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Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons

Posted: June 30, 2009 03:15 PM

An Open Letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Remember the Poor


Dear My Friend, Mayor Bloomberg,

In the summertime, as a child, I used to play in the streets of Hollis, Queens.  As we played, there were always kids hanging out on the corner.  Most of those kids that stood on that street corner of Hollis and 205th either died or went to jail.  So, yesterday I was looking forward to joining you at the press conference announcing the expansion of New York City's Summer Streets program, because I know that good programs will keep kids playing in the streets, rather than standing on the corner.

As I stood there and listened to all of the city officials, including you, tout the various programs of Summer Streets, I realized that we should be spending as much energy on programs for the poor and disenfranchised as we do on the programs on Park Avenue and in other affluent neighborhoods in the city.  I think it is wonderful that the city will be closing streets throughout all five boroughs during the summer; however we need to make sure that the people who live in the poorer communities have free programs as well.  We also need to make sure that the information to participate is easily accessible for those communities.  We respect the city's interest in servicing the tourists and more affluent New Yorkers and we recognize these programs, in some way, benefit the entire city.  However, frankly speaking, the poor do not benefit enough.

With the horrific economic conditions that have devastated our communities, we all know that times are tough.  However, during these tough times we would expect our leaders to give those who need a hand, two hands. I have been a friend and supporter for many years, and will always give you credit for the excellent job you have done in areas like education and the environment.  As your friend, I urge you to create more and enhance the existing programs that you have already created for those who are suffering in poverty.  Let's make sure that we do not create two New York Cities; one for those with privilege and access and one for those who are living in struggle.

During this long, hot summer, we need more programs that will keep our young people from literally killing each other.  Just last week, I met with the leaders of the Bury Da Beef coalition who asked for my assistance to stop an escalating street war that is going on right now in my old neighborhood in Queens.  They are fearful that with the summer in full swing, the violence will not stop across the city.  And without anything for the kids to do, I am sorry to say, it definitely won't.  As we all don't want more trouble in our city, I strongly recommend that the city makes more of a commitment to support programs that are community based and community-run, like Bury Da Beef, LIFE Camp or Man Up, amongst many, many others.

Lastly, let us be honest, that if we do not help those who are suffering in poverty, they will eventually rise up and put many elected officials on the same unemployment line as they are on now.

Your Friend,
Russell Simmons