By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn politicians, businesspeople and residents are up in arms – so to speak – about the head of the National Rifle Association’s comments about the area in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
In an editorial last week in the Daily Caller, a conservative website, Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s executive vice president and CEO, said: “After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all.”
First-person accounts of Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay and nearby areas after the storm all challenged LaPierre’s assessment of the situation—although most agreed that looting did take place.
Among the first to respond was Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Central and Eastern Brooklyn), who said Monday on NY1 News: "The people of Coney Island across the neighborhood are resilient, are hard working, are caring, are dedicated to making a comeback. That's one of the reasons why comments like those made by Wayne LaPierre are completely irresponsible, unfounded and unacceptable.”
Jeffries also invited LaPierre to visit the area, and said crime has been steadily dropping in the borough.
Similarly, Borough President Marty Markowitz, on his Facebook site, said, “Before he shoots his mouth off — and I pray that’s all he’d shoot — he’d better come see the place. ... He would not exactly be the most welcome guy in Brooklyn.”
To show how safe the area is, Markowitz offered to be LaPierre’s bodyguard – a veiled insult, considered the borough president’s diminutive stature.
Interviews with Coney Island-area residents found similar sentiments, often with more colorful language.
For example, according to WPIX News, Steven Feinstein, owner of Wilensky Hardware on Mermaid Avenue, called LaPierrre “a moron.” Feinstein told WPIX that conditions like LaPierre had described hadn’t existed in the area since the blackout of 1977.
Most shop owners along Mermaid Avenue, according to WPIX, agreed that police stepped up their presence after the storm.
According to the NYPD—no murders, rapes or shootings took place in southern Brooklyn’s 60th and 61st precincts for about a week after the storm—although burglaries rose 366.7 percent.
Still, the Daily News reported that many of the arrests of the time may have arisen from confusion and the overall disorganized situation. The News cited the case of barber Donald Franks, who was leaving his shop on Coney Island. He walked past Key Food right when some teens were looting the store – and soon found himself under arrest. It took him nine days to convince the cops the whole thing was a mistake.
Even one crime victim downplayed the “Wild West” nature of the area in the aftermath of Sandy. “There was no food or water, but you could still walk the streets at night,” liquor store owner Ron Troyano told the News.