Beacon Program closure protest continues

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Community outcry at the possible closure of several Queens Community House Beacon Program centers is growing louder as more neighborhoods, faced with potentially losing their facilities, are speaking out.

“The state of the community’s outrage is an understatement,” said Marva Dudley, president of the advisory board at Parsons Beacon, a center facing possible closure. “It serves so many people and is essential to working parents. The community is devastated.”

According to a representative from the office of Councilmember James F. Gennaro, The New York City Youth Alliance, a group of non-profits, compiled a list of 16 Beacon Programs potentially facing closure. Eight of these programs are located in Queens.

“We know these proposed cuts often occur as the city finalizes its budget, but Beacons are a vital part of this community and must be preserved,” said Gennaro. “If we stand up now, we send a message that we are paying attention, and we take the first step to ensuring the funding continues. And that means all these great kids keep getting the tutoring and supervision they need to succeed.”

Queens Community House is a network of social service providers, assisting nearly 30,000 people borough-wide with benefits such as tutoring and athletics, as well as classes for General Education Diploma (GED) and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

The Beacon Program, a subset of Queens Community House, is a “youth-development center,” providing year-round, complementary services, specializing in young people ages six to 21 and focusing on leadership and skill growth.

On Tuesday, February 13, Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, expressing his opposition the potential termination of a Beacon Program located at J.H.S 190.

According to a representative from the mayor’s office, the possible closure of services such as the Beacon Program is attributable to “painful funding decisions.”

“We are committed to providing the quality programming on which so many rely, and will work within our means to continue to provide them,” said the representative, who alleged that the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) will eliminate seven Beacon programs in the interest of saving approximately $2.1 million in the 2013 Fiscal Year.

DYCD has undergone measures to investigate the effectiveness of at-risk centers, analyzing population and socioeconomic data. This process has not yet been completed.