NYPD holds 10th annual ‘Prom Impact’ event, providing free prom outfits to Queens teens in St. Albans

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The gym at the High School for Law Enforcement and Safety in St. Albans was buzzing with excitement as teenagers picked out their prom outfits from racks upon racks of free glamorous gowns and suits at the 10th annual NYPD “Prom Impact” event on Saturday, May 4. 

Teenagers were excited to choose from an array of prom outfits. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

While the kids browsed for their dream outfits and matching accessories and posed for early prom pictures on a larger-than-life blue throne, Official DJ Shug kept the crowd pumped up by spinning records.  

Officers dance to the tunes spun by Official DJ Shug. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The event, which helps teenagers who might not have the financial means to look stylish on their special day, is hosted by the officers of Patrol Borough Queens South Community Affairs and was the brainchild of Det. Tanya Duhaney. 

Former PBA President Patrick Lynch, seen here with Det. Duhaney also dropped off some dresses. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Duhaney told QNS that one day, she saw a flier for a church giving out prom dresses on her boss’s desk, now-retired Sgt. James Clark, who also volunteered on Saturday to mending the suit and tie department. 

Retired NYPD Sgt. Clark volunteered his time. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“So we collected dresses for that prom. That’s what started it,” Duhaney said.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

When NYPD Detectives Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were assassinated in 2014 by gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley while in their patrol car in Brooklyn, the NYPD wanted to find a way to connect with young people, and “Prom Impact” was born.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“Actually, the community wanted to know what were the cops doing to engage our youth. And at the time, coming here to Law Enforcement High School, we realized that our kids were not going to prom because they could not afford it,” Duhaney recalled. “So my partner and I decided to do something and it was to create this prom event to give back to the kids.”

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Duhaney shared that they collected 600 dresses, 50 suits and 50 heels. Officers set everything up until late Friday evening.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“We just want it to be so pretty for these girls,” Duhaney said. “Most of these girls are coming from transitional settings. So we just wanted them to feel like they’re shopping and not in a school. I feel good in my heart that in the last ten years, we have inspired so many kids.”

A make-up artist was part of the “Prom Impact” event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Friends Namani Raynor and Alexandria Allanah spotted two matching pink dresses among the gorgeous gowns and opted for the “twin” look. 

Friends Namani Raynor and Alexandria Allanah opted for two matching gowns. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Raynor said Prom Impact was a good opportunity for girls who do not have the money or do not even know where to shop to find a prom dress. 

“And it gives them an opportunity to look nice for prom and be like the rest of the pretty girls,” Raynor said.

Allanah appreciated that the NYPD put on the event. 

“I think it’s very thoughtful and helpful to people who don’t really want the stress of looking for dresses or people who don’t have a lot of money to be buying $1,000 dresses,” Allanah said.  

Raynor’s mom, Victoria Carley, said her daughter had been struggling to find a dress and that the event was a great way for the NYPD to get involved with the community. 

“I think it gives the community a chance to see another side of the NYPD, so it’s really good,” Carley said.

Fashion designer Bunnie Benton, owner of the Bunnie Benton Veljré fashion brand, restyled two dresses for the event. Benton told QNS that she announced on a whim that she wanted to hold a prom dress giveaway this year. 

Fashion designer Bunnie Benton restyled two dresses for the event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“Someone told me there was one already happening and connected me with Detective Tanya [Duhaney], and I just reached out to her,” Benton said.

Teenagers who found their perfect prom outfit sashayed down the red carpet with a law enforcement officer. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Every young person who found their dream prom dress or suit was walked down the red carpet by a police officer. Even NYPD brass did not miss the chance to participate in the event, walking the teenagers down the red carpet and creating new memories.

Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs Mark Stewart, Assistant Commissioner Alden Foster and Assistant Chief Kevin Williams, commanding officer of NYPD Patrol Borough Queens South, each expressed that “Prom Impact” was an excellent way for the NYPD to build a relationship with the community. 

(Left to right) Assistant Chief Kevin Williams, Det. Tanya Duhaney and Assistant Commissioner Alden Foster pose for a photo-op. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

Stewart, who had already donated seven suits to the event throughout the years, told QNS that the NYPD felt honored and privileged to host the event because prom night was a big night, and many kids did not have the resources to buy an outfit. 

NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Community Affairs Mark Stewart has also donated to the event. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“For [the NYPD] to be able to provide [the outfits] is just amazing,” Stewart said. “Look at their faces. These kids love it. They get a chance to pick what they want to wear. And I want to thank everybody for the donations who made this possible too.” 

Alden pointed out that the NYPD always does “good things in the police department.”

Assistant Commissioner Alden said that “Prom Impact” was one of the NYPD’s favorite events. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“But [Prom Impact] is always one of our favorites because this is such a special time; a young person will never forget their prom,” Alden told QNS. “They are seniors; they are graduating; it is a big part of their lives. And for us to be able to provide an opportunity for them to go to their prom and make them look their best, it’s a really good feeling, not only to the community, but also to the cops that are involved.” 

Alden called Det. Duhaney one of the department’s “rock stars.”

“Community Affairs, we try our best to meet the community where they are, and this is just another example of that,” Alden said. 

Williams told QNS that his wife had also raided their closet several times to donate to the event. 

Assistant Chief Kevin Williams, commanding officer of NYPD Patrol Borough Queens South, called prom a special time in a teenager’s life. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

“Prom is a special time in people’s lives. It is one of the things they never, ever forget,” Williams said. “So to be able to provide the youth with suits and also fabulous dresses for them to experience the prom is a great thing.”

Williams called New York’s finest and New York State Police and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, who also lend a helping hand a “blessing.”

“You have cops that are all about public safety, but also focus on being community-minded and bring a smile to the face of our youth here in this borough,” Williams said.

Just in time for the event, one NYPD cruiser was decorated to celebrate prom season. One lucky winner of an essay contest will get a ride to the prom in the NYPD Prom Impact vehicle. 

An NYPD cruiser is decorated for prom season. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann

The next NYPD “Prom Impact” happens in the Bronx on May 11 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at La Central YMCA at 134 Westchester Ave. 

The NYPD introduced Digidog, the NYPD’s robot dog, to the younger crowd. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann
Even Digidog, the NYPD’s robot dog, walked a future prom Queen down the red carpet. Photo by Gabriele Holtermann