Bridging The Gap

On July 18, 2017, Brooklyn residents, Red Hook Community Justice members, NYPD personnel, friends, and families gathered at the Brooklyn Borough Hall to attend the Red Hook Community Justice Center’s Bridging the Gap event. Citizens, young and old, filed into the historic building to honor the Justice Center’s one-year anniversary.

One year ago, the center’s Bridging The Gap series was created in hopes of encouraging police officers, city leaders, and community members to build relationships with each other, as well as to offer safe spaces for conversations to be had about the state of their community. The program’s humble beginnings of just five officers, and a handful of community members, has now grown to over 100 participants in the last year. In celebration of their incredible success, Red Hook Community Justice Center organized this event.

The first part consisted of NYPD executives, Neighborhood Coordination Officers, and elected officials offering their wisdom and acknowledgments to participants of the Bridging the Gap program. Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Diana Reyna stressed the program’s importance to everyone in Brooklyn and New York as a whole. “It is about fostering positive change in the community,” she said. Positive change is exactly what Red Hook Justice Center has implemented. NYPD Assistant Chief Rodney Harrison also spoke at the event and emphasized his deep connection with Brooklyn. He explained how he was unexpectedly led to the police force yet ultimately fell in love with the job and the community that he protects, telling officers, “Don’t just save lives, make relationships.”

City leaders weren’t the only ones who expressed how impactful this series has become.

“It has been rewarding and an honor to be part of this program,” said Karime Aguilar, a 17-year-old member of the Red Hook Community Justice Center. “It has taught me not to let the image of one officer impact my perspective on others.”

This sentiment had been common among the members of the program. It illustrates that simply providing a form of communication between city youth and officers is essential in breaking down negative stigmas on both sides.

Following an intermission with free refreshments, attendees were seated in small circles with officers and community members. Each small group was given a list of discussion topics that would help initiate important conversations about the Bridging the Gap Program, their feelings about the community, and their suggestions on how to make positive change. As the conversations continued, participants eventually did not need the list of discussion topics, and ultimately began having organic dialogues about their thoughts and feelings. People from different backgrounds, perspectives, and interests were able to have insightful conversations about the state of their community.

The event ended on a high note, with new friendships made and deeper understandings of each person fostered. Red Hook Justice coordinators encouraged the audience to continue having conversations, continue asking questions, and continue striving to make a change. There is still so much to be done in a community, and centers like Red Hook Justice are working toward making their neighborhood, borough, city, and state a better place.

For more information about the Red Hook Community Justice Center and their Bridging the Gap Series click [HERE].