One of those killed was 37-year-old Gudelia Vallinas, a married mother with an 11-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter, who was hit in the head by a stray bullet at the corner of Broadway and 48th Street in Astoria on March 12.
“They didn’t only kill a wife, mother and friend, they killed me too,” said her husband, Alfredo Vallinas, at a rally last Thursday denouncing the recent shootings. “In one second, everything changed for our family.”
Gudelia Vallinas came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was eight years old. She and Alfredo met in high school, and would have celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary on May 27.
Vallinas said his late wife’s own mother died in childbirth.
“It’s not fair that the story repeats itself,” he said. “For them to also lose their mother is heartbreaking.”
On March 23, a 29-year-old man was killed outside the 20-building complex. The next night, a 32-year-old man was shot and wounded in a robbery attempt.
“Over the past two or three weeks, we have seen our streets turned into a war zone,” said Borough President Donovan Richards. “People should be able to go about their business without dodging a bullet.”
There have been no arrests in any of the shooting, and Richards called for the community to come forward with any information they may have on the perpetrators.
“We're not asking for vengeance, but if you do the crime you have to do the time,” he said. “This family deserves justice.”
Richards said while a lot of attention has been paid to recent mass shootings, the smaller incidents of gun violence are often overlooked. He called for the federal government to enact stricter gun laws.
“There are no gun manufacturers in Woodside Houses,” he said. “Where are these guns coming from?”
But he also called on the city to invest resources to combat gun violence. He pointed to successful intervention programs in Queensbridge Houses and some of the most violent neighborhoods in Far Rockaway.
Queensbridge Houses went a year without a shooting, while Far Rockaway was free from gun violence for over 400 days.
“There's a different path,” said State Senator Jessica Ramos, who grew up on 47th Street around the corner from Woodside Houses. “We as a community can figure out how to bring more conflict resolution into our community. We can't allow any more children to bury their parents.”
Annie Cotton-Morris, president of the Woodside Houses Tenants Association, said she and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer identified a site for a community center to serve the youth of Woodside Houses, but were told by the city there was no money in the budget to build it.
She said the shootings are not indicative of the people who call Woodside Houses home.
“This is so unfair to us,” Cotton-Morris said. “The majority of us do the right thing in our community.”