Tag Archives: 21st Council District

Op-ed: Why I support Mayor de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-K


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILWOMAN JULISSA FERRERAS

There’s been a lot of discussion recently about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan for universal pre-kindergarten in New York City. Often overlooked is that the plan would provide more than just high-quality programs for our youngest learners, it would also fund after-school programs for every interested middle schooler in New York. As chairwoman of the City Council’s Finance Committee, I support the de Blasio plan because it’s such a cost-effective way to address one of the most pressing challenges the city faces. As the former director of an after-school program, I support the plan because I know firsthand how critical after-school support can be in developing and safeguarding adolescents. It’s inspiring that both the Assembly and Senate have put forward budget proposals that meet these goals.

As you probably know, the mayor’s plan – which the Assembly also supports – would modestly raise income tax rates for New York City earners making more than $500,000 a year, from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for a period of five years. That’s a smaller increase than previous mayors have sought from Albany for key projects, and still would generate $530 million in new revenue for each of those years. Much of that revenue would be used to create tens of thousands of pre-K slots for 4 year olds, but $190 million would be directed to after-school programs. The Senate Majority Conference proposes funding after-school for every middle school student through the budget. Both proposals offer the funding needed to make the historic expansion of after-school a reality in New York City.

The city currently offers a little more than 45,000 after-school slots, which serve 56,300 students (not every student goes every day) in 239 schools. Fully, one in four children are left alone and unsupervised after school ends, the time of day when juvenile crime and violence are at their highest, and there are 237 public schools in which middle-school-age children don’t have access to comprehensive after-school. The funding from the de Blasio plan would allow the city to increase the number of after-school spots to 95,000—an addition of about 68,800 new slots—across 512 local schools, serving 120,000 children. The goal is for every child who’s interested to be able to participate. Programs would be free, run from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and mostly be run by local organizations experienced in working in the community.

As a former director of one such organization, I spent years running after-school at P.S. 19, a Beacon program, and it was my privilege to watch the effect of high-quality programming on young people who would otherwise be falling behind. Just as early education, including pre-K, is vital to a child’s success later in life, after-school for young adolescents is a bridge that helps them maintain momentum—or, in the case of struggling students, a way to regain lost time and get back on track. Studies show that children who participate in these programs behave better in school, do better in class and on tests, and have improved attendance records. After-school programs also help kids identify subjects and disciplines they enjoy and in which they can excel.

The expansion of after-school programming under the de Blasio plan would be a win for everyone. Far more children would have access to programs that would help cultivate their interests and improve their performance in school, all while ensuring they’re under supervision and avoiding the kinds of trouble that can derail a promising young life. The Legislature must work with the governor to ensure that the funding needed for expanded after-school and universal pre-K is part of the State’s final budget.

Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is also the Chair of the City Council’s Committee on Finance.

Op-Ed: A new alliance for Flushing Meadows-Corona Park


| editorial@queenscourier.com

BY COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

With public review of the National Tennis Center’s proposed expansion in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park (FMCP) well under way, it is time to set our sights on the future of what is the largest and most important open space for the residents of Queens.

Having spent my whole life in and around FMCP, I can attest to the fact that it has not received the attention and resources a park of its size and high utilization deserves.

Although I am sensitive to the budgetary and staffing constraints the Parks Department faces, it must be pointed out that unlike most communities in the city, we in Queens have private entities that greatly benefit from our public space.

After engaging in numerous conversations with the park’s stakeholders, I have come to the conclusion that we must establish a new nonprofit alliance dedicated to FMCP.  I see this as the best way to ensure the community has the quality park it deserves for future generations to enjoy.

Despite hosting upwards of 20,000 people from organized soccer leagues every week, our beloved park only has a quarter of the staff of Prospect Park, though it is more than double in size.

Additionally, Central Park, which is smaller than FMCP, has nearly eight times as many workers.

Our parkland is precious. FMCP is the Central Park of Queens.  It is the heart and lungs of our community.

If a public-private partnership akin to the Prospect Park Alliance and the Central Park Conservancy were to be created, FMCP would be better positioned to attract new revenue streams and incorporate direct community input.

The FMCP alliance board, which will be comprised of a healthy mix of local residents and representatives from the corporations inhabiting the park, will be able to work with the Parks Department in determining how private funds would be best spent for the benefit of the community.

In the immediate term, the alliance would provide a vehicle to which corporate entities operating in and benefiting from the park, such as the USTA and the Mets, could commit financial support for the ongoing care of the park, augmenting the Parks Department’s budget.

My vision for the alliance is to allow its members to represent the voice of our community and be a part of the park’s governance. I look forward to achieving a healthy collaborative effort wherein the alliance can receive funds from private sources to increase FMCP’s dedicated staff and resources it so desperately needs.

Every stakeholder I have spoken to – from the organizations who want to build in the park and local business owners to the soccer leagues and park advocacy groups – agrees that FMCP needs a new alliance, and it needs it now.

As this community is being asked to consider three major development projects in and next to FMCP, we ask the Parks Department and the City to look at these three projects holistically, consider their cumulative impact on the park, and commit to creating an alliance that will help protect this irreplaceable park.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is the chair of the Women’s Issues Committee and is a member of the Committees on Parks and Recreation, Civil Rights, Consumer Affairs, Economic Development, Finance and Health.

 

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