News & Politics

Russians Invade Staten Island Community Center, Elderly Bigots Fight Back


When Assemblymember Janele Hyer-Spencer announced that she’d scored $4 million in public funds to finance a new community center in Staten Island, complete with pool, we figured her constituents would be pleased. But it was weird when the Staten Island Blog said, “although the Russian community is spearheading the effort, the new center would be for all Staten Islanders.”

Russians? All Staten Islanders? Is this a thing?

Turns out the non-profit called the Staten Island Community Center which administered the old center, and with whom Hyler-Spencer would work on the new, has a heavy Russian component. Its president’s name is Arkadiy Fridman, for one thing. Plus the Staten Island Advance more or less admits their dominance in the proceedings in their March 5 story, “Russian community does heavy lifting for Staten Island community center.” And look at the costumes in those dance classes for children — if that ain’t a Russkie operation, we’re General George S. Patton!

Well, as long as they don’t make the other folks who use the center listen to their horrible, depressing music, or try to run one of their famously violent gangs out of it, more power to them, we say. But apparently the Russianness of the project concerned some residents who attended a Staten Island hearing about it last night.

The Advance says “old-time residents… used the proposed new tenant’s Russian heritage to vent their frustrations over the changing makeup of their neighborhood.”

For example, “This is just going to be another damn Russian thing,” said Joanne Bennetti. “You don’t know what it is to feel like a foreigner in your own neighborhood.” The Advance says Hyer-Spencer “spent much of two hours” trying to talk the Russkie-hating old-timers down.

So what’s really going on? Is the project an obvious boondoggle, and casual racism the only way these simple folk know how to express their suspicions?

Who cares, when the comments to the Advance article are so amusingly ignorant? Purged of the nervous edge with which anti-black and anti-Latino prejudice are loaded, this particular bigotry has a sort of old-world charm.

“They will slowly take over the town and rule it with an IRON FIST,” says PoconoPete44, “Russians Cant be trusted.”

“If I wanted to hear (loud) Russians every where I go,” rejoins gyminicrickt, “I would move to Mockba!” “When the lunch menu includes borsht,” says ICant, “that speaks for itself.”

“The influx of Russians in the area is astounding,” says siperson. “Just as in Port Richmond with Mexicans.” Gasp! Mexicans? Why are we even bothering with Russians, then? Come, citizens, let us form a border patrol! Staten Island for the Staten Islanders — by which we mean, New Jerseyans!



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