BRIGHTON BEACH — Community leaders and police are ramping up efforts to keep beach-goers safe on a popular school holiday, a year after a high school student was tragically gunned down when violence erupted on the boardwalk, locals said.
The shooting that killed 16-year-old Tysha Jones and injured four others last year occurred on Chancellor’s Conference Day, also known as Brooklyn Day, a citywide public school holiday to be celebrated this year on Thurs., June 7.
The beach is a popular destination for students, and higher-than-normal temperatures last year drew unusually large crowds to Brighton Beach and Coney Island for the holiday.
Temperatures are expected to rise to 78 degrees Thursday, with sun throughout the afternoon and thunderstorms starting about 6 p.m.
Some Brighton community leaders believe authorities were outnumbered and caught off guard by the flood of students to the beach and boardwalk last year, sparking the violence.
“Last year it was a horror, and I don’t think we were prepared,” said Pat Singer, of the Brighton Neighborhood Association. “This area sometimes becomes an orphan of the system, and I don’t think there were enough police out there to protect us.”
Singer said she has repeatedly voiced concerns in the past months, pressing for an increased security presence for this year’s Chancellor Day holiday.
“This is something in Brooklyn we need here," she said, "and nobody should lose a life again this year.”
Local Councilman Michael Nelson has been in talks with the 60th and 61st Precincts, which have come up with a comprehensive security plan aimed at keeping both locals and visitors safe, he explained.
“While most students are interested only in a relaxing day at the shore, regrettably in the past, these days have been marred by acts of vandalism,” Nelson said in a statement. “Tragically, last year the day was additionally marked by violence.”
The councilman said the NYPD's efforts include special patrols of the streets, beaches and subways in the area, as well as the presence of a police command center at nearby Manhattan Beach.
When asked about the NYPD's specific plan for Brooklyn Day, a police spokesman said that the department "will provide an adequate amount of personnel for the detail," without elabortating.
Schools use Chancellor's Day for professional development, but for students it offers a first taste of summer, coming just weeks before the end of the school year.
Eddie Mark, chairman of Brooklyn's Community Board 13, which includes Brighton Beach and Coney Island, said that students often flock to the borough's beaches to celebrate their day off.
"It is their start to summertime, the summer season, and if it is a nice day they'll be out here," Mark said, adding that problems can arise when large numbers of youth gather without adult supervision.
"It's a totally different mentality, you know, without any parents or guardians watching them," he said. "Then they have the freedom where they could do anything."
In addition to last year’s shooting, local businesses have complained about vandalism and shoplifting on Brooklyn Day for several years, according to the Brighton BID. But last year was more chaotic than normal, merchants said.
“There were so many people,” said Irina Dizik the manager of the Kids World toy store on Brighton Beach Avenue. “I’ve never seen so many teenagers at this area, they were just coming from all over the place."