NEW YORK—More than a dozen athletic NYPD officers lined up on 119th Street in Harlem Tuesday. They were ready for action: tug-of-war with the children of the Police Athletic League (PAL) during its summer program kickoff.
PAL, the NYPD’s official youth agency, is in its 95th year of running recreational and educational events in the city. The goal is to provide positive role models for the city’s children, and to help lower obesity. The program will run for seven weeks, with events in playgrounds, schools, and temporarily closed-off streets.
The idea behind the program is to stop crime by nipping it in the bud, allowing children to grow and learn with positive law enforcement role models.
Former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau has been with PAL since 1963. Over the years, the 92-year-old Morgenthau said the organization has become a “home away from home.”
He recalled an incident when a child hurt his leg during a soccer game. “The police officer comforted him and told him, ‘It’s not so bad, it would hurt more with a bullet in your leg’—the kid stopped crying,” Morgenthau said.
PAL reaches out to 50,000 children throughout the five boroughs each year. The nonprofit organization has 1,300 teams in sports such as baseball, softball, flag football, and tennis.
For the next seven weeks, PAL will have 15-day camps with programs in 100 streets—free for all New York City children, ages 3 to 19.
PAL is the city’s largest independent youth development organization. It relies heavily on benefactors, such as Chase and MetLife Foundation. The Special Narcotics Prosecutors Office donates money confiscated from drug dealers to help run PAL.
“It’s great the public and private sector are working together,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.
Philanthropists Neil Bender and Douglas Eisenberg gave donations to create hydroponics and a garden science lab on the roof of PAL’s Harlem center. Children will have the opportunity to learn about science with the help of Cornell University.
PAL also provides after school tutoring. Noelle Trinidad, 11, has been in the program for six years.