Crooke Avenue and Parade Place, in Flatbush, Brooklyn, three blocks from my home. These don't look like the Gates of Death, do they? They lead from a phalanx of handsome apartment buildings into a beautifully renovated playground in the historic Parade Grounds section of Prospect Park. Come, let's take a walk on a chilly day at sunset in late March.
First, we must cross the soccer fields, where play never ceases. We're headed for that little house in the distance. It's a comfort station with a cute decorative relief of squirrels on it.
Here we are. It's quiet now, this broad passage between the playing fields. They're green again, after this morning's spring snow melted away. The picnic benches would be inviting if it weren't so cold...oh, and if people didn't keep getting shot to death here.
Look behind the tree. Candles flicker in a beer box. It must be a shrine for Julio Locarno, a 23-year-old who fell here the previous night, shot multiple times. He was allegedly no saint: released just recently on bail from Riker's, and a suspected accomplice in the shooting of a man named Jason Green outside a Soho nightclub last summer. Green, an EMT, had in turn been accused, with his partner, of allowing a pregnant woman to expire of an asthma attack in a downtown Brooklyn lunch spot; his shooting, however, seemed to arise from an unrelated fracas over a parking space, according to news reports.
Romeo slew him, he slew Mercutio;
Perhaps Aslan will know. Did this young man who seemed to have lived and died in a web of violence have a soft spot for C.S. Lewis' tale of glorious redemption?
Step back; it looks as if someone has tried to wash away the night's carnage, doesn't it? The storm drain must have come in handy.
I know, you're asking: "But Brenda from Flatbush, why don't you do guys do something?" Flashback: Last August, after another murder, and a stabbing, and another shooting, all took place right here, at Crooke Avenue and Parade Place in or just outside the Parade Grounds, I joined a group of deeply concerned neighbors on a walk-through with local officials. They included State Senator Rhoda Jacobs, some executive from the MTA (we were also worried about the desolate nearby subway entrance), and assorted minor political types. We begged, not just for a stepped-up police presence, but for security cameras and extra lights.
We got vague promises, but no security cameras or other changes. Two foot patrolmen and one Park security vehicle went past as I stood there, but it hadn't been 24 hours yet. The blood, or whatever, will dry, and so will the interest. After all, this was Julio, not one of the little middle-class schoolchildren who play soccer a few feet (and a vast gulf) away under their parents' watchful eyes every Saturday. People like Julio, and the livery car driver who also died here, are invisible once the blood dries. I guess they will bury Julio, and I will go back to living in that weird urban denial, three blocks from the bloody nexus and the gates of hell.
Or maybe now somebody will pay attention. Would you like some bleach for your shoes?
Note: Comments are welcome, but must adhere to the standards of civility and charity I expect from conversations at my family dinner table, or else they will be deleted. If you have dined with me, you will know that gives you a wide but not infinite latitude.