2008-04-04 / Community

No Reprieve For Redfern Community Center

Other NYCHA Rockaway Community Centers In Jeopardy
By Miriam Rosenberg

Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and State Senator Malcolm Smith are seen with youngsters who attend the after school program, during a tour of the Redfern Community Center last April. It had previously been renovated with a new gym, games and other equipment. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and State Senator Malcolm Smith are seen with youngsters who attend the after school program, during a tour of the Redfern Community Center last April. It had previously been renovated with a new gym, games and other equipment. The Refern Community Center is definitely closing - no ifs, ands or buts about it. At least, that's the word from a New York City Housing Authority representative who spoke with The Wave earlier this week.

Last week we reported that NYCHA was closing the center, but was looking for a sponsor to keep it open and that no exact closing date had been set. This week the agency said the community center is shutting down, and it may be sooner than later.

"Redfern is going to close," said Howard Marder, a spokesperson for NYCHA. "We are working with families and electives on an orderly process."

In an e-mail on Tuesday Marder elaborated by saying, "Staff gave each parent at [a March 20] meeting a copy of all the after-school programs in the Rockaways, if they were interested. We left copies in the center for those parents that did not attend the meeting."

He added that the center would probably close no earlier than April 19.

Ever since last week, conflicting reports swirled around the issue.

On Thursday evening, the president of the Redfern Houses Tenants Association, Doris Jacobs, told The Wave that an employee of NYCHA told her that the center would remain open indefinitely. At a gathering for a different issue on Friday night, Councilman James Sanders Jr. said he heard the same thing about the community center.

Marder squashed that rumor on Monday.

"[The closing] has not been put off indefinitely," said Marder.

Sanders' voice lowered with sadness when he spoke with The Wave on Tuesday.

"This is going to take some time," said Sanders. "It's a battle, and sadly every battle you don't win."

The councilman said he is actively trying to find sponsors to keep the center.

"Every possibility we can think of. We're hard at work," Sanders said.

What Marder told The Wave this week coincides with what was told to parents and their children when NYCHA representatives met with them at a closed-door meeting at the community center on March 20. At that time, Anthony Richburg, the Director of Community Operations for NYCHA, said the center would close in mid-April.

Yet, last week Marder said, "The center is being closed, but no date has been set. We're working with the council member 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."

Redfern is not the only community center on the peninsula that could be in jeopardy of closing.

Areliable source, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, said that NYCHA board member Margarita Lopez told a meeting at Hammel Houses on March 19, "If the state doesn't come up with money, more community centers could close."

On Monday, Marder stressed that possibility by repeating what was written in a February 29 statement from the agency about the budget cuts.

"As a result, all of NYCHA's community based services are now at risk," said Marder.

So far, 19 NYCHA community centers have been consolidated. Sponsors are being sought for several others, and several have been closed. Of those closed three are in Queens - Refern in Far Rockaway, Bland in Flushing and Baisley Park in Jamaica.

In addition to Redfern, there are currently three other NYCHA community centers in Rockaway. The Beach 41 Street Community Center is safe because it has a sponsor - The Madison Square Boys & Girls Club. The community centers at Ocean Bay Apartments and Hammel Houses are run by NYCHA.

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