Stating that over 455 shootings have occurred in Brooklyn since July 29, according to the New York City Police Department (NYPD), Brooklyn Assemblywoman Diana Richardson wants the state to do more to address gun violence.
“Our families are putting their lives on the line, just by living their everyday lives. Gun violence is not a mere issue, it is an epidemic, and it is imperative that the state of New York do more,” said Richardson, representative for the 43rd Assembly District in Brooklyn, in an email message to constituents on Saturday.
“Looking back to 2016, I entered my first budget cycle and was shocked to find that the largest county (Kings County), in the state of New York, did not have gun violence funding,” added the daughter of St. Martin and Aruban immigrants.
“There was a substantial amount of advocacy to obtain a mere $600,000 in SNUG funding, which was a far cry from the minimal sent to other boroughs,” she continued. “This also marked the first time Brooklyn has had its own funding line of SNUG funds.”
Richardson said SNUG (Guns spelled backwards) “prides itself in attacking violence by adhering to a simple health model used to reverse epidemic disease outbreaks, which incorporates interrupting the transmission of diseases, reducing the risk and changing community norms.”
When implemented, she said this includes attacking and interrupting potentially violent conflicts, identifying and treating high risk occurrences, and mobilizing the community.
“Our small victory of SNUG funds was a start, but, every year, we must go back and fight for funding for lives within the Legislature,” Richardson. “This stark reality left legislators devastated, including myself in 2017.
“We were promised that our $600,000 would be maintained that budget cycle through funds announced from the Vital Brooklyn Initiative through the governor,” she added. “Unfortunately, when the budget came to the floor, there was no money for Kings County.”
The assemblywoman said her advocacy for the community in a closed conference was painted in the public as “tantrum over a pet project.”
But she said, in reality, she was “fighting friendly fire for lives.”
“The Vital Brooklyn Initiative was a great announcement, but we were unaware that 2.5 years later not one dollar on any contract for Vital Brooklyn would be paid out for gun violence,” Richardson said.
“Our funding has been disrupted by disingenuous acts of state Legislature coupled with an enhanced perception of the vital Brooklyn initiative that we were receiving,” she added. “It is no wonder that violence is up in Brooklyn. It is important that we, as a state Legislature, put our money where our mouth is.”
In the wake of the mass shooting in Brownsville, Richardson said she has seen responses from all levels of government, “but the question is why don’t we do more prevent such tragedy?”
She said she has asked the state to ensure a steady funding stream for violence prevention for Kings County.
“We should not come back to the table to fight for a basic need of $10 million dollars annually,” Richardson said. “The Legislature received a layout of increased butchered funding from $1.3 million to $4.3 million, where $3.5 million was federal-funded with criteria mandates that changed who could receive the fiscal distribution of funds as previously stated by Gov. Cuomo.”
In addition, she said the groups slated to receive the 4.3 million are not all existing groups on the ground.
“This is a call for clarity in terms of government response to gun-violence and a demand to make the fight for our lives a priority,” Richardson said.