Violence in Yonkers halts Midnight Basketball

July 12, 2010 2:44:38 PM PDT
For many of the kids on Yonkers' west side, Midnight Basketball is a safe place to be with friends, but that's no longer the case. In the last month, 16 people have been shot in Yonkers, four of them killed and 12 hurt.

That doesn't count stabbings or assaults.

So Dr. Jim Bostick from the Nepperhan Community Center was left with no choice but to cancel the popular summer program.

"We're dealing with a culture of vindictiveness and revenge," Bostick said. "We've had a lot of problems with the violence in the area, so we postponed it indefinitely."

The shooting deaths of two men in their early twenties at Cromwell Towers was the final straw.

Four others were hurt, including a 5 year old boy and 17 year old girl.

Midnight Basketball was supposed to start last week, but didn't in response to this outbreak in violence.

The summer league showcases area talent and draws large crowds sometimes hundreds cram the modest court.

"The whole city comes out. It's a ray of light for the city of Yonkers. It brings everyone together," coach Robert Richardson said. "We get to interact with them and really give them a sense of hope."

"It's something different and kids do have an option rather than being on the street. It gets us away from the violence that's going on in Yonkers, especially this summer," Pauline Richard said.

"It's the most violent time I've seen in my 21 years as a police officer," Det. Keith Olsen said.

Olson, a police union representative, in part blames cut backs in the city budget, meaning more than 50 fewer officers on the street.

"It's the most violent time we've seen in Yonkers. We're inundated with calls but calls are not being responded to because there's not enough officers. There's way too much violence," he said.

For its part, department leaders say they're working with the resources they have and are using overtime whenever necessary.

But you see kids don't understand budget cuts and financial set backs.

What they do know is what it's like to feel unsafe.

"Unfortunately, we have a lot of our young children that are fearful because this is random and wide spread violence," Bostick said.

Yonkers police Capt. Frank Intervallo told that the move was prudent because the program is a large draw for young people.

Midnight Basketball is entering its 15th year in Yonkers.