NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City kicked off its Juneteenth celebration with a block party Friday in St. Nicholas Park in Harlem.
President Joe Biden signed legislation Thursday making Juneteenth a federal holiday that will be observed Friday, since the actual date falls on a Saturday.
This is now the first new federal holiday since 1983, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day was created.
"The emancipation of enslaved Black Americans didn't mark the end of America's work to deliver on the promise of equality. It only marked the beginning. To honor the true meaning of Juneteenth, we have to continue toward that promise because we've not gotten there yet," President Biden said.
But in New York City, public schools remained open with city employees reporting for work, despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's vow last year that, "Starting next year, Juneteenth will be an official city holiday and official New York City schools holiday."
The timing of Juneteenth seemed to have been the complicating factor for the city, and since Juneteenth falls on a Saturday, it is treated as a floating holiday for workers to use whenever they please.
Still, the city is taking other steps to honor Juneteenth. The "official city celebration" started at 6 p.m. on the James Baldwin Lawn.
Residents from near and as far as Virginia claimed their spot in the park for the city's official Juneteenth celebration. There were performances, food trucks and a planned speeches by de Blasio and the first lady.
"It's new for me and I'll be 80 on Monday," Harlem resident Stephanie Tolbert said.
Everyone at the celebration on Friday said they were thrilled to see the day officially recognized.
"I think it's great more people are leaning about it," Harlem resident Lena Hilliard said.
Hilliard hopes this leads to more positive change.
"We need police reform and all these other things that are going to keep our community safe," she said.
The mayor announced his Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan Thursday, addressing racial inequities with a savings plans for every public school kindergarten student next school year, among other initiatives.
And earlier this week, the Parks Department announced it was naming 16 parks for Black Americans.
Last year, Juneteenth fell during the days after George Floyd's brutal murder, and it was marked by a series of marches throughout the city and country.
For a list of Juneteenth events across the city, visit NYC.gov/Juneteenth.
More on the NYC Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan:
Universal NYC Baby Bonds: Expand NYC Kids Rise to every public school child
New York City will directly confront the racial generational racial wealth gap by expanding savings plans to every single public school kindergarten student next school year. This initiative will both open accounts and put a minimum of $100 into every account.
In 2016, Mayor de Blasio launched a baby bonds 529 college savings pilot in Queens School District 30 in partnership with the non-profit, NYC Kids Rise (NYCKR). Children in this district now have over $6 million to go toward their college and career training.
Building on success of the pilot, the Juneteenth Economic Justice Plan expands NYCKR through public-private partnerships to all school districts, providing universal 529 savings accounts to every public-school child, starting in Kindergarten this upcoming school year. The City will invest $15 million annually through 2025. Every public dollar is estimated to leverage 20-25 times in philanthropy, family savings, community scholarships, and investment returns by the time a child graduates from high school.
CUNY Scholarship Fund: Over 2,800 four-year CUNY scholarships for Black and low-income students
New York City will promote the education and career success of Black and low-income students by providing over 2,800 four-year CUNY ACE model scholarships valued at $4,000 per year. This $45 million investment will help cover gaps in financial aid, books, transportation, and advising for eligible students.
The program will serve 1,000 students at Medgar Evers College and 1,800 low-income students in the Taskforce neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID, NYCHA housing developments, and other low-income zip codes.
The Brooklyn Recovery Corps at Medgar Evers College: Paid internships, work experience and career prep for over 200 students a year
Medgar Evers College will launch the Brooklyn Recovery Corps to provide over 200 students annually with the opportunity to contribute to the ongoing economic recovery of Brooklyn, focusing on experiences that integrate science, business, public health, or the green economy.
The $900,000 annual investments ($4.5 million over 5 years) will student fellows will gain technical skills, academic credit or paid internships, work experience, career preparation support and engagement with the community, and STEM-focused career placement opportunities.
The Taskforce on Racial Inclusion & Equity brings an equity-based approach to COVID-19 response and recovery efforts in the city's hardest-hit communities. Services and supports are tailored to meet the unique challenges of New Yorkers in communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. More specifically, the Taskforce has made a series of announcements to build generational wealth including:
--Employee Ownership - pathway for employees to succeed their employers
--New M/WBE requirements, mentoring and matching services
--Equitable Ownership - requiring at least 25% M/WBE and/or non-profit ownership in Affordable Housing projects
--NYC Acquisition Fund - $210M loan fund for M/WBEs and non-profit developers
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