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In the wake of two violent hate crimes on Bell Boulevard in the last two months, the Flushing branch of the National Association for Colored People was planning a meeting next week to foster a discussion and understanding of bias in northeast Queens.
Ken Cohen, president of the Flushing branch of the NAACP, said the April 26 meeting would feature speakers from the Queens district attorneys office, the New York Police Departments Bias Crimes Unit, lawyers and court officials to help the public understand both the states hate crime law and how bias cases are handled.
In February two Whitestone men were arrested for allegedly beating a black man around the face and head outside the Byzantio Bar and Grill at 45-30 Bell Blvd. with a gun and taunting him with racial remarks.
A month later, less than a mile away, a Hispanic man allegedly stabbed three whites at the Voodoo Lounge at 47-29 Bell Blvd. after the whites supposedly used racial epithets to harass him. The Hispanic man was arrested and charged with the stabbing while one of his victims, a Yonkers resident, was later arrested for making racial comments about his attacker.
Were really pursuing these particular incidents because were very concerned, Cohen said. There must be an end put to this before something more serious happens.
Cohen also cited two incidents last year an Auburndale beating and the harassment of black teens at a voter drive in Oakland Gardens as additional reasons for next weeks meeting.
There must be a plan for healing here, Cohen said.
The NAACP activist also joined Bayside civic leader Mandingo Tshakas criticism of local elected officials who failed to attend a gathering of Bayside civic and community groups on March 29.
Only state Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) sent representatives to the meeting. After the attacks at Byzantio and Voodoo Lounge, state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) was the sole elected official to issue a public statement decrying the incidents.
Cohen also said the NAACP got little response to its attempts to reach out to the elected officials in northeast Queens about the Bayside attacks.
These issues must be brought out, Cohen said.
Meanwhile, the owner of the property where the Voodoo Lounge was located emphasized that the club was permanently closed.
I wasnt really into having that kind of business in the neighborhood, said the property owner, who asked that her name be withheld.
The Voodoo Lounge was shut down March 27 by the city Health Department when it was found operating in violation of a March 16 summons that ordered the club to close for doing business without a city permit.
The property owner, who said she has done business in Bayside for about 30 years, said the club was padlocked after the March 16 summons, but club management broke the lock and continued doing business.
After repeated attempts the management of the Voodoo Lounge could not be reached for comment as of press time.
The Flushing NAACP meeting, which is open to the public, was slated to be held at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday at Macedonia A.M.E. Church at 37-27 Union St. in Flushing.
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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