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U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) has been holding regular meetings with members of the clergy, community leaders and other elected officials since shortly after the shooting.Queens District Attorney Richard Brown has already met with the group and Monday Bloomberg came to St. Albans for a private discussion.At a news conference on an unrelated matter Monday, Bloomberg said little about the meeting. He acknowledged that his visit to southeast Queens primarily dealt with the Bell shooting, but said other topics such as "housing and economic development" were discussed.Some of the clergy members in attendance credited the mayor for his visit and said they were grateful for an opportunity to speak face-to-face with the city's chief executive."I believe the mayor is a concerned individual," said Bishop Erskine Williams of the New Seasons Family Worship Center in South Ozone Park. "It builds upon some of the trust that has been eroded."Williams said Bloomberg acknowledged that he would be "livid" if he was stopped by police simply because of the color of his skin, a problem that residents of southeast Queens say is far too prevalent in the Jamaica area.When this occurs, residents say they were stopped for "driving while black," and the subject was a key topic of discussion Friday night at town hall meeting held at the Guy R. Brewer United Democratic Club. Billed as an opportunity for young people to discuss relations between the community and police, only about a dozen teenagers were on hand. Still, the commanding officers of southeast Queens' three police precincts - 103rd, 113th and 105th Ð listened intently as residents expressed their concerns about the manner in which their area is policed. Many residents continued their calls for Bloomberg to hold Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly accountable for what they are charging is systemic racism in the police department.Williams and Rev. Charles Norris both said Bloomberg vigorously defended Kelly Monday and described him, as he often does, as the best commissioner in the city's history.While Williams and other clergy members continue to be impressed with Bloomberg, they have become increasingly critical of Kelly, particularly as he continues to insist that race played no part in the Bell shooting."The mayor is concerned, he cares," Williams said. "Sadly, I can't say that Kelly shares those views."Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.
©2007 Community Newspaper Group
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