2009-10-16 / Front Page

Madison Square Boys & Girls To Shut Down

By Miriam Rosenberg

After 14 years of serving local youngsters at its Far Rockaway Clubhouse, the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club is being forced to close its doors as of this Friday, The Wave has learned.

Madison Boys & Girls Club, the official community center for Beach 41st Street Houses, is scheduled to close this Friday due to a financial disagreement with NYCHA. Madison Boys & Girls Club, the official community center for Beach 41st Street Houses, is scheduled to close this Friday due to a financial disagreement with NYCHA. According to a letter, obtained by this newspaper, from the club to the deputy general manager of the New York City Housing Authority, Hugh Spence, the reason for the pullout is financial.

In a September 25 letter, signed by Madison's board president, Myles Gillespie, and the executive director, Joseph Patuleia, club officials expressed regret for their board's unanimous vote to suspend services in the Rockaways after 14 years.

"The Madison Board is deeply disappointed in NYCHA's lack of honoring the $110,000 balance of our long-standing agreement particularly as it did not notify us formally/informally about its intentions. There were no letters, no phone calls, no emails. Furthermore, the Board is equally disappointed regarding this new policy of charging us rent. The Madison Board and staff believe that NYCHA's commitment to the youth of Far Rockaway has changed, and therefore, feels it has no other recourse but to suspend it services there."

Since coming to the Beach 40 Street site, Madison has been responsible for funding its programs and operations. NYCHA took care of building maintenance and repair. The agreement, in which no rent was paid, included an annual cash grant from NYCHA of $232,000.

Despite having different fiscal years, Madison always kept working several months into its fiscal year before receiving a new contract from NYCHA. According to the letter, after inquiring in May why it had not yet received its grant for the first quarter of this year, the organization was informed in a phone conversation that, NYCHA "had no money" and "was not going to honor its past agreement, even though we had continued to provide services a as we had for the last 14 years."

The letter goes on to say, "This [information] was one week before the summer program was about to start. For the sake of the kids, we ran the summer program."

Madison was eventually paid approximately $58,000 for the first quarter of the year. Madison claims there is a non-payment of $110,000 for the two quarters of this year, which ended on September 30.

Madison, the letter states, proposed to run a reduced program at the site that cost $250,000 less to operate than the current one, with the assumption it would continue getting grants from the Department of Youth and Community Development. Over the last three years DYCD's grants have come to almost $140,000. It was at that time, Madison says, that NYCHA informed it of its new policy to charge rent. That meant $160,000 per year for the Far Rockaway site, in addition to which the center would no longer receive the $232,000 grant. NYCHA also said it would not pay the remaining $110,000 due from this year.

Councilman James Sanders Jr. was scheduled to meet with the two sides late Wednesday afternoon. He did not want to address the issue until after the meeting. On Tuesday, he did cite his initial goal for the meeting.

"I'm doing a fact-finding meeting on Madison Square. I'm bringing both sides around the same table, because I want to know what exactly is happening. Who will help be in charge of the center," said Sanders. "I refuse to not have a center for our young people. I'm not going to let some bureaucratic snafu get between us and services for our young people."

Lizzy Brown, the president of Beach 41st Street Houses tenants association [TA], spoke with The Wave prior to Wednesday's meeting. While she said residents understood NYCHA's current budget problems, she also couldn't say enough good things about Madison.

"This community and the TA executive board support Madison Boys & Girls Club for all the good things it provides for the community and the children - educationally and socially," said Brown.

She said that summer camp enrollment this year was so high, 100 children, that youngsters had to be turned away.

"Right now, the plan is for Madison Boys & Girls to move out on Saturday," said Brown. "We're very hurt as a community that our children are being cheated out of a good place to be educated and [to spend time]."

She added, "I hope that I have something positive to say for the community [after the meeting]. Right now we're just so sad."

As of Tuesday of this week, NYCHA spokesman Howard Marder would only say that "we are in negotiations with Madison Boys & Girls and I am not going to talk about the particulars of the situation at this time."

Marder did say that NYCHA is cutting "cash grants to all recipients citywide."

Despite the fact that their contract officially ends on September 30, the 125-year-old Madison Boys & Girls Club - which operates eight clubhouses citywide - will remain open until October 16.

"We are staying open until then to enable the children and parents of the Far Rockaway community to find alternative after school activities and care," concluded the letter.

The Wave will follow up on this story in next week's issue.

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Is not what this organizaton has been doing essentialy been the duty of the Park District? Why is the park district worried about concessions and how much to charge and not about the well being of neighborhood youth?

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