By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Rain held off for National Night Out, the annual summer barbecue that the 13th Precinct Community Council celebrates in the M.S. 104 Playground on Second Avenue, this past Tuesday evening.
Neighborhood residents and elected officials mingled with police officers and representatives from area groups for the event that brings together the NYPD and the community.
Assemblymember Harvey Epstein said that such community events are especially important now.
“In these times with mass shootings, and with the failure of the federal government to do anything, New York needs to have strong gun laws,” Epstein said. “And it’s important for us to have these nights where we celebrate safety. National Night Out is great for building community together.”
Stuy Town resident Jo-Ann Polise has been organizing National Night Out for the Community Council for a number of years but recently decreased her involvement in the event. Still, a number of residents noted that Polise had dropped by the event briefly early in the evening with her mother.
Lines were long throughout the event for burgers, hot dogs and the ever-popular Halal Guys, which started as a food cart in Midtown and now has a brick-and-mortar location on East 14th Street.
Ernst Otto, who’s been living in the neighborhood since January 1951 and in Stuyvesant Town since 1972, said that he likes coming to National Night Out because he likes to connect with the NYPD as a former police officer himself.
“I can relate to some of the old comrades,” he said, also praising Scott Kimmins, who formerly worked at the 13th precinct and currently works in the community through the Flatiron BID.
Gramercy residents Nick and Amanda Koch have gone to National Night Out in the past but were excited this year to bring their 17-month-old son, Lucas, for the first time.
Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman, commanding officer for the 13th precinct, said that he was optimistic for the neighborhood this year because of the decrease in crime so far, noting that crime is down 3% for the year.
“We had a tough year last year because we were 16% up but we’re going in the right direction,” he said. “Whenever you put the police and the community together in a positive way it’s a good thing.”
Gramercy Park Block Association President Arlene Harrison, a frequent supporter of the NYPD and the 13th precinct, said that Polise’s absence was felt but still feels that the event is significant.
“Our Gramercy Park community and especially our children look forward to this great event every year where they get a chance to spend time with our wonderful friends at the 13th precinct,” she said.