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Safety City

A first-of-its kind installation in the Hudson Valley, Rockland BOCES Safety City creates opportunities for students with disabilities to gain life skills for greater independence in adulthood in a contained, controlled environment. Funded partially through a New York State and Municipal (SAM) Facilities Grant, Safety City is a reproduction of a town including paved roads, sidewalks, miniature storefronts, crosswalks, streetlights, a traffic signal, an adaptive playground and an outdoor classroom.

Safety City teaches children with intellectual and developmental disabilities how to remain safe in a variety of situations while giving them added supports and accommodations.

There are currently fewer than 30 permanent, operating safety villages (also called safety towns or safety cities) across the nation - including Baltimore; Brookhaven, New York; Frisco, Texas; and Naperville, Illinois. A definitive total is hard to determine because of the variety of nomenclature and because some “safety towns” are programs, not places. They are often collaborations between police, fire or parks departments, school districts and local civic groups offering traffic, bicycle, pedestrian, vehicle and fire safety lessons.

The Rockland BOCES Safety City is unique, as it was developed to provide independent living support to learners with an appropriate level of supervision and contact. With job turnover for direct support professionals at local nonprofit agencies at record high levels, Safety City will offer students graduating from Rockland BOCES programs an advantage as they transition to providers like Venture, JAWONIO and ARC of Rockland due to increased independence.

Using miniature towns for safety education can be traced back to Mansfield, Ohio, in 1937. Under the initiative of local policeman Frend Boals, Mansfield built a safety town with child-sized streets and stop signs, and even red mini-cars. Dorothy Chlad, a schoolteacher, helped popularize and expand the program in the 1960s. Through the efforts of Chlad, the National Safety Town Center officially became a nonprofit in 1974. To date, it says it has provided “speakers, information, assistance, books and materials to over 3,500 communities throughout the United States and 38 other countries.”

The mission of the Rockland BOCES Safety City is to promote independent living, safety and well-being of children and young adults through experiential learning. In tandem with classroom instruction emphasizing life skills, independence, community involvement, appropriate behavior and employability skills, Safety City outings may include shopping, ordering food and walking safely in the community.

The construction of Safety City was a collaboration between the Rockland BOCES Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) Carpentry and Building Services students and the Rockland BOCES Facilities Department. CTEC Construction Trades instructor Frank DeToma led students through the design and build process.

Grant Funding:

Sponsor: Elijah Reichlin- Melnick
Amount: $125,000

Facade of Safety City Town Hall
Safety City train
Safety City clock tower
Safety City Train Station with train

Student Services Division
65 Parrott Road, Building #10
West Nyack, NY 10994
(845) 627-4790

Christine Ditrano, Psy.D.
Executive Director of Student Services

Gianluca DiMuccio
Assistant Director of Student Services

Elise Rosenberg
Assistant Director of Student Services

Kimberly Soto
Division Principal