Battle For Beacon Continues

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Students, parents and community members rally outside MS 158 to save their beloved Beacon ProgramTHE COURIER/Photos
Students, parents and community members rally outside MS 158 to save their beloved Beacon Program

“Beacon belongs in Bayside!” chanted a group of children outside the M.S. 158 Beacon Program, just weeks after the Department of Youth and Community Development announced the center is listed for possible closure.

Led by Assemblymember David Weprin, parents, students and residents gathered together on Tuesday, April 25 to stand behind their center and speak for the seven Beacons seemingly destined to shut down.

Following a similar effort by Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi, Weprin sent the mayor a letter, denouncing the potential closure of the Beacon program.
“Beacon programs provide vital services for children and their families,” wrote Weprin. “Cuts to these programs will have detrimental effects on the children and their families that rely on them for a safe and supportive place to go after school.”

In his letter, Weprin quoted a distraught mother.

“There is no option for me to leave work at regular dismissal to pick up my children and deliver them to another program,” the letter said. “As a single mother, I rely on these city resources to provide a safe place for my children to go.”

The Beacon Program was founded in 1991, existing as a subset of Queens Community House and now operating in 80 locations throughout New York City. These “youth-development centers” provide year-round, free services, specializing in young people ages six to 21 and focusing on leadership and skills growth.

Beacons are open after school, on weekends, school holidays, and throughout the summer, representing a program model that has been adopted in over 10 cities across the country. Each Beacon program serves roughly 800 youth and adults.

The Beacons set for closure are Phipps Community Development at I.S. 192 in the Bronx; Heart Share Human Services at I.S. 259 in Brooklyn; Stanley M. Isaacs

Neighborhood Center at P.S. 198 in Manhattan; Hudson Guild at M.S. 414 in Manhattan; Queens Community House at J.H.S. 190 in Queens; Samuel Field Y at M.S. 158 in Queens; and Tottenville High School Jewish Community Center of Staten Island.