HARLEM — The streets of Harlem were turned over to the children Tuesday.
NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and several board members of the Police Athletic League (PAL) kicked off the city’s Play Streets summer program with the ceremonial opening of the fire hydrant.
The program, which has been around for 99 years, closes streets throughout the city to give kids safe and supervised places to play. Children there can participate in sports, traditional street games, and other activities that encourage them to build relationships with local police officers.
Hundreds of children attended the opening ceremony on West 119th Street and Manhattan Avenue. They were treated to a rock climbing wall, free ice cream and hot dogs, streets games like jump rope, and spray from the tapped fire hydrant.
“Your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and even I participated in Play Streets,” Kelly told the children. “It gives you a place to play if you can’t make it to summer camp.”
This year, Play Streets added two new programs: a soccer team to teach kids how to play the game, and a bike-riding program to teach them basic riding skills and bicycle safety.
The PAL has added more Play Streets in the city throughout the years and is looking to continue that trend.
“My only regret is that we won't have more Play Streets,” said PAL board chairman and former longtime Manhattan district attorney Robert M. Morgenthau, who has been with the organization for more than four decades. “We are actually working to get more in the New York City Housing Authority.”
Children weren’t the only ones enjoying Tuesday’s festivities. Several police officers were seen cooling off by the hydrant and enjoying some of the free food.