Safe Zone

by Liv Linn

“Neighborhood safety” is a term young people in Staten Island, especially on the North Shore, hear a lot. Their parents, teachers, social workers, mentors, police officers, and neighbors seem to hold a discussion, meeting, or march every week to work against community violence, but the voices of young people are rarely on the mic.

Over the course of six months, more than 20 young people involved in the Justice Community Plus and Summer Youth Employment programs at the Staten Island Justice Center led discussions, interviewed one another, made art, and produced stories about this subject from their perspective. What follows are the young voices of Stapleton, New Brighton, St. George, Park Hill, and Port Richmond telling the stories of those places, as they’ve experienced them. Their neighborhoods might not be what you think they are.

It is hard to find your safe zone. As residents of Staten Island, when gunshots, violence, and death occurs our voices are invisible. Today we would like to make a step toward change with our spoken expertise.

All of these locations have the common conflict of community safety and are perceived to be negative. However, there are positive locations in these neighborhoods.

We want you to understand what it feels like to constantly be looking over your shoulder. If you haven’t been to a neighborhood like New Brighton, you might not understand how it feels to see cops driving back and forth watching you, or why people make the choices they do.

But we also want you to understand not all the stereotypes are true.

You have to go to a neighborhood to understand the culture of that neighborhood. We wanted to paint you a picture of how we experience our neighborhoods.

We are members of the Staten Island Justice Center, and we’re all from different neighborhoods in Staten Island, New York.

We’re different people with different backgrounds, but we have the same mindset for our communities. Whether you want to hear what we have to say or not, our stories matter, and listening will give you a better understanding of the communities we come from.

Safe Zone StoryMap

Use the scroll bar to explore different locations and their accompanying audio pieces; or use the zoom function on the map to see all story locations and navigate using the dropped pins. To view fullscreen in a new tab, click the button in the bottom right-hand corner of the window.