Baruch College and PRYSE Issue Survey
By Gary G. Toms
The Project for Rockaway Youth in Safety and Education held its Steering Committee meeting on September 21 in the Meditation Room of the Peninsula Hospital Center. Prior to the discussion of various agenda topics, Fern Zagor, Chief Administrator of PRYSE, eloquently addressed a number concerns regarding the recent attack on the World Trade Center, and she made members of the community aware that there are services available to help them deal with the crisis.
"Many people may be seeking ways to deal with the stress over what has happened regarding the attack. Some people choose to go to their house of worship, while others may seek some type of professional assistance. I want to state that PRYSE has a number of outreach services available to people who feel they have no place to go or anyone to talk to about the current problems facing the country."
Zagor then took the opportunity to introduce the newly created Addabbo Community Resource Center, which is located at 1600 Central Avenue, in Far Rockaway. The facility is equipped with a number of programs and services to help residents deal with some of the problems affecting the community: such as school safety, parenting support and drug abuse.
As the meeting progressed, researchers from Baruch College presented a comprehensive survey of households in the Rockaways that called attention to the safety and health of children and teens in the community. Conducted as part of PRYSE, a federally funded initiative, the survey of over 900 households provides an unusually comprehensive portrait of the Rockaways.
Results illustrate that the problem of drugs among youth was the most widely expressed health or safety concern of those surveyed, with nearly 2 in 5 mentioning it, followed by homicide, guns and gangs. Many Rockaway residents, by a margin of 3 to 1, see the problem of youth violence getting worse rather than better. Respondents with children expressed a strong desire for more recreational and after school programs for youth, with nearly 70 percent saying that such programs are most needed in the Rockaways. Most children and teens in the area are not involved in any kind of after-school program, the survey found.
"This survey not only highlights pressing problems facing Rockaway youth, but it points to some potential solutions as well- and, in fact, PRYSE is doing many of those things residents say they want and need," says Zagor.
PRYSE is a partnership between Community School District 27, the police, other government agencies, and an array of community-based organizations that work together on implementing a range of new service and preventive programs in the Rockaways, including recreation and after-school programs, conflict mediation in schools, and counseling and health services for children and families.
The survey also asked about public schools in the area. Parents reported dissatisfaction and concern about the safety of public schools, particularly in the middle and high schools. About 2 in 5 parents say the overall quality of the public schools their children attend is "only fair" or "poor", with 2 in 3 giving the middle schools such low ratings. High schools were rated as having additional problems with smoking, drinking and drugs. As a result, Rockaway parents were found to be increasingly likely to send their children to private schools or public schools outside of the Rockaways, as their children entered the middle and high school years. Violence was cited as the primary reason for their decision.
There were also sharp differences in perception across different parts of the Rockaways as well as among different racial and ethnic groups, according to the survey. For example, people living in the eastern half of the Rockaways report much higher levels of insecurity and much lower levels of trust of their neighbors and the police than do those living on the western half of the peninsula. The survey goes on to note that Hispanics feel much less safe in their neighborhoods that do other groups, and blacks trust the police much less than other groups.
"I’m sure this is the first time the Rockaways has been the focus of such an extensive survey," said Gregg Van Ryzin, a professor of public affairs at Baruch College and director of the survey. "Typically, a survey of this type is done nationally or, at the most, citywide. We conducted over 900 interviews just in the Rockaways. It’s truly a unique look at what people here think about conditions facing their kids and their community."
If you would like to obtain more information about the survey, contact PRYSE Manager, Fern Zagor at (718) 327-8306. Gregg Van Ryzin, Baruch School of Public Affairs, can be reached at (212) 802-5972 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.