New Teen Lounge, created through the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety’s work to build partnerships between residents and government, gives young people a dedicated safe place in a neighborhood working to combat historically high crime
NEW YORK— The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) today announced the start of programming at the new Brownsville Teen Lounge at the Brownsville Houses in Brooklyn. The new Teen Lounge provides a dedicated safe space for young people, who otherwise have to travel to community centers in other public housing developments as Brownsville is the only public housing development in the area without a community center.
The Teen Lounge was developed through an innovative process called “Neighborhood Activation Labs,” which brings together residents and government to identify design solutions to problems that threaten community safety and stability and is part of the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety.
“The establishment of the Teen Lounge is a testament to the importance of creative approaches to safety and what government and residents can accomplish by working together. This is part of the Mayor’s Office’s ongoing work with New Yorkers to build trust and improve safety,” said Elizabeth Glazer, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
Research has shown dedicated teen space has a positive community impact, including a 10% decrease in community crime and victimization. Youth reacted most positively to spaces with evening and weekend hours, unstructured time, and teen-led activities. In New York City, Beacon Community Centers cited a 94% attendance rate for students in 2014. These opportunities provide experience in advocacy, event planning, social development, among other activities. Youth who utilize community centers experience lower-than-predicted rates of offense and victimization, are less likely to use drugs or alcohol, and demonstrate an increase in school engagement.
The Teen Lounge was originally proposed by the Brownsville Houses Resident Association during a “Neighborhood Activation Lab” led by the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety in 2015. It was created through continued partnership between the Residents Association and the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice (MOCJ), the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), and the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). The new center, which has been awarded an annual operating budget of $180,000 by the City, is a satellite of the Medgar Evers College-run Van Dyke Community Center, one of 94 DYCD-funded Community Centers at NYCHA sites throughout the five boroughs.
“As someone who grew up in Brownsville, I am especially gratified to see the Teen Lounge at Brownsville Houses become a reality. It’s a wonderful example of how connecting resources in a neighborhood can lead to a collaboration that benefits the entire community,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong.
“We’re happy residents are seeing their vision for a safe space come to life. The new Brownsville Teen Lounge will be a place for our young residents to build lasting friendships while also creating lifelong memories. Thanks to a collaborative effort led by Mayor Bill de Blasio, NYCHA is creating the safe, clean and connected communities that our families deserve,” said Shola Olatoye, NYCHA Chair and CEO.
Once the Residents Association and the Mayor’s Action Plan for Neighborhood Safety identified the need for a dedicated Teen Lounge in Brownsville, NYCHA cleaned out and renovated an unused space in the senior center that could be dedicated to youth activities, and residents kept the space open on a voluntary basis. Earlier this year, MOCJ and DYCD developed a long-term plan and secured funding to officially establish the Brownsville Teen Lounge. A group of young people from Brownsville Houses was convened to offer their vision as to what services would be available in their new space. Programming will be provided by the Research Foundation of CUNY, which also oversees the Cornerstone programs at nearby Van Dyke, Tilden, Marcus Garvey and Langston Hughes Houses.
Young people will have the opportunity to meet with their peers and access an array of services. The Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice provided funding for a mural to be designed and painted by neighborhood residents.
“Creating safe spaces for young people to gather is not only critical to their emotional well-being, but is also conducive to promoting public safety,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “This new Teen Lounge at the Brownsville Houses will ensure that young people in Brownsville have a safe and healthy space to do their homework, socialize, and become active members of the community.”
New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton said, “I commend the community-government partnership that will make the new Teen Lounge at the Brownsville Houses a real asset to our community. This partnership involved engagement, active listening, and cooperation between the Brownsville Houses Resident Association, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), Medgar Evers College, neighborhood residents, and young people seeking to make a difference. I am confident that, continuing in that spirit, this Teen Lounge will successfully contribute meaningful events and programming to our community, while serving as an important resource for youth in Brownsville.”
New York State Assembly Member Latrice Walker said, “The Teen Lounge Community Center in Brownsville Houses will create a safe space for our young people. The community looks forward to collaborating with the Mayor and his Action Plan to create successful recreational places for our youth.”
“Providing safe spaces for youth to interact and explore their interests can improve communities and empower youth to become more civically engaged. Teen Lounge has the potential to elevate the voices of young New Yorkers and provide Brownsville with a much needed shared community space. It is my hope that the Teen Lounge in Brownsville Houses is successful and serves as a model for future youth-oriented spaces in public housing developments,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres, Chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Housing.
“Through the support of the Mayor’s Office and our community partners, Medgar Evers College has been able to address some of the Brownsville community’s most pressing needs. We look forward to continuing to provide quality youth development services and activities — including college readiness and safe spaces — to the area’s youth and young adults at the Brownsville Teen Lounge,” said Saundra Johnson, Director of the Medgar Evers College Van Dyke Cornerstone.
“I am delighted to see this satellite of the Medgar Evers College-run Van Dyke Community Center open in Brownsville. Creating communities that encourage young people to be engaged allows them to adapt to and overcome life’s challenges. By forming positive relationships with adults in the community, youth will gain a new value for the community,” said Dr. Augustine Okereke, Senior Vice President and Provost of Medgar Evers College.
“Creating a safe space for our teens has always been a priority for our community. I am inspired by the great energy and collaboration that went into creating the Brownsville Houses Teen Lounge,” Digna Layne, Resident Advocate, Brownsville Houses MAP Team Leader and Vice President of 73rd Precinct Community Council.
“Neighborhood Activation Labs” represent a new approach by MOCJ to crime prevention through community engagement and design. Based on the success of the pilot Lab in Brownsville, MOCJ and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) are contracting with Studio Gang, an architecture and urbanism firm founded by MacArthur Fellow Jeanne Gang, to lead a Neighborhood Activation study in Brownsville and Morrisania. Through community design workshops, Studio Gang will engage community residents and City agencies to propose physical improvements and programs that can help create safe, healthy public spaces. The study launched May 15th with community workshops to follow during summer 2017.