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Bayside’s Beacon Program through the Samuel Field Y in Little Neck could be one of seven citywide programs to close this summer, according to an announcement from the city Department of Youth and Community Development.
The programs were cut in response to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $2.1 million in proposed budget reductions. The reductions would need final approval by the City Council before the new fiscal year begins July 1.
Samuel Field Y Executive Vice President and CEO Dr. Steve Goodman said axing his MS 158 Beacon Program would disregard nearly 20 years of hard work.
“We kept kids off the streets, reduced crime and basically raised the academic performance of the kids and created a wonderful resource for the community,” Goodman said. “We feel we’ve driven the economic engine of the community.”
The Beacon programs are academically driven community centers that operate after school, during summer vacation and on weekends and holidays to provide activities for children and families. Programs include basketball, Tae Kwon Do, counseling, vocational training, dance, drama and more.
Out of 81 Beacon programs currently running in New York City, MS 158, at 46-35 Oceania St. in Bayside, was chosen based upon the area’s socio-economic needs. Goodman said the program was being cut because of its success, not its failure.
“We are very deeply concerned that we will see kids on the street unsupervised or at risk,” Goodman said. “The community is losing this service that’s been critically important in bringing it to this level of success. It wasn’t always like that.”
The seven Beacon programs to be shut down included Queens’ Samuel Field Y, at MS 158 in Bayside, and Forest Hills’ Queens Community House, at JHS 190, along with the Tottenville High School Jewish Community Center of Staten Island, the Phipps Community Development at IS 192 in the Bronx, Heart Share Human Services at IS 259 in Brooklyn, Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center at PS 198 in Manhattan and Hudson Guild at MS 414 in Manhattan.
The news disturbed City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), who said residents of Bayside and Little Neck were losing an invaluable resource.
“Once again, northeast Queens gets the short end of the stick,” Halloran said. “Parents rely on the Beacon programs to provide a safe and nurturing environment after school.”
Halloran said that although each Beacon Program costs about $334,000 to operate annually, it is a necessary cost in servicing the local community.
“City Hall bureaucrats must think we’re flush with services here in Bayside. They are wrong,” Halloran said. “If they came out to see what is happening in our schools in northeast Queens, they would realize that we need Beacon programs.”
The councilman said the city should reconsider its plan and instead trim costs from each program to avoid closures.
The Y’s Goodman said cutting Beacon programs to save the city $2.1 million was the wrong way to go about saving money.
“I believe this is a very small investment in the youth of our city,” Goodman said. “We believe it could very well destabilize a neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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