Queens Library Steps Down As Weed And Seed Agent
In a surprise announcement, after almost two years as the fiscal agent for Far Rockaway's Weed and Seed site, the Queens Library said last week it would discontinue in that capacity effective midnight April 30.
Tom Galante, the director of the Queens Library said because of past cuts and expected future ones to the system, his number one priority has to be the interests of the Queens Library and those who depend on it.
"My decision is based on how to apply the library's resources to maximize effectiveness given the funding available," said Galante in a letter to the Community Capacity Development Office of the U.S. Department of Justice - which oversees the Weed and Seed program. "If the library is to sustain some of the programs that were born out of funds from the Community Capacity Development Office, it would be in the best interests of the Far Rockaway community and the CCDO that the library withdraw as the fiscal agent effective April 30, 2006."
"It takes a lot of time and work," Galante told The Wave on Tuesday.
In addition, the Queens Library's Mike Daly told steering committee members he would be stepping down as the site coordinator. Galante said the library intends to remain an active partner in the program.
Ed Williams of the local NAACP and DeShawn Mason of Madison Square Boys and Girls Club are the co-chairs of the Far Rockaway Weed and Seed Steering Committee. The newspaper was able to speak with Williams, but Mason was not available for comment by press time.
"I came to the meeting with no clear-cut answers," said Williams, who tried to contact people at the Justice Department.
Williams said that following the announcements Daly immediately left the meeting.
"No one had the chance to ask anything," Williams said.
"I don't find it a coincidence that the fiduciary and the site coordinator pull out [at the same time]," continued Williams. "I find [the library's] reason why, very disingenuous."
A committee to select a new fiscal agent is being formed. They will also be looking for a new site coordinator. Williams is waiting to hear about the status of the site's funding from the Justice Department. He hopes to have answers to many of his questions by this Friday.
Pammie Fulton of the Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation said those at the meeting were shocked by the library's decision to pull out. As for Daly leaving as site coordinator she said "We thought Mike would be there to see us through the transition from his being chair to the two new co-chairs." Cynthea Greene, who represents the PAL, was not surprised by the developments.
"I wasn't surprised given the recent changes the committee has undergone," said Greene. "The problem now is finding another fiduciary agent in a really short amount of time, and identifying someone else to act as Weed and Seed coordinator."
Galante didn't feel that the sudden pullout by the library, leaving the steering committee with a short time to replace them, would be a problem.
"The actual changeover is not much work," he said. "We have no trouble helping with the transition. We are not looking to bail out."
Far Rockaway's Weed and Seed has been in transition since last October when Daly was replaced as chair of the steering committee because guidelines state no one agency or person can act as the steering committee chair, fiscal agent and site coordinator.
While many might think this is the beginning of the end for the Far Rockaway Weed and Seed, no one The Wave has spoken with believes that.
"It's going to take a lot of work, but those of us who will give the time and engery... I'm hopeful," said Greene, who seemed to best sum up everyone's feelings.
"If we're lucky, this transitional period will bring us together - realizing how tenuous the whole situation is. The area certainly needs all that the Weed and Seed strategy is based upon - and we will need it all even more in the next few years."
Weed and Seed is a strategy that brings law enforcement and local residents together to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in communities across the country.
The law enforcement 'weeds' out the crime, while the 'seed' provides help to social service providers and economic revitalization.
Some of those aided by the Rockaway program are the 101 Precinct's explorer program for young people, the Far Rockaway and Arverne Libraries, and the PAL.
Over the years, RDRC, the NYPD (under which it saw the most growth) and the Queens Library have administered the Rockaway Weed and Seed.