A community once infested with major drug dealing has taken a step in the right direction for its young residents.
Between May 2010 and January 2011, two major drug busts were made by the New York City Special Narcotics Prosecutor and Bronx District Attorney’s offices near I.S. 229 Rolan Patterson School at 275 Harlem River Park Bridge.
During those busts, around $175,000 was confiscated by the police. With strong intentions to rid the neighborhood of drug problems and keep local children away from such activity, the SNP was able to use the money or a new Police Athletic League Summer Play Street.
On Wednesday, July 13, members of PAL, SNP Bridget Brennan, and the Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson, officially opened the I.S. 229 Summer Play Street, which will allow students from the school, as well as other children in the community, to gather for games, sports and other activities during the summer.
“It’s clear that, in order to insure public safety we have to do more than simply prosecute criminals and keep them off the streets,” Johnson said. “We have to provide young people with attractive alternatives to the aura of the illegal aspects of ‘street-life’ and guide them in making choices that propel their lives in more positive directions.”
With the new Summer Play Street, all local children between the ages of six and 16 are welcomed to the free summer program Monday through Thursday between 1 and 5 p.m.
PAL’s Summer Play Street program was founded in 1914, and was designed to provide recreational, cultural, educational and social activities to boys and girls throughout New York City.
“This particular Play Street is wonderful for the message that it sends,” said Alana Sweeny, executive director of PAL. “Our children are faced everyday with obstacles that could cause them to do things that we really hope they do not get involved in. This Play Street takes the money from the drug dealers and returns it directly to the children to help them grow and have fun.”
Alina Narvaez, who attends I.S. 229, lives across the street in the River Park Towers housing complex, where one of the major drug busts took place. For her, the new play street is a gateway to remain on the right path during summer vacation and avoid any trouble.
“When I heard about the new play street coming to the school I thought it was a really cool and interesting idea,” the 14-year-old said. “One thing that I am looking forward to is that I will be with my friends almost every day. It’s a good way to keep us busy during the summer where we can play and have a good time.”
The I.S. 229 Play Street will conclude on Wednesday, August 10 and will take place every summer.