The NYPD is putting its money where its mouth is — building a first-of-its-kind community center in one of the highest crime areas of New York with the hopes of keeping kids off the streets and fostering youth development.
The NYPD Community Center at 127 Pennsylvania Ave. in East New York, Brooklyn, is slated to open in Fall 2019 for kids ages 12 through 19, and will offer services and space for teens, including a fitness center, a computer lab and a basketball court, as well as academic and mentoring programs.
“It’s not just a question of keeping kids busy,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill on Wednesday during a walk through the unfinished space, “it’s having meaningful programs.”
The facility is located in the 75th Precinct — one of the nine police precincts where violent crime in 2018 was twice the citywide average for the same year.
As of August 3, shootings in the 75th Precinct were up more than 94 percent this year versus last, an increase from 18 to 35, according to police department data.
As a result of the area’s high year-end crime rates, police officials held meetings with community leaders and members of the public to work to create solutions.
“Turns out, in retrospect, the most important people attending those meetings were the young people,” O’Neill said. “They didn’t hesitate to speak freely and openly.”
“[T]hey felt undervalued — that there wasn’t enough for them to do,” the top cop added. “We’re not just talking about basketball or whatever other athletic events. We’re talking about academic opportunities, music and arts, jobs.”
Using city funding, the police department put $10 million towards the creation of the sprawling three-story space, which was formerly a courthouse and then a Police Athletic League before being vacant.
The NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau, led by Chief Nilda Hofmann, will be working alongside The Child Center of New York, will offer tutoring and academic programs, as well as job and pre-college preparation courses in classrooms inside the building.
The police department-led center also boasts a dance studio, a music lab to be fitted with a DJ equipment and a community room.
“We do a lot of outreach, we do a lot of stuff, but this is a space that we say, ‘Come on, come to our house,’ ” Hofmann said proudly. “We want you to come in here.”
“I want this [to be a] place that the community in East New York feel that even though the NYPD is leading this place, [it’s] theirs, it’s theirs — that they could feel they could come in through the door any time they want.”