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Pomonok after-school program could get ax

Dozens of children attend the rally in Pomok Monday evening. Photo courtesy Sheena Sukhraj
TimesLedger Newspapers

The budget dance between City Hall and the City Council is underway, and Monday night a group of parents and children held a rally against proposed cuts that could wipe out an after-school program at Pomonok Houses.

The Queens Community House Pomonok Center, at 67-09 Kissena Blvd. in Flushing, provides free after-school programs — like homework help, arts and crafts, character development and fitness programs — to about 155 students in the area from kindergarten through sixth-grade.

If the programs are cut, it would have a devastating effect on the community, according to parents.

“Our children’s dreams become a crushed reality with each school, park and youth program we allow to be closed down,” said Crystal McMoore, who spoke at the rally.

She also expressed her concern about what the children will do after school if they do not have constructive environments in which to learn and build skills, a sentiment shared by Susan Matloff-Nieves, associate executive director of Queen Community House.

“After-school programs support the entire family and provide children with a safe and enriching environment during the time between the end of the school day and the arrival home from work of their parents,” she said.

The Pomonok Center’s funding comes out of a mayoral budget category called Out of School Time Program, according to City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), who was not at the rally but is an opponent of the cuts.

The program in the proposed budget for next year is slashed by 20 percent, from the current level of $94.7 million to $75.5 million, Gennaro said. In total, the cuts would threaten 30 after-school programs across the borough, which Gennaro said cannot happen.

“I am deeply concerned about the prospect of these closings,” Gennaro said in a statement. “OST programming is extremely valuable and provides a combination of educational, recreational and cultural activities for young people after school and in the summer.”

But even if the funding eventually gets restored, it will not be enough money to keep up with rising costs, the councilman said.

Increased costs for training staff members means that to retain the same level of current service, the city would need to add additional funding to the tune of about $80 million.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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