Mayor Eric Adams announced the expansion of the city’s free Saturday Night Lights program during a visit to the Bronx on July 9.
“It takes a village,” is a term often used when speaking about raising children, and on July 9 the mayor declared that a village of city agencies will be stepping up to aid parents this summer by way of an interagency partnership through the NYPD, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), the New York City Department of Education (DOE), and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, working with the city’s five District Attorney’s Offices and community-based organizations that administer the programs.
The mayor made the announcement at the Bronx Police Athletic League located on 2255 Webster Ave., surrounded by a slew of young people eager to hit the basketball court alongside NYPD Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Assembly Member Yudelka Tapia, and Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, among others.
Taking to the glossy court, Adams pointed out that the expansion is intended to be an investment in young people.
“As we do the intervention of public safety, we need to do the prevention,” Adams said. “Because if they can bounce a ball on a basketball court, they can wear a black robe on the Supreme Court.”
He also stressed that programs like Saturday Night Lights build bridges between the community and law enforcement while also serving as hub from which to keep young people off the street and falling into gang violence.
“You know if you want to build bridges, pass the ball,” Adams said. “Sports really gives us a way of connecting with each other and realize that we are the same people wanting the same thing.”
Twenty-five new sites have been added to the program, which was established in 2011, bringing the total to 131 citywide. Every weekend school gyms and community centers open up for young people where they can play sports like basketball, soccer, volleyball, dance, and martial art.
Clark asserted that she often sees people at their worst and that more needs to be done to prevent losing an entire generation to gun violence.
“One of the ways that we’re doing this is with Saturday Night Lights,” Clark said. “The more we can do to prevent young people from getting in trouble, the better the future is for them.”
Gibson commended the Adams’ administration for expanding the program and investing in the future of young New Yorkers, especially in underserved boroughs like the Bronx.
“These programs keep our kids safe. They keep them in a place of comfort, a level of opportunity,” Gibson said. “This is truly a beacon of hope and a beacon of recreation for our young generation of leaders.”
She stressed that a young person’s success shouldn’t depend on the zip code they live in and that elected officials and nonprofit leaders had to invest in the future of young people.
“We care about you. We want to invest in your future, and that is what Saturday Night Lights is all about,” Gibson said.
Sewell emphasized that the NYPD always looks out for New York City’s youth with initiatives and programs that keep them safe and reminded the crowd of young people that they and the NYPD were all part of one community.
“We have to continue investing in our people. And this type of program should be where we interact with the NYPD. Where you see an officer and play with an officer and talk to an officer, so you see that we are all part of the same community.”
Coach, David Davis, pointed out the importance of the Saturday Night Lights program for young people and that he goes by the four “S’s”: safety, structure, support, and satisfaction.
“We have an area where it’s two rival gangs in this area, and it’s separated by one block. So, this is a safe haven,” David explained.
The program also teaches essential life skills like how to apply for jobs and form a stronger bond with police officers. NYPD officers are assigned to each site, providing a safe place to play and establishing better relations with the community.
“Some of these kids are really scared of the police officers, not knowing these officers,” Davis said. “We bring these officers showing that they’re human. Showing that you know, this is somebody that is not out here to hurt you.”
Nineteen-year-old Michael Adjetey said the Saturday Night Lights experience was fun and educational, and the coaches always look out for the young people. For him, the program means hope.
“You know, we’re in a world where not everybody is safe. And this is a safe space for everybody,”
Following the announcement, Mayor Adams showed off his basketball skills by shooting hopes with the youth.