While the city has been working hard to keep gang−related sportswear off the streets, two Queens councilmen say clothing manufacturers are still promoting their controversial products to young New Yorkers.
City Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D−St. Albans), who chairs the Council’s Consumer Affairs Committee, and Peter Vallone (D−Astoria), who chairs the Public Safety Committee, held a special oversight hearing at City Hall Monday to give an update on their investigation into the sales.
Representatives of baseball cap company New Era have repeatedly promised to remove Major League Baseball caps that featured logos and colors of local gangs, such as the Bloods and Latin Kings, but paraphernalia can still be found on store shelves across the five boroughs, according to Comrie.
“From the company that designs and markets them to the retailer that sells them to our youth, many of the involved parties are aware of the ongoing sale of gang−related apparel, but few have taken proactive steps to truly rectify the problem,” he said in a statement.
In August 2007, New Era promised Comrie that it would stop the sale of the gang−related caps, but an investigation by the Brooklyn district attorney’s office early this year found that not only were the products still on sale, but the owners were fully aware of the link to the city’s gangs.
Members of the Bloods, for example, were able to identify themselves with a red Yankee cap, according to the DA.
“Each hat they sell with gang signs is an endorsement of the gang lifestyle, which plagues our communities with drugs and gunshots,” Vallone said.
Vallone and Comrie revealed more startling information about the clothing that shows the market has expanded over the year. New Era is still selling its hats on the Web site of a urban store known as Dr. Jay’s.
One of the online listings showed a “LA Kings (NHL)” cap, but used a crown that is associated with the Latin Kings, not the hockey team, according to Comrie.
The investigation also found that other companies, such as City Hunter Co., Global Headwear Cap Co. and K.B. Ethos Cap Co., were selling the controversial caps to street vendors in Manhattan’s garment district.
Comrie said the NYPD has stepped up its efforts to crack down on gang− related crimes in the city, but added that more needed to be done from outside law enforcement to make a real difference.
“The Council will continue to focus on this issue and help to mitigate the problem,” he said. “However, it is imperative that parents, children, school officials, community organizations and retailers also join the fight against gang culture.”
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@t
©2008 Community News Group
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