Youth gather at the Louis Armstrong Community Center in Brooklyn to talk safety

By Eric Deutsch and Zodet Negrón

The latest collaboration between NYCHA and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) focuses on improving the quality of life for residents in three developments through a wide-ranging approach to reducing crime and improving the quality of life for the residents of these developments. NYCHA staff in several departments — Community Operations, Property Management, Security, Family Services, Emergency Services and Law — are targeting specific programs for residents in Armstrong Houses (Brooklyn), Mill Brook Houses (Bronx) and Washington Houses (Manhattan), and the NYPD is committed to providing additional resources to the developments.

The initiative places much of its focus on NYCHA youth, including engaging teenagers in upcoming forums to better understand their needs. The Police Service Areas (PSAs) that serve each development also hosted a holiday toy drive in December. "A lot of the altercations at our development are because young people have nowhere to go, no programs to congregate together," said Marietta Palmer, the Washington Houses Resident Association President. "Most developments have a similar problem."

The Office of Resident Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES) is meeting with residents to let them know about the NYCHA Resident Training Academy, which provides job training and employment opportunities—important aspects of crime reduction. "The job program is a very good thing. Many residents can't afford to go to college," Ms. Palmer said. "They're really coming out for this program."

Property Management teams have surveyed outdoor lighting to ensure that it is sufficient and are surveying landscaping to ensure it enhances crime prevention. NYCHA's work order system for the three developments classifies security and life safety repairs as priorities, including vandalism to building entrances.

NYCHA has set a goal to increase participation — especially among younger residents — in Resident Watch at Armstrong, Mill Brook and Washington.

As part of the program's outreach to youth, 30 young NYCHA residents from Brooklyn gathered for a Teen Forum at the Armstrong Community Center on February 2 to find answers to this question. The goal of these forums is to better understand the needs of youth between the ages of 13 and 19 for community center programming, job training and homework assistance, among other things. The event's goal was to improve the quality of life and the safety of residents within high-crime areas. This is a crucial part of the joint NYCHA-NYPD Washington, Armstrong and Millbrook Houses Initiative and the latest of three teen summits held for the youth of these developments.

NYCHA Community Operations Director Eric Cumberbatch touches base with one of the youth in attendance at the Armstrong center.

The informal discussion, led by Eric Cumberbatch of NYCHA's Community Operations, covered topics such as community programs, jobs and educational opportunities. When asked what kind of programming they would like to see in their community center, the teens mentioned sports such as martial arts, basketball, football and even double-dutch, dancing and recording music.

"I would like a basketball program here," said Kamel Williams, 14, of Armstrong Houses. "It would give me something to do after school."

Personnel from the New York City Police Department's Police Athletic League also discussed after-school and recreational opportunities for teens such as the Explorers program for teens ages 14 to 19 for which focuses on the areas of career, service, leadership, social, fitness and outdoors, and the Cadet program for college students, which offers them financial aid for tuition and employment. The teens also heard from NYCHA's Office of Resident and Economic Empowerment and Sustainability (REES) regarding job training and employment in community centers or with NYCHA partners.

"I would like the opportunity to help get a job," said Sidney Selby, 15, of Armstrong Houses. "I think a job can help keep you off the streets."

In an effort to help make their communities a better place to live, the teens were urged to become more active and get involved in NYCHA's Resident Watch program.

NYCHA will gather the feedback from the teens who participated in the forums and via a survey in each community center to make youth programming and other activities available more accessible for them.

Be sure to check future issues of the Journal for more coverage of this initiative.