By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The National Night Out Against Crime took place Tuesday night, and the 84th Precinct celebrated its version of it on the steps of Borough Hall with more than 700 people enjoying live music, food and entertainment.
“This is a time to celebrate the success of the relationship between the NYPD and the community,” said Leslie Lewis, president of the 84th Precinct Community Council. “I thought we had a great turnout this year. It’s bigger than in years past.”
National Night Out began as a community-police awareness event in 1984. It takes place all over the country on the first Tuesday night in August, and is meant to promote safety and increase awareness about police programs.
In Brooklyn, it’s mostly a time to go sit, eat some food, listen to music and let the kids run around. The Borough Hall celebration featured a local ukulele band, a steel drum band, an opera singer and more, with the NYPD serving more than 400 hamburgers and 350 hot dogs.
“We’ve been coming to this for several years, at least the last five,” said Roger Archibald, who was there celebrating his 53rd birthday with his three children. “It’s a great time to make sure that neighbors know each other, and we can stay out way past dark and feel safe.”
There were also many booths promoting different police programs manned by both police and volunteers. Shawn Rambharan, a local high school student, was there with a group of cadets from the 84th Precinct who ran a booth registering cell phones for the NYPD.
“We don’t work for the NYPD, but we do community service for them. We’re kind of the baby force,” Rambharan said very matter of factly. “Some of us have been to Night Out before. For others, it's their first time. It’s fun, but this is serious work.”
Domestic Violence Officer Sheryl Wilson said that she looks forward to Night Out every year because it's so helpful in reaching out to the community.
“It’s a good chance to be visible to the community,” Wilson said. “It makes me feel good that I can try to reach out to people like this because many times, when it comes to domestic violence, some people don’t even know if they need help.”
Many elected officials stopped by to give brief speeches. These included City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Councilman Steve Levin, and representatives from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Borough President Marty Markowitz and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s offices.
“We’re lucky because they say we live in the safest big city in America, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work until we one day don’t need a night out against crime,” said Quinn.
Millman Was 'A Model Prisoner'
Assemblywoman Millman took the opportunity to talk about her recent arrest while taking part in a civil disobedience action protesting plans to close Long Island College Hospital.
“Many of you know that I was recently arrested by the 84th Precinct while protesting the closure of Long Island College Hospital,” Millman said of her July 11 arrest. “These officers were very respectful in doing their jobs then, and that’s how they conduct their business on a daily basis, so I am glad we can all be here today to thank them.”
The captain of the 84th Precinct, Maximo Tolentino, jokingly added, “She was a model prisoner.”
Some citizens took this as an opportunity to ask questions of their politicians. Quinn understandably got a lot of attention there as she’s running for mayor, but some people were there to speak about why Millman got arrested -- the closing of LICH.
“I’m looking to raise awareness of the closure of LICH,” said Dr. Jon Berall, a local physician. “I work in the ER [at another hospital] and I understand what happens when these systems go down and area ERs all sink. And by sink, I mean people die. Infants, teens, adults, everybody is at risk, and their deaths are figured into some real estate deal.”
Despite the serious tone of some, there were a lot of people stopping by to see what was going on, and most of them seemed to have a lot of fun.
"I've been here before, so I knew it was fun," said 8-year-old Danielle Durant. "At first, though, I thought I would just be sitting around, but there is a lot to do. I'm already looking forward to coming back next year."