Tiffany Stewart tried to get out of the city-run group home on Hegeman Avenue, but she kept coming back. In the end, that was her undoing. Stewart, a 16-year-old former resident of the Hegeman Transitional Center, was found dead on Easter Sunday in a vacant lot near the East New York group home. Last Tuesday, another 16-year-old Hegeman resident was arraigned in her murder.
City Limits readers met Stewart as “Caryn” in the November 1998 story “Nobody's Homes,” about the failure of city-run group homes to look after the teens in their care. At that time, Stewart said that she lived in the group home because she and her mother couldn't get along. Instead, she spent her nights hanging out in front of Hegeman, smoking blunts and joking with neighborhood men. Her main goal then, she said, was simply to get out of Hegeman.
Three weeks before her murder, she had been transferred from Hegeman to another group home in Queens. But one resident at that home said that Stewart didn't spend much time there either. Instead, she usually got in around 2 a.m. during the week and was not there at all on weekends. The girl added that Stewart often spoke of spending her time hanging around near Hegeman.
Police say that on April 3, around 11 p.m., Stewart was strangled to death near an underpass. Records indicate that at least three people acted together to kill Stewart, although so far only one has been charged: Amanda Gonzalez, a 16-year-old who is herself a Hegeman resident. Allegedly, Gonzalez acted as a lookout while another person struck Stewart in the head and a third strangled her. She has been indicted for second-degree murder.
Administration for Children's Services spokesperson Leonora Weiner will not disclose any details about Stewart's history or the ongoing murder investigation but did acknowledge that her death was not unique. “Foster teens have died outside group homes before,” Weiner said.
In the June issue of City Limits, Wendy Davis updates the story of Stewart's life under the city's care, and tells the story of her death.
Also in the June issue, now on newsstands, a look at the big business of welfare-to-work, where new government funding is changing how nonprofits–and for-profits-help the poor find work. Senior Editor Kathleen McGowan profiles Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's workfare architect, Richard Schwartz, who left government to start a firm that has reaped millions of dollars in contracts by helping businesses hire welfare recipients.
And: A panel of five activists dissects the internal politics of the Diallo demonstrations, reveals that the ten-point plan was written on the back of an envelope and deflates the mythology of a unified front in city politics…Black-car drivers buck the independent contractors' blues by starting a union organizing movement…and your own City Limits refrigerator magnet kit!
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