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Coney Island cure violence organization opens new center

Operation HOOD opens new community center in Coney Island
Operation HOOD opens new community center in Coney Island 02:00

NEW YORK -  An anti-violence initiative has opened the doors of their brand new community center in Coney Island, an upgrade that's been a year in the making. 

This week was the ribbon-cutting of the headquarters of Operation H.O.O.D., a cure violence program on Mermaid Avenue. 

"The only reason why we exist is because Coney Island needed healing," says Founding Director Derick Latin Scott. "Our people have become desensitized to gun violence."

Leaders of the group, which was founded in 2016, say this is an expansion of their already-existing programming, which includes help with job search, tutoring, mental health, and more. 

"You have to have a relationship with the young people out here," says Program Coordinator Shivon Balgobin.

The new space is meant to be a community center. There are video games, a place to hang out, and a full workout gym available on-site, free and open for all. 

"A lot of these kids don't have fathers and mothers in their life, we are just trying to show them that we can be uncles and aunts," adds Balgobin. 

Operation H.O.O.D. stands for Helping Our Own Develop, and works under the Jewish Community Council of Greater Coney Island. Their goal is to reach young people early and make them catalysts for change. 

Scott says, "Something has happened to me that made me want to actually give back to the streets that myself and a lot of brothers and sisters like myself helped to ruin."

They have a busy upcoming schedule. This weekend is the start of an eight-week summer fitness intensive hosted a few blocks away at Coney Island Fitness on West 16th Street.

Balgobin says the program aligns with their efforts to bring health, both physical and mental.

"When you have a healthy body and healthy mind, you are able to think better and make better choices in life," he says.

Leaders at Operation H.O.O.D. want young people to eventually be part of their efforts to make a better Coney Island. 

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