PAL’s Carlos Velazquez Honored in City & State’s 2024 Nonprofit Trailblazers


Carlos Velazquez, Executive Director of the Police Athletic League , named a 2024 Nonprofit Trailblazer for transformative contributions to NYC’s youth and community. Courtesy of PAL.

Carlos Velazquez, Executive Director of the Police Athletic League (PAL), has been acknowledged as a Nonprofit Trailblazer on the esteemed 2024 list by City & State and New York Nonprofit Media. This accolade celebrates his remarkable contributions to the nonprofit sector, particularly in enhancing the lives of New York City’s youth and fostering community development.

The 2024 Nonprofit Trailblazers list showcases visionary leaders dedicated to advancing critical missions across New York. Velazquez stands out for his innovative leadership, marked by forging impactful community partnerships and championing the youth of New York City, especially those in underserved neighborhoods. With a career spanning two decades in public service, he has prioritized addressing the needs of marginalized youth while cultivating strategic alliances with community stakeholders and governmental bodies.

“I am honored to be recognized on the City & State and New York Nonprofit Media 2024 Nonprofit Trailblazers List among these esteemed New Yorkers,” Velazquez said. “This award reflects the extraordinary work of the PAL staff and volunteers who remain committed to serving New York City’s youth who face unprecedented challenges.  Our communities are living through a pivotal time, and PAL will continue to be a safe place where youth can build relationships and emerge as leaders.”

Velazquez leads initiatives to build positive relationships between communities and law enforcement, inspiring change across NYC. Courtesy of PAL.

A native of East Harlem, Velazquez assumed the role of PAL’s Executive Director in 2022, bringing with him a wealth of experience and a deep-rooted commitment to his community. Prior to joining PAL, he served as the Chief Program Officer for the Boys’ Club of New York, collaborating with various partners in youth development, education, and law enforcement.

Velazquez holds a Master of Education from Bank Street College of Education, along with a Master of Social Work and a Bachelor of Science from Syracuse University. His educational background, combined with his hands-on experience, equips him with the tools necessary to drive meaningful change in the lives of young New Yorkers.

The honorees of the 2024 Nonprofit Trailblazers list were featured in City & State Magazine on May 20 and celebrated at an event graced by keynote speakers New York City Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Ana Almanzar and Department of Social Services Commissioner Molly Wasow Park.

Reflecting on his journey from East Harlem to PAL’s Executive Director, Velazquez emphasizes the pivotal role of community support and mentorship in shaping his career trajectory. He attributes his dedication to public service to his personal experiences, emphasizing the transformative power of positive role models and access to supportive programs during his formative years.

 Velazquez credited his upbringing and active participation in programs during his youth for shaping his career path. He highlighted the importance of parental support and community engagement in fostering his leadership skills and dedication to public service.

“I was very fortunate to have parents who understood that partnership and support in raising kids in New York City was important, especially during the time I was growing up in New York City,” Velazquez said. 

After attending LaSalle Academy and pursuing higher education at Syracuse University, where he studied social work, Velazquez returned to New York City to embark on a career focused on empowering underserved communities. He emphasized the significance of giving back to one’s neighborhood and serving as a positive role model for future generations.

“Success was always about leaving your neighborhood. But then we end up missing our neighborhood, so why not come back and make your neighborhood better and teach the future of our city that it’s not about leaving the city, it’s about gaining world experience, and coming back and giving back?” Velazquez said. 

As the Executive Director of PAL, Velazquez outlined his primary responsibilities, which include strategic planning, fostering partnerships, and ensuring program effectiveness. Under his leadership, PAL has prioritized initiatives aimed at promoting mental health and social-emotional well-being among youth, alongside innovative programs like the upcoming launch of an indoor baseball training facility in Washington Heights on June 15. 

Under his leadership, PAL continues to innovate and expand its reach. Notable initiatives include a focus on mental health and social-emotional well-being, alongside the upcoming launch of an indoor baseball training facility in Washington Heights, aimed at addressing community needs and enhancing program accessibility.

“Our motto for 2024 is getting better at being better,” Velazquez said. “Being around 100 years, you begin to address the different needs right now, there’s a large focus on mental health and social emotional well-being.”

Velazquez views the recognition on the 2024 Nonprofit Trailblazers list as a testament to the collective effort invested in PAL’s mission. He underscores the significance of collaboration and diverse representation within the nonprofit sector, emphasizing the ongoing commitment to serving New York City’s diverse communities.

“When you see a young person you work with achieve a goal or the staff that you have develop, take their skill and their career to the next level, or you see the impact you have in a community, those are the things that I am the proudest of,” Velazquez said. 

Looking ahead, Velazquez envisions a future where PAL serves as a cornerstone in every neighborhood, fostering positive relationships between communities and law enforcement while addressing unique community needs. His unwavering dedication to youth empowerment and community development continues to drive PAL’s mission forward, inspiring positive change across New York City.

“To me, there’ll be a PAL in every neighborhood, “Velazquez said. “Becoming kind of, you know, no pun intended, the trailblazer in this work.”

For those interested in supporting PAL’s mission, Velazquez encourages donations and spreading awareness of the organization’s impactful work. More information can be found on PAL’s website at

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