Confiscated Money Helps Create Haven for Students in the Bronx

From her window on a hill in the Bronx, Verdell Mack watches her grandchildren walk the few blocks to Intermediate School 229 each morning. Otherwise, she doesn’t let them outside alone in a neighborhood where violence is common.

One source of concern for Ms. Mack and her neighbors in the Morris Park neighborhood had been a brick residential building across the street from the school.

But law enforcement officials were able to root out part of the problem.

“At the beginning of this year my office apprehended 22 alleged drug dealers right here in the River Park Towers,” the Bronx district attorney, Robert T. Johnson, said Friday morning, as he stood between the tower and the school.

Now money from that enforcement operation is helping to create a safe haven on the block, near the Major Deegan Expressway.

Money confiscated from drug dealers all over the city, in fact, is financing the cost of I.S. 229’s extracurricular program, which began this week in the school’s gym and common area.

“Their creativity is being tapped with this program,” Ms. Mack, the president of the school’s parent-teacher association, said, referring to the students. Even more important, she said, her 13-year-old grandson now has a secure spot to hang out after school.

About 60 youngsters participate in each session of the extracurricular program, the Impact Center, which is run by the nonprofit Police Athletic League. Three evenings a week, staff members lead sports, recreation, educational workshops and occasional discussions with police officers and elected officials. The school had a similar program last year for six months, but it lost its funding, said Richard Guevara, the League’s director of field operations.

But extracurricular activities give the students a rare opportunity for enrichment, said Christine Turner, the school’s parent coordinator.

“They have no other place to go,” said Ms. Turner, adding that eager students often show up at 4 p.m., an hour before the program begins. “The kids come, and they come in full force.”

Silvia Santiago, a mother of two students, said that recent police crackdowns had made her feel “a little safer before,” but that the neighborhood still had a long way to go.

“You never know what’s going on, lurking in the dark,” she said. “Of course I worry.” She plans to start sending her children to the after-school program because, she said, “I want to be the best mother there is.”

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