old Lesandro (Junior) Guzman-Felix, which happened the night before the East 79th Neighborhood Association’s June meeting.

And just now a news flash — five persons shot to death in the newsroom of their Maryland community newspaper. How long, dear Lord, how long? And this latest mass murder of innocents, must remind us how Hasidim call every such murder a cataclysm.

The slaughter of Junior was a case of mistaken identity. And no one came to his rescue when gang members dragged him from a bodega to the street where he was repeatedly stabbed to death. Imagine!

You know how it was all caught on video cameras and soon went viral so thousands were outraged and saddened that this good young man suffered such a terrible and wrongful death. Yes, and how no one in the bodega and on the street came to his aid. The priest at Junior’s funeral, overflowing with mourners, said: if we see something we must do something — not just take videos.

But these videos so importantly showed the world the extreme viciousness of this abominable act — and enabled the capture of up to eight suspects, all but one in their early 20s. They all face life in prison if convicted of Junior’s killing. Although the Scared Straight program is directed to juveniles, prison life needs to get out there for every age group to see. This program must be revived!

And yes, we need to build communities in a time when again, too many go it alone. And surely faith groups should lead this “no man is an island” crusade.

The meeting of the East 79th Street Association was held at Temple Shaaray Tefila on East 79th Street, which decades ago replaced the Colony movie theater where showings, especially compared to today’s films, were fairly benign. And some of us believe violence of the fictional kind can lead to the real thing.

Not so unrelatedly ... some called for protests at Gracie Mansion to protest proposed zoning changes that could endanger low-rises, Deplored were the new high-rise luxury condos going up in every neighborhood — whole blocks reduced to rubble and along with them affordable homes and small businesses.

And public protests are so needed on all the above. But also millennials and more men must get into the act.

I just learned that Loretta Ponticelli has departed this life at age 96. Ah, Loretta was such a stalwart member of the East 79th Street Association and her efforts were invaluable in saving the Cherokee Post Office on York Avenue. Until age took its often inevitable toll, she was responsible for tenants City & Suburban Homes tenants looking after one another, especially vulnerable elders. If she were around now. she’d be actively concerned about those without air conditioning. One wonders did she get enough caring help in her time of need? Heartfelt thanks, dear Loretta — you are very much missed.

Of course, heartfelt thanks, too, to all members the East 79th Street group and to its president, Betty Cooper Wallerstein, who do so much to make city life more of a community so needed for mental as well as physical health. We are grateful for all such groups but in a city of almost 8 million, their numbers are like the proverbial drop in the bucket. Caring communities are needed like never before. Like never before. Your help is needed.





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