Far Rockaway Leaders, Residents Take Charge Of Local Program
By Miriam Rosenberg
“There is some concern about what direction and productivity and outcome [there is] under the new leadership,” DeShawn Mason, the director of the Madison Boys and Girls Club on Beach 40th Street and a Far resident, told The Wave. The Queens Borough Public Library became the lead agency for the area’s Weed and Seed program after the NYPD’s term ended. Mason was careful to say he did not blame the library, just the leadership.
For the last year, Michael Daly of the Queens Library has been acting as the de-facto chair of the steering committee of Far Rockaway’s Weed and Seed as well as site coordinator and the fiscal agent.
Many community leaders and residents who showed up at the September meeting came with copies of the official guidelines for running a Weed and Seed program, which states that to avoid undue influence no one agency or person can act as Steering Committee chair, fiscal agent, and site coordinator.
Daly replied by saying “I only found out these things one month ago.” He continued by telling those at the meeting he didn’t have a copy of the document.
Daly told The Wave that he first found out about the provisions, which he said had always been part of the guidelines, when he went to a Weed and Seed conference in Los Angeles this summer. “It was one of the points they brought up,” Daly said.
Mason found Daly’s explanation to the committee “hard to swallow” since Daly and the library have so much contact with the Justice Department (which runs the program), it would have been hard for Daly to step into such a key role without knowing the by-laws or guidelines.
Among those bringing up the question of the chair of the Steering Committee was Isaac Parsee, the deputy director of the Commission of Human Rights in Far Rockaway.
“I’ve been trying to get a chair,” said Daly, in response. “Maybe I’m not asking the right people.”
Daly elaborated by telling The Wave he had been “asking people to take over. Just ask Pat Simon [of Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation] and Mary McCloy [of Joseph Addabbo Family Health Center].”
Simon told The Wave that Daly never approached her about the question of the chair position.
“Who did he ask?” said Simon. “It wasn’t me.”
Although she sent a representative to last September’s meeting, Simon said she doesn’t recall Daly mentioning he was looking for a new chair for the committee until residents brought up the issue last month. The Wave was unable to contact McCloy by deadline time. Parsee suggested rotating co-chairs as a way to avoid undue influence and undue power.
“The role of the [steering] committee is to decide who will act as co-chairs,” Parsee said in response to the Justice Department’s Richard Capobianco saying the department would act as a co-chair. “The decision has to come from us.” Ed Williams is a Far Rockaway resident and a representative for Con-gressman Gregory Meeks and the NAACP.
“I don’t want anyone coming into my community and telling me you know the community better than I do,” said Williams. “Every one of us at this table is capable, with the intelligence to articulate the mandate of the program with some guidance.”
Daly says he welcomes the involvement of the community and did not think it had anything to do with dissatisfaction among those at the meeting.
“I saw it as a community who wants to be responsible and take an active role in running the program,” Daly said this week. “I was very encouraged by the turnout and the energy of the Steering Committee to take charge. It is something that was long time coming. “Hopefully we will have a group that will follow through on what the community needs.”
Mason feels the displeasure with the current Weed and Seed leadership can be traced to this past summer’s cancelled Multicultural Festival.
“A lot of people weren’t pleased about the Multicultural Festival, how it was blown out of proportion,” said Mason.
Daly defends the decision to cancel the festival by saying the festival committee didn’t feel it could be done in the time left after the festival’s coordinator and Weed and Seed parted ways. He also pointed out that the festival took place as part of the National Night Out Against Crime.
Weed and Seed, run by the Department of Justice’s Community Capacity Development Office, works with local law enforcement as well as prosecutors to ‘weed’ out crime. Community organizations provide the ‘seed’ part by providing different types of services to residents. Currently the PAL, the library, the Queens’ District Attorney’s Office and the 101 Precinct receive grants from Weed and Seed.
The issue of Steering Committee co-chairs will be addressed at a meeting at the Far Rockaway Library on Wednesday, October 19 at noon.