A new office space for the nonprofit organization 100 Suits for 100 Men opened in Laurelton on Friday, Sept. 24. Elected officials and community members at the event spoke of reducing gun violence by addressing root problems and about placing those within the community in employment to prevent repeat offenders.
Among those at the ribbon cutting at 227-12 A Merrick Blvd. in Laurelton was Mayor Bill de Blasio, who shared his enthusiasm at the expansion of the organization in Queens.
“Everyone at 100 Suits, you made a decision long ago that you would not accept a broken society, that you would change it,” de Blasio said. “And by your example, by your love, by your passion, by your commitment, by your energy, every day you are actually making that change.”
100 Suits provides free business attire to people to obtain employment with companies they work with citywide, with free haircuts or wig referrals also available. Their goal is to reduce repeat offenses and the recidivism rate — the tendency of someone who’s been convicted to reoffend — by helping formerly incarcerated and homeless people find employment.
Police officers and other first responders, de Blasio said, are not the only ones who define public safety, nor can they be, as “it doesn’t work.” He was met with a round of applause as he spoke about how, though those in uniform do important work, the community-based solution to violence is the first and most necessary solution.
“In fact, the truest best way to create a safe and positive society is from the people,” he said. “It is from the community, it is from the grassroots. We are learning this together, but the reason I wanted to be with you besides thanking you is that we have a task ahead to explain this to the people in New York City and ultimately this nation that there is a different way.”
Also in attendance were Kevin Livinsgton, the founder and CEO of the organization who kicked off the event, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
Livingston explained that his experiences as a homeless man in 2016 have fueled his desire to enact change and reduce violence across the city. Having to sleep in the JFK airport parking lot, he was elated at the chance to “cut history,” and dedicated the opening to his father and his uncle, both of whom are dead.
Livingston then introduced Richards, the first Black man to hold the position and who Livingston said is “changing lives on a daily basis.”
Richards shared that his personal experience with gun violence is what fuels his dedication to organizations such as 100 Suits, saying it makes him even more appreciative of their work.
“We know that when you’re trying to find solutions to addressing the systemic issues in our communities, that the people closest to the pain often have the solution to the pain,” he said.
By having people who have experienced similar things and come from the same community, Richards said, 100 Suits is able to enact change to get people hired and out of the judicial system.