Liana Van Nostrand ’16
Armed with sign-up sheets and small yellow stickers, members of the BHSEC Young Democrats have been hitting the streets to make the world a better place. Or at least to make the neighborhood safer for students. In partnership with the Parents League of New York, BHSEC students have visited small business in the neighborhood to encourage them to become part of the Safe Haven program.
The process of becoming a Safe Haven is simple. Businesses must put up a yellow sticker emblazed with “Safe Haven” on their doors or storefront window. They also commit to allow any student who feels threated to use the phone to call their parents or the police. As the name suggests, the businesses act as temporary safe havens, where students will be sheltered until the appropriate help arrives. While many businesses may have provided this assistance without formally being part of any program, the stickers encourage students to seek the help they need.
The program has over 400 locations on the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, and in Brooklyn. Finally, BHSEC has brought the program to the Lower East Side. The Bard Young Democrats have approached a number of businesses. Many have put up stickers in their windows. Among the businesses are BHSEC favorites like Pause Cafe, Heavens Hot Bagels, and Remedy Diner. Prosperity Dumpling was not approached.
The project is not without some controversy. Some members of the club have been skeptical about the potential effectiveness of the program. But the project has already garnered local support. As Josh Waldman, a Y1 and co-leader of the club, said, “It was great to see small businesses jumping to the opportunity before we had even finished our pitches…this just shows how viable a program it is, and how much potential it really has on the Lower East Side.”
Others worry about the implications of bringing a project created by people who have little contact with community violence to address that issue. Josh admits that the program “is coming from neighborhoods with a lot less gun violence to a neighborhood with more gun violence, although still a safe neighborhood.” But he contends that the club is aware of that and is “making a concerted effort to make this distinguishably Upper West Side program a Lower East Side community program.”
Now that Safe Havens have been established in the neighborhood, Bard Young Democrats will start the next phase of the project, which is informing the community about the Safe Havens. To do that the club plans to reach out to community organizations and other school in the area.