Today’s news:

Latimer Gardens slated to close

Elected officials and residents of Latimer Gardens in Flushing are scrambling to find funding to keep a second community center in the area from closing in a six−month period.

The New York City Housing Authority will shut down the Latimer Gardens Community Center, which serves about 300 adults, teenagers and children on a weekly basis through after−school and support programs, Dec. 31 as budget cuts have forced the agency to close 15 centers across the city.

The Flushing center is one of 18 centers, three of which are in Queens, that will be closed in the coming months as cost constraints continue to wreak havoc on city programs.

“It’s unfortunate. We don’t want to do it. We wish we didn’t have to do it,” said NYCHA spokesman Howard Marder. “But the economics make us have to look at what we can do and what our mission is. And our true mission really is to provide low−income housing to the people of the city.”

The Bland Houses Community Center, also in Flushing, was closed by the agency on May 31.

Workers, residents and several elected officials are expected to stage a rally Saturday in support of keeping the center open.

Aida Hawkins, who serves on the advisory board of the community center, said the primary goal of the rally will be able to draw attention to the issue in hopes of raising the funding to keep it open.

“What Housing is trying to do is close these centers so they can rent them out to private centers and it’s not fair,” Hawkins said. “The rental to keep it open is about $367,000 to run it for a year. This is what we’re trying to come up with.”

Similar efforts are underway at the Ravenswood and Astoria Community Centers in western Queens, which are also scheduled to close in the coming weeks.

The rally, expected to be attended by City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing), state Assemblywoman−elect Grace Meng and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D−Whitestone), is scheduled to take place outside of the Latimer center at 34−30 137th St. at 2 p.m.

“In some parts of the city there are several NYCHA housing projects that are close together,” Stavisky said. “But here, since the Bland Houses center closed, the nearest center would be at Queens Community Houses or at Pomonok. It just doesn’t serve their needs. The city should make sure that its residents are taken care of and it’s not.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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