SAFE STREETS FOR CITY KIDS

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BRAVEST & FINEST

Most parents want to make sure their children attend school in a safe environment, but not many parents work full-time to make sure other people’s children enjoy the same privilege.

For the past eight years, Annemarie Legendy has been doing just that. A longtime resident of Inwood, Legendy is the coordinator of the Westside Crime Prevention Program’s Safe Haven Project, a program designed to enhance the safety of children living and going to school in District 3, on the Upper West Side.

“I don’t live on the Upper West Side, but I have four children who all went to school there,” said Legendy,

Annemarie Legendy’s children are already grown, but she still works to recruit participants in the Safe Haven Project. Photo By: Andrew Schwartz

Annemarie Legendy’s children are already grown, but she still works to recruit participants in the Safe Haven Project. Photo By: Andrew Schwartz

who began working on the project when her youngest was in 5th grade. “As a parent, I couldn’t be with four children in all places at the same time, so I found it very reassuring to know about the Safe Haven program, that there are these places that they could go if they ever needed help.”

Safe Haven merchants commit to offering help and protection to children who may need it while out in the neighborhood, and it is Legendy’s responsibility to recruit shopkeepers to participate. Today, there are more than 300 locations, from West 59th to 125th streets, with yellow Safe Haven decals on the door, indicating that people inside are willing to call a parent or the police, or offer any other service that a frightened child might need.

“Annemarie supervises the recruiting of all the Safe Havens and checks on them,” said Marjorie Cohen, executive director of the Westside Crime Prevention Program. “She has the most extraordinary work ethic of anybody that I’ve ever worked with. She is incredibly conscientious and extremely smart.”

Legendy also schedules and leads workshops for students in grades 4 to 6 throughout the Upper West Side, building off of a video called Streetsmart and Safe  to discuss how to handle a variety of situations that children might find themselves in on the streets of Manhattan.

“She reaches about 1,200 kids each school year, which is an awful lot for one person,” Cohen said. “Nobody knows the schools of the Upper West Side better than she does.”

From everyday occurrences, like someone stealing a student’s cell phone, to the harsher realities of what to do if a student is followed home, Legendy uses skits, role play and discussions to teach students about street safety. Legendy also stays in contact with the police, working with local precincts and school officers to respond to concerns and generally stay on top of neighborhood happenings.

“Seeing the fruits of your labor is a difficult thing,” Legendy said. “I think in general, the fact that this program exists and is an active program means that everybody who goes to school here or visits among the young people is safer. It has made a difference and is making a difference.”

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