The New York City Police Department and the City Department of Youth and Community Development announced on Saturday in Brooklyn that they are looking to prevent youth crime this fall by providing youngsters with weekend activities and mentorship programs to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.
Dubbed Saturday Night Lights, the stacked curriculum offers kids and teens from ages 11 through 18 a place to play sports and video games with cops while also being served food and being tutored by coaches. The new season kicked off on Oct.14 at the Prince Joshua Avitto Community Center in East New York. Those backing the project, like Mayor Eric Adams, say they hope that young people will choose this inclusive initiative over firearms and violence.
“If a young person has a basketball in their hand, they’re not going to have a nine in their hand. If they are in a safe space, they are not going to be creating atmospheres which are unsafe,” Hizzoner said. “These are proactive ways of Saturday nights to do things, over 100 programs all over the city. Just really committed to this work and we’re going to expand.”
Recent bloodshed in East New York has been well documented, so much so that the community center in the kickoff was held is named after a six-year-old tot who lost his life in a 2014 knife attack. For those like Assembly Member Nikki Lucas, gang clashes and other acts of violence are a symptom of living in underfunded communities of color. But, initiatives like Saturday Night Lights, she said, are often able to give members a respite from gang mentality.
“We have some severe conditions that happen in our communities that are not unique when it comes to places that house black people and we have to be unafraid to really say those things,” Lucas said. “A lot of people don’t understand the dynamics of our culture, of our community. This Saturday night program really brings a lot of friends and enemies together. This is a place in which people have beef on the outside, leave it on the outside.”
NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Tania Kinsella also helped christen the new Saturday Night Lights season by urging the public to get involved to ensure that local children are kept off the street and given a more productive path.
“We as the community, meaning you, me, have the obligation to our children to keep them off the streets. I have the obligation to make sure the officers, the right officers are here,” Commissioner Kinsella said. “Mentoring, playing basketball with the kids, having them sign up for blue chips, having them sign up for academic help if they need academic help. Just because a kid makes a mistake doesn’t make them a bad kid.”
The Saturday Night Lights program is taking place in over 130 gyms across the five boroughs.