Tompkins Houses Community Center Slated for Closing
By Stephen Witt
Tompkins Houses residents, still reeling from a recent incident in which a 14-year-old youth (from the NYCHA development) shot an innocent man to death in a gang-related incident aboard a B15 bus, now worry that their community center may close as school lets out for the summer.
The community center is located at 736 Park Avenue and its funding will end on June 30. It’s currently open from 2 to 10 pm, Monday through Friday, where it offers senior resident nights as well as an after-school program and a teen evening program, which includes socialization and recreational activities.
“We need someone to advocate for our community centers even though we’ve been fighting to keep it open,” said Renyeh Alexander, a longtime resident of the development. “I guess we’re not fighting hard enough to keep the centers open. I don’t know what will happen in the future.”
Tyree Stanback, President of the Lafayette Gardens Resident Association and Vice Chair of NYCHA’s Brooklyn West District representing resident associations in 27 NYCHA developments in northern Brooklyn, said the Tompkins Houses Community Center is one of 13 such NYCHA-run centers slated to close within the district.
“What they (NYCHA) are saying is there are new supercenters and they say our kids can go to such centers at the Van Dyke and the Ingersoll Houses. The problem is the culture of public housing centers. Kids won’t go to centers from another development. The kids from the Ingersoll or Van Dyke Houses wouldn’t be welcoming to kids from other centers,” said Stanback.
A NYCHA source said the squeeze on the community centers is a result of federal underfunding worsened by sequestration. As a result, NYCHA announced a series of budgetary cuts that included the elimination of programs at NYCHA-operated community and senior centers (sponsored sites are not affected).
The Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) assumed operation of 45 NYCHA Community Centers and the Department for the Aging (DFTA) assumed operation of 4 NYCHA Senior Centers. NYCHA was left operating 57 centers, whose funding remains in question.
“A determination has not been made as to whether or not NYCHA-operated community centers, including the Tompkins center, will close,” said NYCHA in a statement.
But Alexander said closing the Tompkins center for the summer could be a recipe for disaster.
“The kids are feuding with each other and need something to do. Half these kids can’t even leave this project because somebody is shooting at them or they are being chased,” she said.
Alexander said since a new commanding officer was put in charge of the 79th Police Precinct, the gang problem has died down somewhat, but there is still a gang in her development called Tompkins Get Money (TGM), and they’re feuding with rival gangs along the Myrtle Avenue corridor, which also includes NYCHA’s Marcy and Sumner Houses, and a development on Marcus Garvey and Myrtle Avenues.
It was such a feud that was behind the shooting death of Angel Rojas, 39, who was headed home aboard the B15 bus near the intersection of Marcus Garvey Blvd. and Lafayette on March 19
when he was hit by a bullet intended for a gang member. A 14-year-old youth from the Tompkins Houses was charged with the crime.
According to NYPD crime statistics, felony crime in the 79th Precinct is up a little more than 7 percent for the year, although shooting incidents are down 57 percent.