2006-04-14 / Community

Far Rockaway Weed and Seed Works To Put House In Order By April 30

Funded Programs Demonstrate Importance of Far Rockaway Site
By Miriam Rosenberg Contributing Editor

Since last month's announcement by the Queens Library that it will be stepping down as the fiscal agent for Far Rockaway's Weed and Seed site, effective

DeShawn Mason and Ed Williams (co-chairs of the Far Rockaway Weed and Seed Steering Committee) are hopeful that a new fiscal agent can be found by April 30. DeShawn Mason and Ed Williams (co-chairs of the Far Rockaway Weed and Seed Steering Committee) are hopeful that a new fiscal agent can be found by April 30. midnight April 30, a search has been underway for a new organization to act in the role of fiscal agent.

"We are going to set up a meeting with the US attorney to look at OBCDC [Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation] or the PAL to be the new fiduciary," said DeShawn Mason, co-chair of the Rockaway Weed and Seed Steering Committee, on Wednesday. He added that they hope to have a new fiscal agent by April 30.

The search to replace the current site coordinator - the Queens Library's Mike Daly, who is also stepping down - will soon begin according to Ed Williams (the Steering Committee's other co-chair).

"We will be accelerating that discussion as well," said Williams, also on Wednesday.

The US Department of Justice's Community Capacity Development Office (CCDO) runs Weed and Seed. It involves a partnership between law enforcement - which 'weeds' out crime - and the 'seed' or community part, which involves human services such with programs for prevention, intervention, treatment and neighborhood revitalization.

Over the years, various projects have been funded with Weed and Seed money at the old Arverne site and the expanded Far Rockaway site.

In fall 2003, a grant funded a 10-week Comic Art course for local high school students taught by Rockaway cartoonist Leigh Walls at the Arverne Library. The course also involved story telling and literacy.

The PAL (Police Athletic League) uses funding from Weed and Seed to provide safe environments for young people to gather.

"Thanks to Weed and Seed funding, most recently the PAL has been able to expand its programming for the evening center at Far Rockaway High School - where we have been involved since the late 1980's offering basketball, swimming, board/table games - from November to April for youth ages six to 18 years of age, as well as adults," said Cynthea Greene of the PAL.

Last summer Weed and Seed provided $3,000 for a Medical Explorers program at Peninsula Hospital Center.

"Fifteen kids from the community learned CPR, first aid...and worked with various departments," said Liz Sulik, the hospital's director of external affairs. "They passed all their certifications."

Sulik told The Wave that despite the success of the Medical Explorers and that the hospital wanted to continue it, the program was cut by Weed and Seed for 2006.

"They gave no reason why," she said. "We are looking for funding to do it again."

In addition to money on the law enforcement end, the 101 Precinct receives grants for its Law Enforcement Explorer program and the DEFY program. Both are geared to helping young people.

DEFY (Drug Education For Youth) is a program run in conjunction with the NYPD and is completely funded by Weed and Seed. The Law Enforcement Explorers Program uses the money from Weed and Seed for uniforms and taking young people to certain venues that would enrich their lives.

Weed and Seed also funded the first three years of the Rockaway Multicultural Festival, when the event was dedicated to educating the community about services that are available in the Rockaway area. In 2005, grant money was used to provide food for the National Night Out in conjunction with the 101 Precinct.

Weed and Seed - a program that stresses the involvement of community members - has seen community involvement in the Far Rockaway site erode since the NYPD handed over the responsibility of fiscal agent and site coordinator to the Queens Library in October 2004.

Community members constantly attended steering committee meetings prior to the change in leadership. Over time, those representing Rockaway at the monthly meetings became, mainly, representatives of agencies in the area.

Greene believes three things have been lacking that have led to the site's problems: leadership, community involvement and the ability of those in charge to get the community involved. She also feels there is another important reason for the difficulties.

"The chaotic transition from [the NYPD] and Mary Craine-Bachner [as site coordinator] to Mike Daly [as coordinator] and the Queens Public Library did not bode well from that point on," said Greene. "Also whereas, Mary CraineBachner actually knew what the strategy encompassed, having been in law enforcement in the area and having written the original grant proposal, I think Mike Daly was doing on the job training."

Daly, also a former police officer, told the newspaper in October - when he was replaced as the chair of the Steering Committee - that he did not think there was dissatisfaction among the committee members with the way the program was being run among.

Sulik also noted differences between Craine-Bachner and Daly.

Sulik said she never received calls or letters from the library about meetings. Yet, Craine-Bachner sent out reminder emails about each month's meeting.

"I would come to meetings," continued Sulik. "I would like to see really good programs developed."

The next Steering Committee meeting is schedule for April 19, but Williams and Mason said it could be put off until next month to concentrate on finding a new fiscal agent.

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