2008-07-11 / Top Stories

Amid Much Fanfare, Redfern Center Reopens

Smith Announces New Statewide Anti-Gun Initiative
By Miriam Rosenberg

Residents of Redfern Houses were all smiles earlier this week as elected officials and community leaders cut the ribbon that reopened the Redfern Community Center, which has been closed since May due to budget constraints.

State Senator Malcolm Smith allocated the $80,000 necessary to reopen the center, at least through September, after it was among community centers operated by the New York City Housing Authority that were either closed or consolidated due to budget cuts earlier this year.

"This center will keep our children safe and out of harm's way during the summertime," said Smith. "I plan to continue working with my colleagues in government and local organizations to orchestrate a more long-term plan to ensure our youths have recreational options year-round."

NYCHA Chairman Tito Hernandez explained that the center was closed because of the "monetary disinvestments in the agency by the federal government." He added that it was a great day to be reopening the Redfern Community Center. He credited legislators and Redfern residents, especially Tenants Association president Doris Jacobs, in making sure the center did not remain closed.

"We're going to sit down and do some more things to keep it going," said Jacobs. "We're not going to stop now."

In a statement, Hernandez explained that the $80,000 would be enough to keep the center open through the summer.

"The funds will enable NYCHA to operate a summer day camp and an evening program for teens through September," said the chairman, who added that the agency remains committed to continuing the services it provides its residents.

Among others who attended the opening were Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, Congressman Gregory Meeks and NYPD Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Meeks, who grew up in a New York housing project, said that by investing in the young people now, means "There will be less for DA Brown and Commissioner Kelly to see tomorrow."

Brown added, "The reopening of this center today is important, not only to the residents of Rockaway, but also to the citizens of New York City, and now to upstate as well because it sends an important signal that we'll all work together and hopefully have a great deal of success in lowering the level of violence in the Rockaway community as well."

Accordingly, Smith used the occasion to announce a new statewide initiative called "Operation S.N.U.G."

"There has been a number of gun related incidents throughout the city of New York, and it has escalated throughout the state," said Smith.

These incidents have caused Smith and others to expand "Operation C.O.M.P.," put together after the shooting of several people in Rockaway in May, into "Operation S.N.U.G."

"There's a number of individuals who've made a commitment to try to do something for these young people you see standing here," said Smith, referring to children from the apartment complex who attended the opening.

"Operation C.O.M.P. stood for: cameras for Redfern; officer deployment; moving out the "bad apples;" and regular vertical patrols in the complex.

"The new initiative has a lot to do with gun intervention and incidents throughout New York State," explained Smith.

The 'S' stands for street intervention and stopping the violence; the 'N' is for national, state and local funding support; the 'U,' for the use of celebrities such as LL Cool J and Rosie O'Donnell, who have both committed themselves to the effort; and the 'G' stands for gangs, guns and gainful employment as those in the know try to convince gang members that, as Smith said, "Their way of dealing with society is the wrong way."

Meeks told Redfern residents, "The 'Operation S.N.U.G.' program will benefit the state and therefore set up a model we can look at nationally."

Microsoft will donate computers and software that will be used at community centers such as Refern. Some of the programs and issues that will be covered in the computer labs will be desktop publishing, PowerPoint, job readiness and HIV/AIDs awareness.

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