2008-04-04 / Editorial/Opinion

Keep The Redfern Community Center Open

The shortsightedness of city officials never ceases to amaze us. Therefore, we should not have been surprised by the word that the New York City Housing Authority plans to close the community center at the sprawling Redfern Houses, a multi building public housing complex on the border with Nassau County. Redfern has become infamous over the past several years for a spate of shootings and homicides. It is a place where drugs, guns and gangs abound and most of the problems come from teens and young adults - just the population that needs a community center that provides an alternative to the gang life. Money, however, is money and NYCHA has to cut its funding to a number of public housing complexes. Redfern is just one of those that will lose services in the budget crunch. So, a bureaucrat in Manhattan looked at the numbers and figured that the teens and young adults from Redfern could always go to another center - perhaps at the Ocean Bay Houses, the Edgemere Houses or even the Hammel Houses - where they could find similar services. On paper, that looks doable. In reality, however, that is like saying that the Sunnis and Shias should share a vacation house on the Outer Banks. Gangs from those housing complexes have been feuding for years, and a number of homicides have resulted from their close proximity. Forcing the residents of Redfern to go to Ocean Bay for a basketball game would be putting them in a war zone from which they very well might not return. The city should rethink its plan. We know that NYCHA needs to cut funding, but there certainly must be a way to spend less without putting young lives in jeopardy. Howard Marder, a spokesperson for the city agency, told us recently that it has been working with local families and elected officials to insure "an orderly transition process." We don't believe that such a process is possible. We do believe that the closing of the center will mean that Redfern residents will no longer have access to any community center. That is a shame, and the city should rethink its decision.

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