PAL Outlines Transition Of NYCHA Community Centers
For two years, local residents and activists have been fighting to keep the community centers connected to the public housing complexes in Rockaway open and running, on the theory that the centers helped keep teens focused on something other than drugs and guns.
Several times over those years, the centers were saved from closure at the last moment by the infusion of funds by local politicians.
Now, at least two of those centers have been saved once again by the Police Athletic League (PAL), a long-standing youth service agency that has been active in Rockaway for more than 50 years.
Three weeks ago, the PAL took over operation of both the Redfern Community Center and Ocean Bay Community Center.
Marcel Braithwaite, the borough director for the PAL, stopped by The Wave last week to discuss the changes.
"PAL is really excited to be here in the Rockaways," said Braithwaite. "We've been [in Rockaway] for several years with the Beacon program [at Goldie Maple]." He said both sites in Rockaway would feature after school, teen and Saturday programs. Registration for the after school and teen programs began this week. There are no registration dates yet for the Saturday programs.
"Generally PAL programs offer assistance in homework, recreation, performing arts, arts and crafts and sports," said Braithwaite about the after school program which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. and is for ages 6 to 13. The teen program, for ages 14 and up, will run from 6 to 10 p.m. each weekday. Details are still being worked out for the Saturday program.
"[In the teen program] generally there is recreation and performing arts," continued Braithwaite. "It also differs by what the teens want. We spend a little time with them to find out what they like. The Saturday program is not clear yet. We have to spend some time with the community and see what they want."
On February 27, the PAL met with parents at the Goldie Maple Academy where the organization introduced members of the staff who will be running the Redfern and Ocean Bay Community Centers.
Alicia DaSilva is the Queens Project Coordinator and will act as the interim supervisor at Ocean Bay. Valerie Cohen is the site director at Redfern. Parents also met Makeetah Cochy, who is the new director at the Beacon School at Goldie Maple and has been involved in after school programs for approximately seven years.
"Some things will change and some will remain the same," said Cochy, who assured the parents that their children will continue to be in a safe environment. One thing that will change, said Braithwaite, is that - because they are running on the Beacon School model - the centers will now be open to youth from the entire community.
In addition to answering questions, Doug Woodall, the assistant director at Goldie Maple, set the record straight on a rumor that has been going around about the PAL takeover of the two centers.
"There has been a rumor that the PAL came in and kicked children out and told them not to come back," said Woodall. "What we did was we came in and tried to restructure and bring everyone back to Ocean Bay, Redfern and Goldie Maple.
"The centers are open and we are registering. You are more than welcome."
PAL is no stranger to the Rockaways. They have been running the Beacon School at the Goldie Maple Academy for two years. The agency was asked to operate the NYCHA centers by the Department of Youth and Community Development. PAL will run the Redfern and Ocean Bay Community Centers until December 31. During that time, DYCD will put out a Request for Proposals (RFP) to hire a permanent operator.
"We're happy to be doing what we do best, provide quality programming for young people," said Braithwaite, who added that the PAL will pursue the RFP process in an effort to continue running the sites past December 31.