Creation of Playstreets
In addition to providing a safe place to play, it was hoped that opportunities for wholesome play under proper supervision would reduce the temptation for wrongdoing. These Play Streets also provided openings for positive interactions between children and Police Officer to reduce tension 100 years later this PAL program continues to convey these same benefits.
At its heights, 22 precincts offered the program to over 4000 boys. Their handbook specified that developing a feeling of civic responsibility, bringing a positive relationship with the Police, and laying a foundation for good citizenship were the primary goals. The Junior Police, and laying a foundation for good citizenship were the primary goals. The Junior Police Club, offered in PAL' s After School Programs continues to address these goals.
Crime Prevention Bureau
In 1929, Police Commissioner Grover A. Whalen appointed a committee on crime prevention to address growing concerns about juvenile delinquency. The Police Department began to focus on youth and took a leadership role in providing recreation. In 1931, Mayor James J Walker signed a bill to make the Crime Prevention Bureau, later known as the Juvenile Justice Aid Bureau, a permanent part of the Police Department.
The 1932 Annual report of the Police Department stated, "During a Depression, it is the children who stand in the greatest danger of permanent injury." In response, the Crime Prevention Bureau formed the Junior Police Athletic League.
Police Athletic League
The Police Athletic League was reorganized in 1936. Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine obtained a list of 5,000 truants to enroll in PAL. President Franklin D Roosevelt sent a letter to Deputy Commissioner Byrnes MacDonald stating, "I hope PAL Week will serve to focus attention on the constructive character building program of the Crime Prevention Bureau."
Support From the WPA
During the Depression, 520 workers from the Education and Recreation Department of the Works Progress Administration were assigned to PAL, under the supervision of the juvenile Aid Bureau. In 1937, the number of workers from the WPA rose to 750.
Expansion in the 1930s
The late 1930s was a time of rapid expansion. PAL had over 70,000 members in 1937 and operated 69 indoor centers, many of which were dedicated to the memories of police officers who died in the line of duty. September 6, 1939 was PAL Day at the Words Fair in New York City, and a Playstreet was set up in the heart of the Fair.
PAL Contributes to War Effort
PAL children contributed to wartime efforts by organizing scrap salvage drives , helping with Red Cross activities, knitting and working in Junior Commando training. PAL provided supervised care for the children of parents engaged in war work and civilian defense duties.
Budget Cuts Threaten Juvenile Aid Bureau
Due to a lack of funds during the war, the New York City Board of Estimate announced that Juvenile Aid Bureau would be abolished. Public outcry was great, and soon funds were found to continue PAL's operation.
Renewal After the War
In 1945, Mayor William O'Dwyer pledged "100% support" to the PAL program. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, PAL began hiring social workers to assist with the treatment of troubled youngsters. In 1949, PAL created the Placement Division to help young people find jobs, in addition to providing vocational guidance. During the 1950s, PAL athletes captured the Golden Gloves and completed in the Helsinki Summer Olympics in 1952, and in the Melbourne Olympics of 1956.
The 1960s marked a period of significant expansion in PAL's educational programs. Head start pre-school was initiated in 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson launched the "War on Poverty" in 1963, and federal funds were allocated for PAL programs.
During the 1970s , PAL participated in nation-wide youth programs to educate young people about the dangers of drug abuse. Arts programs continued to flourish. In the 1970S, the annual Superstar dinner fundraising events honored outstanding individuals. Sports heroes Willie Mays and Walt Frazier were among the first PAL Superstars.
In the 1990s, the PAL Board of Directors took a leadership role in implementing a campaign to build new state-of-the-art community centers. A $40 million Capital Campaign was launched to create three new centers and to renovate existing centers. Facilities opened in the South Bronx in 1996, in Harlem in 1999, and South Jamaica, Queens in 2004.
From 2000 to the present, PAL enhanced its programs and launched innovative ways to help New York City youth. After school and summer programs focus on academic achievement, and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities help children develop vital skills. In 2004, PAL started Youth Link, a program focused on young people who are involved in the juvenile justice system. A few years later, RISE was launched to serve 16 to 21 year olds who are released from Riker's Island. In 2014 PAL's Centennial celebrated a major milestone in the history of the agency and New York City. Today, PAL programs continue to meet the ever-changing needs of inner city youth with new initiatives, services and programs.