2008-03-14 / Front Page

Budget Cuts Could Close Redfern Community Center

By Miriam Rosenberg

As a result of what it calls "chronic federal underfunding" over the past few years, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has announced a plan to consolidate 19 "underutilized" public housing community centers and is actively looking for community-based sponsors for several others. Among those for which a sponsor is being sought is the Redfern Community Center at the sprawling Redfern Houses in Far Rockaway, a complex that has seen more than its share of crime in the past two years.

According to NYCHA officials, the federal government is the major source of funding for the city agency, and it now faces a $195.3 million projected deficit in 2008.

"We are on the verge of closing Redfern [Community Center] if we can't find a sponsor," said Howard Marder, a spokesperson for NYCHA. "We're working hard with a community based organization to find a sponsor. We can't say who now."

Marder said such an organization doesn't necessarily have to be from the Rockaways.

"It could be in the Rockaways, citywide, national, the PAL or a church group," elaborated Marder.

Councilman James Sanders Jr. is furious with the agency for even considering closing the active, vital community center.

"I am outraged [about] any talk of cutting off essential services to our young people at a time of great need," said Sanders. "Especially in a place where you have gunshots and shootings."

Sanders says he is angry that NYCHAdid not contact him in any formal manner to advise him of the community center's future.

"A hearing is not the same as briefing a council member on something impacting his community," he continued.

Sanders, who believes NYCHA needs to request more money from the state and federal governments, is unsure about a sponsor running the Redfern Community Center.

"The God or devil is in the details. What does [sponsorship] mean?" asked Sanders. "If it can cut costs by privatizing… I don't have enough information."

The council member supports a demonstration against NYCHA cuts to be held in Albany on Tuesday, March 18. He will also hold an emergency meeting on the issue at the Peninsula Hospital Center's Meditation Room on March 19 at 8 p.m.

In another cost-cutting move, NYCHA has eliminated 500 positions since October 2007. The agency announced that 27 management offices have been consolidated and another eight will be, shortly.

Also contributing to the need for cutbacks at NYCHA are unreimbursed costs for 21 city- and state-built developments, community services and rising labor and energy costs. More than 500 community-based programs in NYCHA's housing developments will be affected by the budget cuts.

According to a press release from NYCHA, as a result of the cuts "all of NYCHA's community-based services are now at risk. New Yorkers who participate in these programs will continue to have access to services."

Marder concluded by telling The Wave there is no definite time line for either finding a sponsor, or closing the community center.

There was one noticeable difference at this year's parade, which was the addition of the newly formed PS/MS 114 Marching Band. Band director and instrumental music teacher, Harold Robbins, led this spirited group of students, who in September were just learning to play their instruments.

The crowds lining the sidewalks were treated to the talents of the students who proudly played patriotic songs and those of the Emerald Isle. Principal Stephen Grill has always valued the arts in education and made it one of his initiatives to bring instrumental music into the school, in addition to the vocal and visual arts already in place.

The band was accompanied by the chorus, directed by Jodi Timpone, and the cheerleading squad, led by Jennifer Scippione and Christina Licari. In recognition of their efforts, the school received an award from the Queens County St. Patrick's Day Committee, for best presentation.

PS/MS 114, a part of the Knowledge Network LSO, is in its second year of implementation of the Core Knowledge Curriculum. Core Knowledge has allowed our school to implement an interdisciplinary approach to education, with a strong focus on the arts, said Lorraine Engel, Core Knowledge Facilitator. Irish eyes were smiling thanks to the melodious tunes provided by the PS/MS 114 Marching Band, a tradition sure to continue in years to come.

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