Cuts to after-school programs, day care still loom


| brennison@queenscourier.com |

Photo Courtesy PAL
Photo Courtesy PAL

Budget cuts may eliminate dozens of Queens after-school programs, including Police Athletic League locations, leaving thousands of children with no place to go after dismissal.

Thousands of Queens parents will be without a “plan b” if child care is not bankrolled in the city’s final budget, advocates said.
Funding for child care was not restored in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s executive budget after a $70 million cut in his preliminary spending plan, pushing dozens of Queens programs to the brink.

“This is how [parents] get to work, this is how they have somewhere safe to leave their kids,” said Gregory Brender, policy advisor for United Neighborhood Houses. “They don’t have a plan b.”

More than 30 Out-of-School-Time (OST) programs throughout the borough may have to close their doors, affecting thousands of children, according to advocates. With the cuts will also come job losses.

“For children, we see again and again the benefits after-school education has on their development,” Brender said. “Now, the city is saying only some kids are deserving of these services.”

More than 5,000 OST slots in Queens would be eliminated if the budget passes in June, according to the Department of Youth and Child Development (DYCD).

“The city will continue to provide high-quality, comprehensive services to our students through the Out-of-School-Time program, and we are working within our financial reality to do so,” said a DYCD spokesperson, who added the remaining programs will be focused in high need areas.
Bloomberg agreed that after-school programs are vital, but said some cuts are necessary.

“I happen to agree with the protestors that [after-school programs are] very important,” the mayor said recently. “Every year we go through the same thing. There are proposals and there is input and there is discussion and argument and we come up with a pretty good budget.”
Police Athletic League (PAL) and Beacon programs also face cutbacks.

PAL is looking for ways to avoid closing any centers, but two centers in Queens will be forced to re-evaluate services.

The Edward Byrne Center in Jamaica and P.S. 214 in Flushing — which each serve more than 100 children — would focus on recreation, sports and arts based programs rather than traditional after school and educational components, PAL Executive Director Alana Sweeney said.

Margaret Bena, whose 6-year-old daughter attends PAL P.S. 214 while she works and attends school, complained that there already aren’t many programs that offer the numerous benefits PAL does, and for free.

“It’s hard to have play dates in the neighborhood,” Bena said, “But in the PAL program, she has so many friends now and her social integration has [grown by] leaps and bounds.”

Two Beacons are set to be shut down, Queens Community House at J.H.S. 190 and Samuel Field Y at M.S. 158.
— Additional reporting by
Liam La Guerre & Tonia N. Cimino