New DYCD Commissioner Keith Howard discusses organization’s role in making Queens safer

Photo courtesy of NYC.gov

New Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) Commissioner Keith Howard discussed the organization’s role in making Queens and New York City as a whole safer during Monday’s cabinet meeting. The DYCD places a large emphasis on helping to keep youths out of trouble by offering several different types of programs.

According to Howard, the DYCD summer programs have created jobs for more than 100,000 youths, including 20,000 from Queens. Among the programs offered by DYCD that help provide entertainment, education and work for youths is Summer Rising and Saturday Night Lights.

Summer Rising offers kids from grades K-8 access to academics and enrichment programming through field trips, arts activities and outdoor recreation. The kids in Summer Rising receive much-needed academic support, social-emotional learning and enrichment activities.

Saturday Night Lights aims to keep kids off the streets by providing them with a source for extracurricular activities each Saturday night. Saturday Night Lights provides youths with access to free sports programming every Saturday night throughout the summer.

After partnering with the NYPD, the city’s district attorneys and several community-based organizations to expand the program by opening 100 more gyms across the city last year, the DYCD is expected to add another 25 new sites along with a $1.25 million investment from Mayor Eric Adams.

“My job is to go to community-based organizations and ask what [resources] they need to stop gun violence,” Howard said. “We need to invest heavily in those who are doing the work.”

According to DYCD assistant commissioner Andrew Miller, the organization has established approximately 18,000 different job locations connecting youths to the fields of jobs they may be interested in learning more about. He also said many of its programs have recently been expanded to attempt to attract more people to them.

Two such programs include Saturday Night Lights and Beacon Programs. The latter provides youths with a safe place to engage in recreational activities, discover new interests, acquire skills and find opportunities to contribute to the community.

Another topic discussed during the cabinet meeting was being prepared for coastal storms. Brian Fargnoli and Keiara Salomon of NYC Emergency Management gave a briefing on the topic. The organization helps residents of New York City before, during and after emergencies via preparedness, education and response.

According to Salomon, New York City is most at risk of tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes each year from August to October. She said it’s important that residents of the city, especially those near water who are in high-danger areas, follow three steps for preparedness: make a plan, gather supplies and stay informed.

Making a plan involves creating an emergency support network. It’s recommended people write down important and potentially lifesaving information. Additionally, people should come up with a transportation plan in case certain public transportation sources are shut down due to damage or flooding from the storm. People should also stay informed so they know if and when they should leave their homes and go to evacuation zones or evacuation centers.

When it comes to gathering supplies, a go-bag should be packed for every member of the family, including pets. Special considerations should be taken into account while packing, including medication and types of clothing, depending on the time of year. It’s recommended that the supplies in these bags are changed out every six months. Emergency supplies should be included in these go bags.

Staying informed involves residents knowing their zones, from most vulnerable to least vulnerable areas. In order to be better informed about such areas, Fargnoli and Salomon recommended residents download the Notify NYC app, which allows people to stay informed about emergency information as well as upcoming events.

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