BY LINDSEY RIBACK AND HEATHER J. CHIN
With clear skies, Brooklynites spent their National Night Out on Tuesday, August 6 mingling with neighbors, elected officials and most importantly the very officers that patrol their streets.
“I came for the kids to better understand law enforcement and that they are not their enemies and for them to have fun,” said Yahyah Ali who brought along his grandchildren to the 70th Precinct’s event in Prospect Park.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a grand entrance by flying into Prospect Park. To open up the festivities, he and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly welcomed the community to the 30th Night Out Against Crime. The two thanked the police officers and auxiliary for keeping the streets safe. According to Kelly, this is the lowest crime rate in the city since President Dwight D. Eisenhower was in office in 1961.
Bloomberg praised the police force. “They are New York’s finest and they do their finest each day,” he told the crowd.
After the introduction everyone was able to get back to the celebration. Those who were hungry waited on line for the hot dogs being served by police officers – a familiar scene at Night Out events across the borough, where numerous events featured such crowd-pleasers as face painting, a bounce house and freebies.
At Grand Army Plaza, community members dug into a buffet of food and participated in a range of activities as they celebrated with the 78th Precinct, which often kicks off the annual event with a parade.
“It’s a time when we as a community show our appreciation for police officers and what they are doing, show that the precinct and community can really work together under the banner of courtesy, professionalism, and respect,” noted Pauline Blake, the president of the 78th Precinct Community Council. “I like when we are at Grand Army Plaza and everyone eats, listens to music, and has fun. The parade is for getting people out of their houses.”
Carlos Fletes, 18, a member of the 78th Precinct Explorer program, said, “The parade is fun because it shows people that cops try to prevent crime from happening. People wave and honk horns.”
“I’m really happy they still do the walk through the neighborhood,” said Robert Ferris, district manager of Community Board 2. “Historically, it’s been an important part of the event. Back in the day, when it was much more of taking back of the streets, it was a central event.”
In Sheepshead Bay, the celebration was held outside the 61st Precinct at Coney Island Avenue and Avenue W. There, traditional Chinese Lion Dancers were star performers, helped on by members of the crowd.
“I enjoy watching the community together,” said Captain John Chell, the precinct’s commanding officer. “This is a diverse community that really comes together when it needs to.”
The crowd attending the party put on by the 63rd Precinct Community Council gets kudos for size.
Jim Buchanan, the group’s treasurer, told this paper, “We may be the largest Night Out event. The Parks Department said we’re definitely the largest event in Marine Park. This year, between 2,300 and 2,400 people.”
“[What makes ours special is] we have wonderful businesses and mom and pop stores that all work together as one in this community,” he added.
National Night Out does not end when the celebration ends, stressed Ed Powell, the president of the 70th Precinct Community Council, but continues all year long, so “if you see something say something,” he stressed.