Tag Archives: beacon program

Op-Ed: School buildings need adequate funding


| oped@queenscourier.com

BY COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Long before I was elected to office, I was the Beacon Program director at P.S. 19 in Corona, known at the time as the most overcrowded school in the country. My years of work engaging our neighborhood children helped me understand the effect of school building conditions on their academic performance.

Because their classrooms were overcrowded, the students received less attention to their individual learning needs and more distraction readily intruded upon their focus. I’ve since learned that overcrowded schools are only part of a bigger problem. Chronic underfunding of our school buildings has left too many of our children learning in less than adequate environments.

Cutbacks in school facilities funding over the years have led to widespread school overcrowding and crumbling schools across aging school buildings in many of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. More schools can relieve the overcrowding, but appropriate funding for their operation and maintenance is necessary to keep them all in good, working order. Our children deserve to learn under the best possible conditions in the greatest city in the world.

I’m proud to say I’ve launched an Education Task Force with the help of Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, the School Construction Authority and our community partners to not only improve communication between our schools and parents, but also advocate for better funding of our school facilities and develop long-term solutions.

New York City spends a smaller percentage of its total education budget on building maintenance and operations than most other large school districts in the country, and the percentage of the city’s education budget dedicated to facilities keeps shrinking by millions of dollars, according to a report published in early May by 32BJ SEIU. The union represents 5,000 public school cleaners and handypersons.

According to that report, there are thousands of open building code violations in hundreds of school buildings across the city. As these violations are repaired, the number of building code violations changes, but there seems to be a constant and exorbitant number of them left unaddressed. I worry that in overcrowded schools, the large student populations place an overwhelming demand on dwindling resources and supplies, exacerbating school conditions at a rapid pace.

When toilets don’t work or the heat doesn’t stay on, we place an undue burden on our children and it falls disproportionately on poorer neighborhoods. These are basic things that any one of us would take care of in the privacy of our own home, and the city needs to give the same priority to these issues at our children’s schools. This should increase the urgency of our endeavor.

The City of New York and the Department of Education must allocate sufficient funding to address these problems in our school buildings. School cleaners and handypersons need the right resources and manpower to keep school buildings operating. And just as years of advocacy by parents, students and community organizations got the city to cut the timeline in half to remove toxic PCBs from public school lights, we must focus as a community on the improvement of our children’s school buildings and give them the learning environment they deserve.

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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Star of Queens: Ted Teng, chair, Youth Services Committee of Community Board 11, state committeeman of 25th Assembly District


| editorial@queenscourier.com

Ted Teng

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Ted Teng is prone to say “in any way you can” when talking about giving back to the community.

Teng, who immigrated from Taiwan to New York City at age 2, has been the chair of the Youth Services Committee of Community Board 11 for the past three years and state committeeman of the 25th Assembly District since last September.

One of the CB 11 initiatives closest to Teng’s heart is the fight to keep the Beacon Program in Bayside alive. The program, which offers free after-school and summer school services to more than 700 students, is currently under threat of being shut down.

Teng’s favorite part of the job is advocacy for the community’s children and his “conversations with individuals who find themselves to be voiceless.”

“I love the fact that I can give a voice to these people,” he said.

BACKGROUND: A volunteer emergency medical technician, or EMT, for years since his college days at Stony Brook University, Teng has been known to pull over while driving to assist car accident victims. His experiences as an EMT first taught him the value of giving back.

“From there I learned the importance of helping the community in any way I can,” he said.

Outside of his volunteer work, Teng is the founder of Advanced Teaching Initiative, an after-school academic center that also runs weekend programs and summer camps.

FAVORITE MEMORY: Looking back on his most memorable moment working with the community board, Teng spoke of a letter by a Beacon Program participant. She wrote about what the program meant to her.

“The thing that spoke with me was the program’s not just about academics,” he said. “It’s social skills, arts and crafts. It really gives children a chance to learn new things.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE:  Teng said one of the biggest challenges facing the board is “getting the public to know the problems we have.” He said he hopes the future board will work on stronger outreach to “bring more voice and more press involvement.”

INSPIRATION: Teng said his two young children inspire him more than anything else.

“A lot of it is the ability to show them that especially in this area where I grew up, [it’s important to] go back to your roots and give back to it,” he said. “You do what you can. If you’re in the position to help, you should help. I was very fortunate. I was put in a very fortunate position to make a difference.”

-BY ROSA KIM

 

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Cuts to after-school programs, day care still loom


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy PAL

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

Beacon Program closure protest continues


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

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.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi and locals plead for Beacon program


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

COURIER/Photos

In danger of shutting its doors, a Forest Hills Beacon Program’s last hope may be a plea from a local politician.

Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi sent a letter to Mayor Michael Bloomberg objecting to the possible closure of the Queens Community House Beacon Program, currently housed in J.H.S. 190.

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.

According to a representative from Hevesi’s office, funding for the Beacon Program is allocated in the mayor’s budget for a fiscal year (FY). The Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190 has funding through June 30, 2012, according to the representative.

However, if no funds are appropriated by July 1 (the start of the 2012-2013 FY), the J.H.S. 190 program will most likely face termination.
The representative was unsure as to where the original recommendation for closure began.

According to Patrick Pinchinat, director of Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190, the center is at risk because it resides in a “low-needs zone,” – an area with a relatively low poverty rate and average socioeconomic standing. Pinchinat alleged that 16 Beacons are in danger, including centers in Bayside and Flushing.
Pinchinat said that since the J.H.S. 190 branch was included under a list of potentially closing centers, community advocacy for the Beacon Program has skyrocketed.
“There have been a lot of efforts around [keeping this center open],” said Pinchinat. “[The center] is something that’s really needed in the community. It’s a safe haven we have constructed with activities for young people. We further education. Not only are we after school programs, but we are other services too.”

The J.H.S. 190 program, which opened in 1998, services youth from Long Island City, Jamaica, Rosedale and Woodside, particularly catering to children of minority groups.

“[The Beacon Program] is a reflection of what New York City is: a snapshot of ethnicities and culture,” said Pinchinat. “We’re going to fight because it’s a worthy cause and something the community wants us to do.”

The mayor’s office could not be reached as of press time.

Photo courtesy of Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190

Children who participate in the Queens Community House Beacon Program at J.H.S. 190 are in danger of losing their facility because of lack of funding.