Van Nest stands up to crime with march

Marchers come out in droves to support the Van Nest community plagued by gangs and crime.
Photo by Cecil Longmore

The Van Nest community has a bold message for troublemakers – we know where you live.

Frustrated neighbors and surrounding community groups took to their streets with a march against violent crime.

But in an unusual twist, they took their cause directly to “gang hotpsots” where members of the so-called Yum Up Gang have terrorized the community.

A fatal stabbing, violent attacks and scrawls of gang symbols popping up in the neighborhood inspired the May 10 march.

“What about the gangs!?!” shouted Joe Thompson, president of the 49th Precinct Community Council. “They have to go!” shouted protest marchers.

Sign-carrying marchers paused at one house on Garfield Street, the home of several problem youths, including one 18-year-old whose mother said has been in and out of jail.

A single mother of eight, she said she’s at her wits end trying to straighten most of her kids out, including him most of all.

“The streets got him,” she said.

But neighbors and cops said the mother is really the problem. “She’s a bad mom,” declared one anonymous resident, afraid to give their name.

That fear compelled members of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance to enlist the help of the 49th Precinct Clergy Council to march on their behalf.

Pastor Jay Gooding, head of the council, emphasized the need to help, not condemn teens responsible for violent crimes, saying “I’m tired of seeing our young people in jail.”

He believes cooperation among the “Triple C’s” – cops, community and church – will bring back the neighborhood. “We’re better together.”

The Morris Park Community Association, the precinct’s auxiliary police and NYPD Explorer troop, as well as Community Board 11 were among the groups marching with the clergy council.

“We need youth programs that will foster positiveness within our young people,” said Pastor Jesus Goyco, who spread messages of tough love through the streets.

As more residents noticed the march, they joined in.

“This is just what we need to fix this neighborhood,” said Robert Sanchez, 19.

Reach reporter David Cruz at 718-742-3383 and email

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