It seemed like just another Sunday in Brooklyn, but Sunday, August 6th, held special significance for the residents of East 59th Street, between Foster Avenue and Farragut Road. Fifteen years of dedicated community work and effort culminated in yet another successful block party and anniversary celebration. This event marked the return of the East 59th Street United Block Association after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic and other community changes.
This year’s theme and message were centered on “Restoring Unity in the Community.” In a conversation with Ricky, the new youth leader, he emphasized the significance of nurturing the organization’s youth division. To achieve this, they focused on activities tailored to the younger generation. The day’s festivities included a basketball game, a bounce house, a hula hoop competition and more.
Roy McKenzie, president of the East 59th Street United Block Association, expressed the importance of bringing the community together. He, along with a few other residents, established the organization 15 years ago in response to the changes in the neighborhood and a rise in crime that led many to leave the area. Their objective was to prevent further departures and construct a safer environment where neighbors knew each other. When asked about his most memorable years, McKenzie spoke about the first year and the present one. The initial year stood out due to increased participation of younger people, which is why this year’s focus was aimed at the youth.
Operating a nonprofit hasn’t been without challenges, but everyone has contributed to the organization’s success through their dedication and hard work. Families have contributed financially and provided food for the event, while others managed major games and attractions for the participating children. Every individual’s role is integral, and the organization owes its triumph to their collective efforts. Beyond the annual event, McKenzie and fellow block association members are looking ahead to the creation of a community center in the area. They firmly believe that the youth require a safe space to congregate and engage in activities that deter them from unsafe behaviors.
Nicole, a local resident, attended the block party as an invited guest of a family friend. It was her first time at the event, and she felt compelled to participate so that her children could witness the power of unity. Additionally, she is contemplating establishing a similar association in her neighborhood, fostering a space for her and her neighbors to connect and acquaint themselves with one another.
While Mr. McKenzie was at the forefront of the event, welcoming residents and local leaders such as State Senator Roxanne Persaud, Councilwoman Farah Louis, and others, his son Bret was working behind the scenes, preparing the food that everyone enjoyed. Bret, who has been involved with the organization for 15 years as well, conveyed his ongoing enthusiasm for contributing to the neighborhood’s development. He explained that he readies himself weeks in advance for the festival, having prepared over 100 pounds of fish, chicken and other meats for this year’s event. Bret aspires to eventually switch roles so that he can participate in a game or two, but for now, he’s content with playing his part in community building.