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Surrounded by children from their communities, government officials and community groups in Woodside and Jackson Heights held protests last week against Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed cuts of 24,000 seats in after-school programs across the city.
“This is the wrong policy and this stops today,” said state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), who participated in after-school programs when he was young.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) held a rally May 23 at PS 152, at 33-52 62nd St. in Woodside, on behalf of community organization Woodside on the Move’s after-school programs at PS 152 and PS 11, at 54-25 Skillman Ave.
The next day Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) joined with other neighborhood officials near PS 69, at 77-02 37th Ave., on behalf of 82nd Street Academics. The Jackson Heights educational group holds after-school programs at PS 69 and the Renaissance Charter School, at 35-59 81st St. in Jackson Heights.
Both Woodside on the Move and 82nd Street Academics are set to lose their city funding through an $18.2 million cut to after-school programs. Bloomberg said earlier this month the $68.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2013 has a $2 billion budget gap due to tax revenues rising at a lower-than-expected rate.
To make up the gap he has called for cuts to after-school programs as well as early childhood care, library hours and the closing of 20 firehouses.
Bloomberg said during the presentation of his executive budget that he was concerned about the effects of the cut, but he said finding a balance and making choices was necessary.
“We will come to an agreement with the City Council,” he said about the budget negotiations.
Yet to Van Bramer and Dromm, as well as hundreds of students who held up signs in support of their after-school programs in Woodside and Jackson Heights, cutting the after-school programs was unacceptable.
“I want to save Woodside on the Move because many parents have to work hard for rent and the children have nowhere to go,” said 10-year-old Alejandro Marchena.
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said his son goes to an after-school program and, like many parents, would not know what he would do if the program were cut. Many said the programs were essential for parents who work later and provided a place for children to learn and socialize.
“Our kids deserve to be helped with their homework and taken care of,” said Ann Marie Wilson, a parent of a student at PS 152.
Van Bramer said that combined with cuts to daycare and the library, the deficit reductions were unfair.
“It is dead wrong to balance the budget on the backs of these children,” he said.
Dromm said after-school programs are vital to preventing children from being latchkey kids, and that students deserve after-school programs connected to their communities.
“My question to the mayor is what would happen to these kids?” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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