NYPD tactics used in this year’s Senior Cut Day crackdown have been called into question, with community leaders charging that cops barred black teens from entering Manhattan Beach, even though the public beach should have been open to all.
Speaking at the 61st Precinct Community Council last Wednesday, Barbara Berardelli of the Sheepshead Bay/Plumb Beach Civic Association said that many of the teens ejected from Manhattan Beach on June 6 were students from Sheepshead Bay High School and other area schools.
“[These students] are part of our community from September to June,” said Berardelli, who sided with a group of students when they were ejected from the beach Friday.
Her son, Gene, was arrested and given a desk appearance ticket when he questioned the cops about why they were turning black teens away from the beach when white teens were apparently given a free pass.
Cops said that he was arrested for mouthing off to them and enticing students standing near him to riot. He also tried to pass himself off as a teacher, a charge that Berardelli denies.
“They [the police] said that the white teens we saw on the beach were on a field trip,” he said. “I asked where their teacher was and they arrested me.”
Beradelli, who said that the police’s activities on Senior Cut Day was akin to “racial profiling,” said he plans to file a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board.
“Everything could have been handled so much easier, but it wasn’t because of one neighborhood’s paranoia,” he said.
But Captain George Mastrokostas, the commanding officer of the 61st Precinct, explained that his officers weren’t ejecting African Americans from the beach – they were tossing out truants.
“Kids that were between 13 and 17 were told that they had to either go home, go back to school or go to one of the truant centers,” Mastrokostas told council members. “We got there early to address the truancy issue and everything was quiet.”
The tactics were put in place after last year’s Senior Cut Day “caught them by surprise.”
“Last year, kids were wearing gang colors and someone was arrested on the beach for having a gun,” Mastrokostas said. “A homicide took place at the Avenue U train station by kids who were at the beach. This is violence! And I’m not going to tolerate violence in the area — not if I can do something about it.”
The Beradellis said that their confrontation with the police happened at around 12:30 p.m. Since many area schools had already dismissed their students for the day, the police’s truancy tactics should have ceased, but hadn’t, they charged.
Manhattan Beach residents cheered the 61st Precinct for nipping Senior Cut Day in the bud early on and refuted allegations that they pushed the police to take stronger measures this year.
“I had my scanner on and I heard what was going on – there were 200 kids there going to riot. [Senior Cut Day] is a problem,” said 61st Precinct Community Council member and Manhattan Beach resident Cy Shoenfeld. “It’s not that the captain was wrong or the police were wrong. It was that the kids were breaking the law and cutting classes.”
“Manhattan Beach is not racist,” he continued. “We put up with a lot of nonsense in many ways.”
Teresa Scavo, chair of Community Board 15, agreed.
She said that when she drove down Oriental Boulevard that day, she didn’t see cops barring anyone from the beach.
“[The cops] were just following procedure and checking IDs,” she said. “It’s not racial.”
“The bottom line is that we made the area safe for everybody that day – for the people who go to school here and live here,” Mastrokostas explained. “I don’t do for one that I wouldn’t do for another. I try to appease everybody because we’re one community.”
Barbara Berardelli, who was accused by one council member of “trying to start another Crown Heights’ riot” by raising her concerns, encouraged Mastrokostas to take a more proactive approach next year and reach out to area schools and teach them to respect the community.
“This year we sent the wrong message,” she said. “We have to live together and we can’t discount one neighborhood for another.”
Mastrokostas and his officers are expected to meet with the Berardellis to discuss the matter further in the next few weeks, a move that Gene Beradelli sees as a “step in the right direction.
“Personally, I’m hopeful by the precinct’s prompt response and I look forward to working with them,” he said.
— additional reporting by Joe Maniscalco
©2008 Community News Group
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