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SE Queens officials look at gangsta rap funds

Hip-hop groups joined southeast Queens leaders at the High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety last Thursday to address what they called a misappropriation of New York's taxpayer dollars.

The Hip-Hop Youth Council hosted a town hall meeting to find out why the state is using money from its pension fund to support companies that market, distribute and sell gangsta rap. New York has invested nearly $2.8 billion in 16 gangsta rap companies, according to Charles Fisher, the council's founder and chairman.

"It is time to stop pointing fingers and implement some real solutions to save the present and next generation," Fisher said.

The forum featured a panel of many big names in the hip-hop world such as Fred Buggs of radio station 98.7 Kiss FM and Big Ron Cartier of the musical group The Persuaders. Even though the disc jockies and performers agreed that the music genre gets its fare share of bad press due to its negative stereotype of promoting violence and crime, they agreed that there were more important priorities for the government to invest in.

"As an artist, I understand artistic freedom, but when it comes to our children there is a thin line that we must walk so that they stay focused on what's real in life," Cartier said.

The state's pension fund invests state tax dollars in portfolios to help pay for more than 1 million governmet employees, retirees and beneficiaries. Last year the fund valued more than $154 million, according to the state comptroller.

The panel talked extensively about how the pension could be used to help the city's Housing Authority, which will be closing 19 youth centers because of a lack of funding. City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), who attended the forum with Ruben Wills, state Sen. Shirley Huntley's (D-Jamaica) chief of staff, agreed and said he would look into the situation.

"I'm willing to provide the HHYC with a letter of support and I will approach New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson on the issues to garner his support as well," Comrie said.

The Hip-Hop Youth Council's forum was the beginning of a 12-county tour of New York state to inform the public on the pension fund situation.

"The momentum of this campaign is growing at a very fast pace because this is a hot issue," Fisher said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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