On July 14, 2008, 22-year-old Williamsburg resident Richard Duran was murdered in a gang shootout near the Williamsburg Bridge Plaza, shadowed by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the elevated J-train.
His family’s church, Transfiguration Parish (263 Marcy Avenue), joined with St. Peter and St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church (71 South 3rd Street) to hold an unprecedented funeral mass in Washington Park Plaza (at Roebling Street and South 5th Street) which over 1,000 attended, including Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese, Assemblymember Vito Lopez (D-Williamsburg), and Councilmember Diana Reyna (D-Williamsburg) attended.
One year later, Williamsburg’s South Side community has largely moved on.
Both churches, Transfiguration and St. Peter and St. Paul, did not hold public memorial services this summer as the Duran family held a private memorial service.
“Last summer we did have a mass.It seems like the gang violence last summer was worse,” said St. Peter and St. Paul’s pastor Rick Beuther.
Beuther said his parishioners at St. Peter and St. Paul have said that this summer was quieter and they have not noticed as much gang activity on the South Side.Compared with last year, criminal complaints in the 90th Precinct are down 11.36 percent, though there have been four murders this year compared with three last year.
El Puente staff members such as William Orellana and Theresa Doherty who work with Williamsburg youth leaders say they have expanded their outreach in the past year and added new arts and cultural programs to occupy young people after school.
“We actually have a new staff member doing street outreach, including meeting with some of the older gangs as well,” said Doherty.
Esteban Duran, a Community Board 1 member, of no relation to Richard Duran, who spoke at the Community Rally for Peace which followed Duran’s outdoor funeral mass last year, believes there should be more funding for summer youth employment programs, even though gang violence has ebbed.
“The past year has really been eye opening for the need to invest in our youth and the family has taken many steps to make sure that [with] his unfortunate demise, positive actions could come out of such a negative situation,” said Duran.“Unfortunately, the gang problems seem to be not fully dealt with at a community level.”
Duran’s family declined to comment for this article, though Rosa Duran, Richard’s sister, issued a statement through Reyna’s office, which was included in Reyna campaign literature that was sent to registered voters this past week.
“When my brother Little Riche fell victim to a horrible violent attack, it was Councilmember Diana Reyna who stepped up to help our family.She rallied the community, worked with police and fought for justice,” said Duran in the flyer.“Our neighborhoods have seen far too much crime, but Diana Reyna has been leading the fight to combat violence.”
When asked about the flyer, Reyna said she could not speak for the Duran family though she appreciated Rosa Duran’s support.
“Her brother’s death was not in vain.It does matter to get involved,” said Reyna.“We’re losing our youth.We need to do more with our youth., give them opportunities and keep them off the streets.”
©2009 Community News Group
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