NEW YORK ( – Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) said he has seen enough of what he calls “gang-related” clothing to last him two life-times. “It’s no wonder street gangs are on the rise–we live in a culture that blatantly glorifies street gangs in the name of profit,” Mr. Comrie told reporters at a City Hall press conference on Nov.19.

Councilman Leroy Comrie (c) displays �gang-related� clothing along with Councilwoman Letitia James (l) and Councilman Peter Vallone (r).

Mr. Comrie, who also serves the council as its Deputy Majority Speaker, enlisted council colleagues, Peter Vallone (D-Queens) and Letitia James (D-Bklyn.); and together they will convene a hearing on Dec. 13 with the Consumer Affairs and Public Safety Committees.

“It is our intention to invite representatives of the New Era Cap Co., Major League Baseball Properties (MLB), the Major League Baseball Players Association, the New York Yankees, Stash House Clothing and Dr. Jay’s retail stores to attend our hearing to explain to the public why they are in the business of marketing and selling gang culture to our youth,” Mr. Comrie said.


Mr. Vallone said he wanted to commend his colleague “for calling attention to this serious problem.”

Back in August, news reports revealed that the Buffalo, NY-based New Era Cap Co. was marketing and selling MLB-licensed NY Yankee baseball caps that were imprinted with bandanas that critics say were obviously meant to appeal to urban youth consumers. The color of the bandanas were red, blue and brown–colors that observers say are normally affiliated with the Bloods, Crips and Latin Kings.

In response to the media attention and public criticism, New Era and MLB issued a joint statement, saying that there would be a national recall of these caps.

“It is our mission at New Era to create, design and market headwear that follows fashion trends around the world. It has been brought to our attention that some combinations of icons and colors on a select number of our caps would be too closely perceived to be in association with gangs. In response we, along with Major League Baseball have pulled those caps,” said New Era, on Aug. 24.

However, Mr. Comrie said his staff conducted a survey, and found that these caps are still available in the Black community. “I am outraged that there are businesses in this city who operate with such blatant disregard for the lives of our children,” stated the Queens councilman. During the course of the investigation, Mr. Comrie found that local businesses were also selling a new brand of gang-related apparel from the New York City-based AKA Stash House and Akademiks companies, whose garments feature guns, stacks of money and slogans such as “Deal or Die,” “Respect the Shooter,” and “Never Snitch Ever.”

Mr. Comrie told reporters that while the hat company claimed to be unaware of any gang associations in the marketing of its caps, his research revealed that the same company encountered resistance in Cleveland, Ohio earlier this year for selling hats imprinted with the monikers of local Cleveland gangs.

AKA Stash House and Akademiks, while not returning Final Call phone calls, did tell local newspapers they “have taken the necessary steps to alleviate the public’s perception as to the meaning of the graphics depicted on our clothing.”

One of the main retailers of the New Era hats and AKA Stash House garments, is Dr. Jay’s with stores in neighborhoods such as Harlem and Brooklyn. In fact, they have two stores on 125th Street in Harlem. But, within 24-hours of the City Hall press conference, Dr. Jay’s Vice-Pres. Mark Sutton announced: “Dr. Jay’s retail chain has officially removed the availability of gang-related merchandise from our website and stores.”

“I want to applaud Dr. Jay’s for responding in such a timely fashion. We need more businesses like Dr. Jay’s to take the first step and remove this garbage from store shelves,” Mr. Comrie said in a prepared statement.

Councilwoman James told The Final Call she intends to conduct her own “visual inspection” at Dr. Jay’s downtown Brooklyn stores. “I have been to too many funerals of our young Black boys because of fights over drug turf and gang wars,” Ms. James said.

“I am not trying to censure what young people wear, I am trying to save lives,” she insisted. Ms. James said what she and her colleagues are attempting to do is mount an educational campaign. “I am speaking out for mothers and grandmothers,” she said.

James Martinez, spokesman for the Chicago-based National PTA Association told the The Final Call, that he agrees that there should be an ongoing educational process to keep parents informed. “Every community has the right to decide what is right, and parents certainly have the responsibility to do what is necessary to protect their children,” Mr. Martinez stressed. The key factor, he noted, is “parent involvement.”

Communities across the nation are taking similar stands. In San Jose, California there has been a recent crackdown on store merchants selling gang-garb, which has been challenged by the local hip hop community in their publication De-BUG. “The colors are just the surface of the gang issue here in San Jose. The problem is much deeper. The colors, represented through jerseys, hats and bandanas, are not the cause of conflicts, but rather only flags, signifying what people identify with,” the magazine said.

In Orange County, North Carolina, the sheriff’s office has a website devoted to gangs, entitled “Parents Guide to Gangs.”

“Gang members may use a particular style of dress to identify with a particular gang, set, clique, or crew. This might include clothing or bandanas worn only in certain colors that are representative of a gang or group,” warns the Orange County sheriff. In Austin, Texas, KVUE News, Nov. 20: “Some downtown Austin businesses have reported a higher number of people flashing gang colors–possibly tied to the Bloods or Crips. The police say there have been no crimes tied to this activity, but they want to be proactive.”