Bloomberg Administration Silent on Projected Center Closings
Nine days after shots were allegedly fired at police from the rooftop of the Louis Armstrong Houses, five cops suffered minor injuries when bleach was poured on them from one of the development’s windows on Memorial Day.
Meanwhile, the Bloomberg Administration’s press office did not respond to several phone calls and e-mails concerning these incidents or about their plans to close the Police Athletic League (PAL) Wynn Children’s Community Center that serves mainly the Armstrong Houses.
The center, located at 495 Gates Avenue – on the same block as the Armstrong Houses – provides a safe supervised environment along with hot meals, homework help and other activities to hundreds of local kids for free six days a week – allowing many parents in the development to hold jobs.
“I’ll probably cry if they close this center,” said Shefie Linares, a waitress in Manhattan and Armstrong Houses resident as she picked up her two boys, ages 6 and 10, at the center last week. “I’ll have to pick them up from school myself and work shorter hours.”
Yvette Saunders, a single mother of six, said she needs the center to stay open because she just completed a job training program and is scheduled to start work this week after being unemployed for the past six years.
“If this center doesn’t stay open, I won’t be able to go to work because I need my son to go to this after-school program where it’s safe,” she said.
PAL Wynn Center Director Danielle Lynch, herself a single mother of three who commutes from the Bronx six days a week to run the center, explained the center has operated on a $400,000 budget spread out over three years.
Under Bloomberg’s proposed budget, all Out of School Time (OST) programs along with city-funded day care centers have seen city funding slashed, and many throughout the city closed. His administration has also ordered new requests for proposals (RFP) for OST programs and daycare centers, which is leaving thousands of kids without any of these services.
In Bedford-Stuyvesant, besides the PAL Wynn Center, at least three other OST programs will be shuttered and several daycare centers.
“This is going to cause a backward spiral for everybody,” said Lynch, who will likely lose her job if the center closes. “The children, the parents, the grandparents – they all depend on this place. They’re going to lose their own jobs ultimately. It’s scary.”
Lynch, the parents and others have been circulating petitions and holding emergency meetings to try to keep the center open. They also participated in a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge last week to protest the proposed closing.
Meanwhile, just down the street in front of the Armstrong Houses, older teenagers and young adults hang outside while wary police patrol the area.
City Councilman Al Vann said he is doing everything he can to keep all the OST and day care centers open.
“I am very well aware of the fact that PAL Wynn Center is among several after school centers that will be closing based on the mayor’s drastic reduction in “Out of School Time” funding. I also recognize that this particular center is located near the Louis Armstrong Housing Development where the volume of crime is often at an unacceptable level,” said Vann.
“There is a nexus between the availability of recreation and supportive youth programming and crime. I will continue to push for the restoration of OST funding and the restoration of funds to the PAL Wynn Center,” he added.