By Sabina Mollot
On Tuesday night, crowds came out at parks across the country for parties that were held as part of National Night Out Against Crime. Established in 1984 as a way to highlight the importance of partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, National Night Out is typically celebrated with a block party where neighbors can also get the ear of cops on issues of local concern.
Each year, one of these events is held by the 13th Precinct Community Council at the Second Avenue playground of the Simon Baruch Middle School.
At Tuesday’s event, Arlene Harrison, the president of the Gramercy Park Block Association, said she was there to show her support for the NYPD following a recent fatal shooting of a Bronx officer.
“We’ve got to support the police now more than ever,” said Harrison, who also organized a pizza party for officers at the 13th Precinct on East 21st Street last week. Manhattan Borough South Precinct and the neighboring Emergency Service Unit were also invited.
Harrison added that in recent years cops “are being killed in two ways.” One would be the seemingly random shootings by anti-cop maniacs and the other, she’s learned, is 9/11-responder related cancers.
“I’m here to spread the word that blue lives matter, too,” said Harrison, who actually formed the GPBA over 20 years ago in response to local crime. “There’s no other profession where they wear bulletproof vests going to work.”
Jo-Ann Polise, who’s been organizing the 13th Precinct National Night Out for years, agreed, adding she was appreciative the neighborhoods surrounding the precinct have a good working relationship with its officers.
“I think we’re a very fortunate precinct because we have a community that does communicate with the precinct,” she said. We don’t have the kinds of conflicts they’re facing in other parts of the city and the country.”
The turnout, which varies each year depending on how much of a scorcher it is outside, was especially big this year. At any given time there was a steady stream of neighbors enjoying free burgers, hot dogs and dishes from Halal Guys as well as ice cream and cookies for dessert. The event also featured caricature artists, balloon artists and a bounce house as well as the chance to dance to music provided by DJ Magic.
Along with the 13th Precinct and the precinct’s Auxiliary Unit, considered to be the eyes and ears of the community, around a dozen other agencies, organizations and businesses were at the event with informational booths. They included the Karpas Health Information Center, Stuyvesant Town Public Safety, Community Board 6, the ST-PCV Tenants Association, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the NYC Board of Elections, Bellevue Hospital and the Epiphany branch of the Cub Scouts. Officers from an NYPD Transit Unit were also present.
Rachel Atcheson, a liaison from the mayor’s office, presented a proclamation at the event which was also attended by State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and City Council Member Dan Garodnick with his son Devin.
District Attorney Cy Vance also stopped by close to closing time as did mayoral candidate Bo Dietl.