Police, families in Mott Haven safety walk

NYPD’s Community Affairs officer Angel Irizarry, of PSA 7, holds hands with pre-schooler Vivianne Ovalles during a Safety Walk on April 17 in Mott Haven. The walk was part of the Toyota Family Learning program activities at East Side House Settlement.
Photo courtesy of the East Side House Settlement

Young Bronxites walked hand in hand with both their parents and police during a safety walk in Mott Haven on April 17.

As the group of more than 50 local residents wound through their neighborhood, they handed out flyers and carried posters which implored their fellow residents and area businesses to keep the streets safe and clean.

The idea for the walk was developed by participants in the East Side House Settlement’s Toyota Family Learning program, created by the National Center for Families Learning.

The Mott Haven community-based organization is one of 10 locations nationwide for the three-year grant which creates opportunities for intergenerational learning efforts through community service, technology use and family-to-family mentoring.

“What’s new about this program is it engages families, engages them in service learning, and engages parents and children in making their communities better,” said Lisa Avetisian, director of communications for NCFL.

The program showcases the power of the family, Diana Rodriguez, program coordinator for family and community engagement at ESHS. Thirty two families with children between ages three and five engage in activities at the center. The parent discussion sessions asks parents to dream big and set goals for Mott Haven over the next 10 years, said Rodriguez, as they explore the problems they and their children encounter in their lives.

The organization recognizes that community members need to drive change in the neighborhood.

“That’s the only way it’s sustainable, it has to come from them,” said Rodriguez.

During the discussions, safety and sanitation were the two big issues that kept coming up, and the families designed the idea of the safety walk with police to address them, in addition to reaching out to elected officials and local leaders. But the efforts of the families have only just begun.

“It has motivated them to explore other issues,” said Rodriguez.

A key part of the program’s intergenerational education and service model is to help the parents set examples for the children, who see their parents try to better themselves as well as the community.

Participant Yudith Fleary feels her daughter benefits from the both of them being involved in the program.

“I’m teaching her how to give back to the community, and how to be part of a group,” she said.

But Fleary said she’s also personally benefited from the information she’s received through the program about things like navigating resources and the school system, and she appreciates the support the center provides.

“It’s good when you can count on a group of people,” said Fleary.

The walk was a great start to establishing the program’s presence in the community, she said, and she wants to do more.

But the event already has made a difference in her family. Her daughter used to be afraid of the police, but during the walk she was eager to be next to the officers.

The partnership with police department, both the 40th Precinct and PSA 7, has been important to the program’s mission of bettering their neighborhood, said Rodriguez.

“They’ve been so welcoming to us,” she said.

Captain Julie Morril PSA 7 spoke to the families after the group returned to the ESHS.

“You deserve to live in a place where there is no crime,” said Morril. “And we’re here to help you do that.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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