Lew Zuchman’s, piece discusses how recent efforts by Mayor De Blasio are transforming and healing in our most challenged inner-city communities.
“Broken Hoops” by Lew Zuchman
September 29, 2014
Much has been written concerning the NYPD focus on a ‘Broken Windows’ law enforcement strategy. Simply stated, this strategy emphasizes a focus upon street level law enforcement, ranging from the elimination of squeegee window-washers, to, crackdowns on subway turnstile jumpers, and, similar comparatively ‘minor’ transgressions. This strategy emerges from a contagion view of our communities. That is, if folk see minor offenses go down without penalty, they will be ‘encouraged’ to commit more brazen criminal behavior. Interesting to note, this ‘Broken Windows’ notion initiated in the days of ‘The South Bronx is Burning’, when literal broken windows were replaced by paper-mache renderings of idyllic apartment windows. Such transformations supposedly gave comfort to Metro-North suburban rail-riders as they journeyed by the South Bronx to their Greenwich Connecticut homes. These transformations did little to improve the lives of those struggling to survive in the desperate days of the South Bronx of the 1980’s.
This past summer, Mayor de Blasio committed significant funds to improve the lives of inner city youth residing throughout New York’s rapidly deteriorating NYCHA developments. In a bold gesture to address a burgeoning youth violence crisis afflicting NYCHA developments, Mayor de Blasio committed millions of NYC dollars to keep NYCHA based youth centers open Monday through Sunday, to 11pm! As the Executive Director of SCAN New York, an East Harlem based youth service provider, I was elated to receive critical youth funding through Mayor de Blasio’s Summer Gear-Up NYCHA based initiative. This funding significantly strengthened SCAN’s programming throughout the Summer of 2014!
As SCAN trotted out our Summer Gear-Up programming, we faced critical challenges. In our East River NYCHA development, our sole development basketball courts (two adjoining courts) stood ignominiously, without hoops! In fact, our East River courts had been without hoops for years, despite many attempts to obtain them! So…one wonders… is there not a similar concern for the ‘Broken Hoops’ that inundate our inner city communities? Is there not a similar concern for the ‘cradle to prison pipeline’ destroying the lives of Black inner city young men?…for Correction Officers running amok at Rikers Island…for public schools failing to educate…for unconscionably high unemployment rates…?
These conditions of ‘brokenness’ have, of course, persisted unabated for far too long. One would hope that those proponents of a ‘Broken Windows’ position, would be equally vociferous in support of a ‘Broken Hoops’ vision. A vision powerfully put forth by Mayor de Blasio in his Summer Gear-Up press conference.
So, in August of 2014, SCAN called upon the Mayor’s Office (through NYC Department of Youth and Community Development officials) to install new basketball hoops at our East River NYCHA based basketball courts. Well, two evenings later I visited East River, to not only find new hoops installed, but, also lighting to allow us to hold B-Ball tourneys after dark!
Yes, our Mayor was true to his word and vision. He repaired the ‘Broken Hoops’ of East River. This seemingly ‘minor repair’ spoke powerfully to our young people. The repairing of East River’s ‘Broken Hoops’ incrementally allowed for the repairing of ‘Broken Dreams’…’Broken Schools’…’Broken Communities’. Thank you, Mister Mayor, for introducing a new day of true transformation and healing in our most challenged inner city communities!
Find it on New York Nonprofit Press.