The Family Red Apple boycott, also known as the "Red Apple boycott", "Church Avenue boycott" or "Flatbush boycott", was an eight-month-long boycott against a Korean-American-owned shop, Family Red Apple, on Church Avenue in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn in 1990-1991.
The boycott was sparked by an alleged assault of a Haitian woman by a Korean-American shopkeeper. The woman alleged that she had been struck by three of the shop's employees. The shopkeeper said that the woman had refused to pay for store items and that she had not been attacked. The boycott was led by Robert (Sonny) Carson, a local activist and black nationalist. The incident led to public criticism of New York City's Mayor David Dinkins for failing to end the protest.
Carson threatened the storeowners that the boycott would escalate, stating "in the future, there will be funerals not boycotts". Police discovered 18 Molotov cocktails on nearby rooftops. In one instance the boycott turned violent, when a black protester attacked a Vietnamese man with a claw hammer while other blacks shouted "Koreans go home". Race relations were less dire than people feared, but at the time the prospect of racial unraveling seemed real.
A New York City judge, Gerald S. Held, issued an order barring the demonstrators from picketing within 50 feet of the Korean stores. However, the NYPD refrained from enforcing the order, saying it involved a civil dispute. The mayor's office attempted to mediate between the two sides. Eight months into the boycott, with the picketers continuing to refuse to cooperate, Dinkins made a personal effort at reconciliation by shopping at the grocery shop. Dinkins's effort was received well by the Korean storeowner but was met with curses from the black picketers. Dinkins's symbolic gesture did not end the boycott.
A second boycott occurred later that year, in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville, this time eliciting a stronger response by the Dinkins administration.
The boycott ended after the owner of Family Red Apple sold out his lease to another Korean-American. The store reopened three days later and had a steady stream of customers.
Mayor Dinkins was criticized in the press for his administration's handling of the affair. In his memoir Mayor Dinkins writes, "I was criticized for not crossing the picket line and ending the boycott by example. I was prepared to mediate the dispute, but I suspected my presence would not have helped at that juncture....In this instance I believed that my participation would do more harm than good." In his memoir Dinkins writes, "It may well be that I waited an overly long time to take this step, but I had faith in the court system and in the rational ability of people to come to satisfactory conclusions among themselves. I may have been wrong on both counts."
In 2009, The New York Times reported that although Mayor Dinkins's treatment of crime during his administration fared poorly in popular memory, he contributed significantly to the lowering of crime in New York. Under Dinkins' Safe Streets, Safe Cities program, crime in New York City decreased more dramatically and more rapidly, both in terms of actual numbers and percentage, than at any time in modern New York City history. The rates of most crimes, including all categories of violent crime, made consecutive declines during the last 36 months of his four-year term, ending a 30-year upward spiral and initiating a trend of falling rates that continued beyond his term. Despite the actual abating of crime, Dinkins was hurt by the perception that crime was out of control during his administration.Dinkins also initiated a hiring program that expanded the police department nearly 25%. The New York Times reported, "He obtained the State Legislature's permission to dedicate a tax to hire thousands of police officers, and he fought to preserve a portion of that anticrime money to keep schools open into the evening, an award-winning initiative that kept tens of thousands of teenagers off the street."
According to NYPD statistics, crime in New York City took a downturn starting around 1990 that continued for many years, shattering all the city's old records for consecutive-year declines in crime rates.(see Appendix tables 1 and 2)