The following Op-Ed is written by Yelena Makhnin, executive director of the Brighton Beach Business Improvement District, representing businesses on and around Brighton Beach. Makhnin wrote this piece after the fatal shooting on the boardwalk on Thursday, June 9. She believes that the NYPD leadership should have been more responsive to local safety concerns about beach overcrowding on hot holidays, providing the 60th Precinct with appropriate personnel. She also said that the reverberations around sensational shooting like this can create a false perception of the neighborhood, devastating local businesses long-term.
Each headline screams about the shooting on Brighton Beach. Big stories like this are reported by everyone and everywhere. Big stories like this, especially a criminal one, is the best way to sell newspapers. Reporters walk around interviewing locals, trying to get as many quotes as possible depicting screaming and fear. I have read all of them looking for a small story behind a big one. A story, perhaps, about the responsibilities of city officials and the safety of ordinary taxpayers in Brighton Beach. A story with a silver lining.
Three years ago, when Brooklyn-Queens Day also brought thousands of people to Brighton Beach, I was told that no one expected such a crowd. The next year the story was almost the same. This year, there was a new little twist: I was told to blame Bloomberg because of budget cuts. It reminds me of the Soviet Union, where no one was able to take responsibility. I am not in the Soviet Union, thank God.
The 60th Precinct – which covers Brighton Beach and Coney Island – did not get any additional manpower on Brooklyn-Queens Day, despite the clear pattern of overcrowding from previous years. But on Friday – the day after the shooting – when Brighton Beach was almost empty, police cars from all over Brooklyn patrolled our streets.
What is it? Timing problems? Ignorance? Bad judgment?
And the problem is more than just a safety issue for beachgoers. It’s for businesses, too. More than 20 businesses rolled their gates down by 4 p.m. on Thursday – hours before the shooting even took place – as the large, unmanaged crowds roamed the streets, breaking storefront windows and scaring away potential shoppers.
But if the shooting had not happened, no one would care about these businesses. Last year and the year before there were no stories. Closed businesses are nothing to write about; it doesn’t sell.
I walked along Brighton Beach on Friday and there was plenty of parking. Would you believe it? Friday afternoon, summer time and plenty of parking? I was looking around, seeing beautifully done windows with posters offering discounts… and stores almost entirely empty of customers. It made me angry. I am still angry!
I received a number of phone calls, e-mails and visitors on Friday. Everything was about the same topic: the safety of Brighton Beach and who is responsible for yesterday’s madness. At the end of the day, I don’t know, and I am trying to find a solution. Hopefully, I will. But we all know that Brighton Beach is not about violence and crime. Overall, it’s a safe community with a thriving business district. But stories like this shooting – rare exceptions to the Brighton Beach experience – scare shoppers off for weeks or longer. Our businesses need your help. Please come, support us, and see for yourself that Brighton Beach remains a safe place to shop.
Brighton Beach BID
Correction: The original intro to this article incorrectly identified the 61st Precinct as covering Brighton Beach. It has been corrected. (6:16 p.m.)