On December 19, 1986, Howard Beach emerged into the spotlight when a gang of white teens brutally beat three Black men who arrived in the neighborhood after their car broke down. Waiving bats and bellowing racial slurs, according to the reports, one of the three young victims, 23-year-old Michael Griffith, was chased into oncoming traffic, where he was hit by a car and killed. The others were seriously injured.
Three of the attackers were charged with murder, manslaughter and assault and, until this day, the incident has been deemed one of the most explosive racial crimes in the city.
Twenty-five years later, the then-teenagers involved in the manslaughter have been released from prison and are family men in their 40s, but the harm they caused will never be forgotten.
“I could recall 25 years ago as a kid, I would not recommend anyone Black stopping there,” Representative Gregory W. Meeks, who is Black and represents Old Howard Beach, recalled to the New York Times.
Though the congressman says that today it is definitely a different place, local residents say that because of that incident, the words "Howard Beach" will forever have bad connotations.
“We’re tarnished for something the community did not do or condone,” Betty Braton, a local resident and a community board chairperson, told a local Queens paper.
Some residents say that the community is a lot more diverse that in the past. According to the 2010 census, close to 77 percent of Howard Beach residents are white, 17 percent are Hispanic and only about 2 percent are Black.
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(Photo: New York Times Co./Getty Images)
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