Growing chorus of City Council Members Demand NYCHA Centers stay open
By Stephen Witt
City Council members with large amounts of public housing developments in their district vowed this week to ensure the de Blasio Administration doesn’t shutter 57 NYCHA-operated Community and Senior Centers that will lose their funding on July 1.
The centers were put on life support last year following the federal sequester, but it did affect center sites run by community-based organizations. This includes the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) assuming operation of 45 NYCHA Community Centers and the Department for the Aging (DFTA) assuming operation of 4 NYCHA Senior Centers.
City Councilman Mark Treyger, whose Coney Island district includes a large concentration of NYCHA developments, was among the most vocal.
“Failure to adequately fund the important community centers in NYCHA buildings flies in the face of the new administration’s efforts to end the disparities that exist in communities around the city,” said Treyger. “You do not end the tale of two cities by closing centers that are so crucial to providing educational, recreational and social opportunities. These centers help neighbors come together, and provide our youth with a safe environment and keep our seniors active and social.”
Treyger said the NYCHA housing complexes were built with these centers in mind, which were designed to bring residents together.
“Our city must recognize the impact that closing these centers will have on the quality of life and safety of its public housing residents. Failing to do so is shortsighted and will only lead to greater community issues in the immediate future,” he added.
Fort Greene/Clinton Hill City Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, whose district includes Lafayette Gardens, in which a senior center is slated for closure, said the city cannot continue to cut services and programs that have been beneficial to building relationships and deterring crime within our neighborhoods.
“These centers are beacons for our community, providing a sense of belonging for our seniors and extracurricular activities for our youth. The detrimental effect of budgetary cuts poses a serious threat to the safety of community residents who want nothing more than to see their community centers remain open, particularly during the summer months,” said Cumbo.
“We cannot afford to continue this trajectory and must change the way we allocate funding to preserve these centers for the families who depend on these services each and every day,” she added.
Bedford-Stuyvesant City Councilman Robert Cornegy, whose district includes several NYCHA developments including the Tompkins Houses, whose community center is among those that will lose funding on July 1, said NYCHA resident and tenant association leaders in his district are a consistent strong voice for their community and senior centers.
“They have impressed on me that their centers make our communities safer and play multiple, vital roles, such as connecting residents to recreation opportunities, providing meeting space and giving community members access to needed services,” said Cornegy. “I’ll be discussing this issue with Speaker Mark-Viverito next week and will continue to fight for our centers until the budget is finally passed this June.”
Bronx City Council member Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Council’s Committee on Public Housing, and who grew up in a NYCHA development, said NYCHA ’s community centers provide vital programming and a secure environment for public housing residents.
“As chair of the Committee on Public Housing, I will be working closely with the colleagues in the Council to ensure these community centers have the resources they need to keep their doors open,” Torres said.
Among those that did not return calls about the issue were East Flatbush City Councilman Jumaane Williams, who also serves as co-chair of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, and City Councilwoman Inez Barron, who represents East New York.
A NYCHA spokesperson said no final determination has been made as to whether or not any NYCHA-operated community centers will close.