2008-06-27 / Front Page

Summer Save For Redfern Center

By Nicholas Briano

State Senator Malcolm Smith provided a breath of fresh air for the youth of Far Rockaway this week by announcing that he has allocated funding to re-open the Redfern Community Center for the summer.

The center was closed in April in the latest round of budget cutting by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

According to Smith, he has allocated $80,000 in funding to open up the community center, but understands that more must still be done for the youth of the community.

"There is no question that the youth need recreational options during the summer and beyond. I am pleased I was able to identify $80,000 in funding to reopen the center for the summer," Smith said in a written statement to The Wave this week.

"But that is not enough. More needs to be done to keep our children busy during the summer and out of harm's way. I plan to continue working with my legislative colleagues in the U.S. Congress, state Assembly, and New York City Council to help develop more options that better serve our youth."

Despite protests held by local officials pleading for reconsideration, NYCHA closed the center leaving kids in the community with nowhere to go.

Community leaders argued that the center was a vital part of keeping kids off the street and occupied with something other than gangs, drugs, and violence that so often plague the area.

"Following the devastating shooting of 15-year old Brendon Bethea last month, community residents were extremely vocal of the lack of recreational options in the area due to the Redfern Community Center closing," Smith continued.

Therefore, he felt it was important to get it re-opened any way possible.

According to NYCHA officials, they had to close the center because the federal government is the major source of funding for their agency, and as a result of federal underfunding, they are currently facing a $195.3 million deficit this year. NYCHA felt Redfern, along with 18 other public housing centers throughout the city, were underutilized and have been closed or are still facing closure.

After months of coming up short in finding a sponser to keep the center open, Smith has allocated funds, in response to the recent string of violence, to give the youth an outlet of hope to counteract the negativity that has been surrounding the area since the start of the year.

The community centers weren't the only objects of NYCHA's budget cuts. It is reported that NYCHA has eliminated 500 positions since 2007 and consolidated over 30 offices, terminating several city employees. It was estimated that more than 500 communitybased programs in NYCHA's housing developments were affected by the cuts.

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