2008-03-28 / Community

Redfern Community Center To Close Mid -April

By Miriam Rosenberg

At left: Karen Stevens and her sons Lawrence and Samuel L. Upson represent the faces of those affected by the closure of the Redfern Community Center. Stevens relies on the center to provide a place for her boys, ages 10 and 8, to spend their time after school. At left: Karen Stevens and her sons Lawrence and Samuel L. Upson represent the faces of those affected by the closure of the Redfern Community Center. Stevens relies on the center to provide a place for her boys, ages 10 and 8, to spend their time after school. Just days after a New York City Housing Authority representative denied that the community center at the sprawling Redfern Houses would close its doors, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed that the center would indeed be closing, possibly as soon as the middle of next month, but certainly by the end of the school year.

Councilman James Sanders Jr. confirmed the news to The Wave on Tuesday, immediately after his conference with NYCHA's chair, Tino Hernandez, and general manager Doug Apple.

"I just got off the phone with Tino Hernandez and others, and he said they are going to close the center," said Sanders.

Howard Marder, a spokesperson for NYCHA, elaborated on Wednesday.

"The center is being closed, but no date has been set," said Marder. "We're working with the council members to find additional funding that would allow us to keep the center open, and we're looking for an orderly transfer [to the funding agency] should that funding come through."

Sanders, seen in a photo from last Wednesday's meeting, told The Wave he appealed, without success, to keep the Redfern Community Center open during his conference call with NYCHA's chair, Tino Hernandez. Sanders, seen in a photo from last Wednesday's meeting, told The Wave he appealed, without success, to keep the Redfern Community Center open during his conference call with NYCHA's chair, Tino Hernandez. Doris Jacobs, the president of Redfern Houses Tenant Association told The Wave late Wednesday afternoon that she was informed by a NYCHA representative that they would wait until school ends to close the center. Marder was not able to officially confirm Jacob's information. The developments came less than a week after Sanders held an emergency meeting to discuss the imminent closing.

Last Thursday evening Anthony Richburg, the Director of Community Operations for NYCHA, told parents and children at a closed-door meeting that the center would be shutting down next month.

Richburg said the center would close in mid-April due to underutilization, according a report from Jacobs who was at the closed-door meeting.

"Parents were told they would have to find other places to send their children, and they were given a list of other places," said Jacobs.

Jacobs, whose comments back up those by another source at the meeting, said that NYCHA is trying to find a sponsor to take over the center.

"If they find a sponsor, then it won't close," Jacobs said.

Among those affected by the closure are Karen Stevens and her two sons Lawrence and Samuel L. Upson. The three attended Sanders' emergency meeting last Wednesday night at Peninsula Hospital Center. Stevens said she put her sons in Redfern after their original after-school program closed down. "I didn't know it was available," said Stevens, who added she heard of the center from another parent.

"My son is in the reading program at Redfern. [My other son is] trying to get onto the Lacrosse team at Redfern. They have a computer room and martial arts."

At the March 19 meeting Sanders said, "According to the figures given to us by NYCHA, the city is putting in something like a $160 million. The federal government has done horrible. And the state has not done what it needs to do."

On Tuesday Sanders added, "The sad fact of the matter is operating money must be found. I am appealing to all legislators to get hot on this or else we'll lose it. Everybody must pull their weight."

Sanders sees several problems with the solutions that the agency is floating to keep the much-needed community center open.

Sending the children currently going to the Redfern Community Center to another center located in a different part of Rockaway could spell trouble, he argues.

"They're ignoring the history on the ground [between developments] and the petty rivalry between people of different geography," said the councilman about NYCHA's idea of mixing children from different housing complexes.

In the matter of finding a sponsor, questions remain as to what it will cost to run the center and if NYCHA will contribute to the expenditures.

"NYCHA warned us several months ago," said Sanders, who called a similar emergency meeting last June.

Redfern is not the only NYCHA community center in peril. A budget shortfall of $195.3 million this year, mostly due to underfunding by the federal government, is causing cuts at the agency. Nineteen underutilized public housing centers are being consolidated, while sponsors are being sought for several others.

Of the 165 community centers operated by NYCHA, 14 are in Queens and reportedly three or four are slated for closing. A total of 15 more centers throughout the other four boroughs are due to be closed.

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