By Julia Stern
On April 28, Community Board 7’s Youth, Education and Libraries Committee met to discuss providing more accessible afterschool programming for teenagers on the Upper West Side.
The committee invited Keith Harris, a community organizer, educator, and candidate for City Council who has lived on the Upper West Side for over 30 years, to speak about his vision for teen programming.
Harris recalled his own enriching experiences as a teenager growing up in the neighborhood in the 1990s. He described the multitude of free or low-cost community programs he attended every day, including carpentry classes, technical plumbing classes, a career readiness program, and a self-defense program, at venues such as the the Frederick Douglass Community Center.
“There are young people that don’t have positive direction,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to have those opportunities and [they were] one of the cornerstones to my development as a young man.”
A Link to Public Safety
Community board members recognized that these programs could improve public safety. Board members addressed the recent report of teenagers with knives seen at the Bloomingdale Playground near PS 145, saying they hoped afterschool programs would prevent similar situations from occurring.
Before the meeting, Mr. Harris spoke to Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi, Officer Eric Rosado, and Detective Ruiz of the 24th Precinct, who were also in attendence, about restoring the Police Athletic League (PAL) on the Upper West Side. Mr. Harris said the program fostered “an open line of communication and a better relationship between law enforcement and the community.”
The police representatives of the precinct then had the floor. Detective Ruiz said police are currently trying to find a location for programming, including sports, cooking and computer classes, to occupy teenagers. Officer Rosado said he wanted the programming “to bridge the gap between youth and police.”
Mr. Harris suggested contacting local venues and organizations and brainstorming creative ways to attract local teenagers. The officers asked boardmembers to think of possible places within the 24th precinct, and clarified that police do not have the capacity to operate programs, only to help with logistics. The exact timeline and amount of money that will be allocated to these programs is still uncertain.
In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Harris said that providing programs for teenagers whose families would otherwise not be able to afford them will help the Upper West Side build community.
“Lack of inclusion leads to resentment,” he said. “If you disregard a young individual now, the paths they take in the future may directly affect you and your neighborhood. We have to care about each and every member of our community to have a fully functional environment.”
Participatory Budgeting would have been one opportunity to focus on this issue and support efforts.
This year’s PB is over (and IMO unfortunately 2 projects directed at schools that have relatively good resources) – but perhaps there can be planning for next year?
That is a really great idea. Money would be much more wisely spent on this than trees (not that there is anything wrong with trees!).
I do not think having more programs and more law enforcement should be an either/or proposition. Additionally youth programming could like help solve some of the problem. But having true consequences for those who are either repeat offenders and/or commit truly egregious acts would also help.
Seeing that kid you look up to who is repeatedly threatening other kids with a weapon face a true consequence for his/her actions is likely to deter future generations of troublemakers and might make them more actively seek out these other activities.
Absolutely agree with the above. However someone should make a claim to these funds. We know that parents of these kids involvement is not likely, so who could actually claim these resources to benefit those kids?
I thought our city officials would at least suggest it.
WSR- As a public service, why not compile a listing of current programs available? or if such a list exists, plse publish. Without a base line, how can we determine proper level?
Agree, unless teacher pensions have totally devoured that budget it’s hard to imagine there are none of these programs as a baseline.
At least some of the UWS middle schools have large after school programs with lots of free activities. But you can’t force kids to participate – one would think parents would strongly encourage their kids to go but that is not the case.
Did CB7 invite middle school leaders to this meeting? There are many resources provided through the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development to provide free afterschool programming for middle schoolers. It’s up to each school to implement. Encouraging parents/guardians to enroll their kids is another issue.
Interesting that not one person from the community board, Mr. Keith Harris himself, or the police department has reached out to our middle school at the Blooomingdale campus in regards to theses issues that directly impact our students and their families. Nor have they asked what supports we could use to implement something here at the school level. Some of the teens (NOT ALL) impacted by these decisions are students at the school.
This message is for the previous comment made by Costa. This is Keith, I would like to talk to you about the Bloomingdale Campus. Please email me your contact information. I am more than willing to sit down with you and all the members at the campus to see how we can work in unison to tackle these issues. And also for anyone else that has any ideas email me your contact information at KeithHarrisForOffice@Gmail.com I am in the neighborhood and will be readily accessible