By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Cops and the community residents they protect will gather together to celebrate National Night Out on Tuesday, Aug. 5 with block parties, barbecues and other fun events designed to bring them closer together.
Police precincts all over Brooklyn are busy finalizing their plans for National Night Out.
The 68th Precinct Community Council (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights) will host a party in Shore Road Park at 79th Street from 6 to 9 p.m. Hot dogs and music will be a big part the evening, according to Council President Ilene Sacco. Cops will barbeque hot dogs for local residents. Actor-musician Henry Haid, who played the Piano Man in the Broadway hit “Movin’ Out,” will perform a tribute to Billy Joel.
There will be more food, snacks, rides for kids and prizes. Local elected officials and over 20 community and government agencies will have informational tables set up in the park.
The 62nd Precinct Community Council (Bensonhurst-Bath Beach) is also making big plans for the night. The council and the precinct’s officers are throwing a block party for the neighborhood. The party, featuring a DJ, rides, games and information tables, will take place on Bay 22nd Street between Bath and Benson avenues, right outside the precinct station house, from 5 to 8 p.m. For more information, call 718-236-2519.
At the 68th Precinct party in the park, the Art Room, an art school in Bay Ridge, and Kaleidoscope Toy Store, located on Third Avenue, will offer activities for children. At 7:30 p.m. in the park’s playground area, there will be a summer safety class for kids given by Sensei Matt Augenstein from Amerikick Martial Arts.
National Night Out, originally called National Night Out Against Crime, was established by the organization National Association of Town Watch in 1984 in conjunction with the U.S. Justice Department. The goal was to set up a way for communities and local police departments to join together on one symbolic night as a show of strength and unity against crime and drugs.
“It’s a way of saying, ‘We’re not going to tolerate crime in our communities.’ And terrorism has come into the conversation too. We’re taking a stand against the terrorists,” Sacco told the Brooklyn Eagle.
In recent years, as the crime rate dropped and communities across the country became safer, Night Out has transitioned from an act of defiance into a celebration.
The event also gives residents a chance to meet police officers in an informal setting, so that they can learn to view cops as people, not just authoritative figures in uniforms, Sacco said. “And people can meet members of our precinct council. We are intermediaries between the police and the public. We’re looking forward to meeting everyone that night,” she said.
In addition to all of the fun-filled activities, the 68th Precinct’s Night Out will feature a pet food drive. The council is asking people to bring a can or bag of dog food or cat food to help Reaching-Out Community Services, a non-profit organization that operates a food pantry on New Utrecht Avenue in Bensonhurst. While Reaching-Out’s pantry is stocked with food for humans, it is short on pet food.
People who have hit hard times often have to give up their pets because they no longer have the resources to feed the animals, Sacco said. “I hope that this drive is really successful and we can help keep some ‘families’ together. Everyone who donates something will be entered into a special free raffle,” she said.
For more information on Night Out, call the 68th Precinct at 718-439-4211.
The 68th Precinct’s party in the park has attracted thousands of people in the past. “We do have one of the biggest and best Night Outs in the borough. I think it’s due to the activeness of our community. People really get involved here,” Sacco said.
Nationwide, Night Out has grown. According to the National Association of Town Watch website, 2.5 million Americans in 23 states took part in the first Night Out in 1984. Last year, nearly 38 million people took part in Night Out events in all 50 states, in Canada and on military bases around the world.