By Mary V. Lauro
BRONX, NEW YORK, December 31- This year the League will celebrate its one-hundredth year of serving the Wakefield community. In 1913 it was larger than it is today. It extended on the South all the way to Gun Hill Road. We know little of its past except that it was born in a bar. Bars in those days were like town halls, where issues of interest were discussed.
The primary goal of the founders of the League was to preserve Wakefield's integrity. That integrity included a quasi-suburban atmosphere of mainly one, two and three-family homes, interspersed only now and then by an apartment building; largely a family oriented community surrounded by flowering gardens in the summer and children sleighing or, building snowmen in the winter. Crime was practically unknown. It remained that way to mid-century.
Through the years, Wakefield's integrity has been the only goal of the League. Politics was never an issue. We worked along with whomever represented us in the official world. But we did expect our elected officials to work for us. We have never appreciated being ignored.
There is always something special about the past; even its sadness is looked upon with yearning. Most of us in Wakefield were a lot poorer then.
It is true we had little for people to steal, but it is also true that we did not lock our front doors at night. Some of them were French doors (glass paned).
What did happen? How did it happen that we not only locked our doors, we put iron bars on our windows, so that today, though still lovely, Wakefield is a mess of fancy iron works. Children who live in these houses would be astonished to learn that children, less than a half a century ago, thought burglary only happened in the movies. They were "cat" burglars, intent on stealing from the rich who lived in high-rise luxury apartments.
When did it happen that gold stars or crosses were no longer safe around one's neck? In what year did a boy's leather jacket become reason to mug him? The master criminal mentors (the Mafia) killed their own, not children or someone's great grandmother. Those were the days when banks were robbed, not bodegas.
Indeed, from being the second lowest in crime in the City during the 60s, twenty-five years later, the 47th Precinct rise to 23rd highest. Why? The question still haunts us. Indeed the question spawned a number of community organizations that grew in size and influence, but, alas, alas, eventually died.
It cannot be denied that Wakefield's complexion changed from white to shades of brown. But that did not happen everywhere in the City. Yet it is everywhere in the City that crime rose and it is everywhere that our unease is keenly felt.
We have known that human kind is flawed. Myth has it that Satan was once an angel. But that occurrence, like so many on our earth was a rarity. But it seems, yes, it seems that something has been broken in the moral compass of our people. Everywhere one turns, there is new evidence of some malfeasance. We read of dishonest politicians or those who think they are above the law. We read of business practices, which belong in hell, and of workers who could easily join them. We read and learn of a justice system that has difficulty defining right and wrong, fueling the attitude of the young and newcomers that the smart thing to do is game the system. This last is most disheartening. It is, unfortunately, a plague in Wakefield.
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