Coney Island kids to get free backpacks, school supplies

Mermaid Avenue to be setting for education fair

CONEY ISLAND — Coney Island civic leaders and local lawmakers are helping to usher in the start of the school year by giving children free backpacks, notebooks and other classroom supplies at a festive, family-oriented street fair.

The Alliance for Coney Island, a non-profit organization that promotes the neighborhood, will be hosting the Second Annual Coney Island Back to School Community Fair on Saturday, Sept. 7, on Mermaid Avenue from noon to 4 p.m.

Four blocks of Mermaid Avenue, between West 25th Street and West 29th Street, will be closed to vehicular traffic to give families a chance to stroll on the avenue and stop at booths that will be set up along the route to give out free backpacks and school supplies and prizes.

The event will feature live entertainment, games and prizes.

Mermaid Avenue is Coney Island’s main commercial street.

There will also be booths manned by health care providers, tenant advocacy groups and civic organizations to offer Coney Island residents up-to-date information and assistance.

In addition, NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island will be offering free blood pressure screenings. Project Street Beat at Planned Parenthood will have its mobile unit on hand to offer health services that do not require insurance. The CAMBA Homebase mobile unit will assist residents with housing issues.

The Alliance for Coney Island created the fair to provide assistance to families who are having trouble making ends meet financially.

“This event brings the community together and we are ecstatic to be able to bring school supplies and backpacks directly to families to help kick-off the school year in a fun and informative way,” Alliance Executive Director Alexandra Silversmith said in a statement.

Last year’s inaugural back-to-school event was a major success, according to Alliance leaders, who said more than 700 backpacks and school supplies were distributed to kids.

This year, the Alliance expects to give out 1,000 backpacks.

Children must be accompanied by an adult in order to receive a backpack.

The Alliance is working in partnership with elected officials representing the area, including U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, State Sen. Diane Savino, Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus and Councilmember Mark Treyger, to organize the event.

Coney Island Cathedral and the New York City Department of Transportation are also lending a hand. The fair is part of DOT’s Weekend Walks program, a citywide initiative in which streets are closed to cars to allow pedestrians to roam free.

The back-to-school fair provides a valuable service, according to Treyger, who is chairperson of the Council’s Education Committee. “This community-driven event provides valuable services free of cost to any child that needs a backpack. I commend the Alliance for Coney Island and our small businesses in Coney Island for organizing this important event to guarantee that every student succeeds in the classroom,” he stated.

The free distribution of school supplies also helps teachers, Frontus said. “We all know teachers are stretched to the limit setting up their classrooms, to provide an environment where students are focused and prepared to learn. It’s a pleasure that my colleagues and I can help families and teachers alike, so that they can concentrate on the lessons that will help our students succeed,” she said.

Savino said she appreciates the fair’s holistic approach. “As we approach the beginning of the school year, it’s especially important that all students have the supplies they need to have a successful year. This annual event helps accomplish that with not only backpacks but resources to ensure that students are healthy and ready to learn on day one,” she said.  

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