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Sunnyside’s P.S. 150 After-School Program in Jeopardy

March 24, 2010 By Christian Murray

More than 250 parents, teachers and children filled the assembly hall at P.S. 150 Tuesday night to protest the city’s decision to close P.S. 150’s “after-school program”.

Parents and children, one by one, went up to the microphone and told audience members of the benefits the program has brought since its 1983 founding – as well as the hardship that its closing would cause.

“The program reinforces the importance of homework,” said Peter Hidasi, a parent. “My son and daughter have gained enormous confidence from karate lessons and art classes.” He added that “I cannot imagine the task of finding someone to look after them. Education is their future and this is a travesty.”

The NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) plans to stop funding 33 after-school programs out of the more than 500 city-funded programs throughout the 5 boroughs. The PS 150 Sunnyside program is one of them and it receives $296,000 of DYCD funds each year.

Without those funds, the program would almost certainly be shut down.

But Christopher Caruso, assistant commissioner of DYCD, said that the department was under pressure to make budget cuts. It evaluated all 500 programs and decided Sunnyside’s was viewed as a “low priority zip code.”

Caruso said the department’s decision was based on a number of criteria:

  • How many children live in a zip code
  • The poverty rate
  • Number of 16 to 19 year-olds not in school or in the workforce
  • Number of people who receive state-subsidized child care
  • Number of English speakers
  • Number of Single family households

But Judy Zangwill, the executive director of Sunnyside Community Services which runs the program, said DYCD’s data is too focused on the neighborhood in general. “We say it doesn’t accurately reflect the kids at the school.”

For instance, more than 80 percent of students at PS 150 are eligible for the free or reduced-cost lunch program.

The DYCD based its decision to cut the program on 2005 statistics, which surprised many in attendance. School officials want the DYCD to make its case using more current data.

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who lives a few blocks away from the school, told the audience that “under no circumstances, not now, not ever will this program be discontinued. This budget battle is not over yet.”

Van Bramer said he was in Israel sitting next to Speaker Christine Quinn when he was alerted to the cuts– and she was the first person he told. He has called the head of the Finance Committee and the Commissioner of DYCD to stop the cuts.

Moreover, he said that before the cut occurs, the DYCD’s budget has to go before the council in June. He said he would urge fellow lawmakers to restore the funds.

But parents and teachers at the school remained shaken by the possibility of the program’s closing.

Carmen Parache, the school principal, said, “Our school is an ‘A’ school and it hasn’t happened without reason. The after-school program provides homework support and structure.”

Parache said the school is a Title 1 school so many parents can not afford to put their children in after-school.

A petition drive will continue and attendees (as well as the general public) were advised to call 311 to complain.

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5 Comments

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Restored

The funding for the afterschool program was restored in July. Happy ending for all.

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Mike Novak

Anonymous, how many children do you have? The after school program is invaluable to the working parents of the neighborhood as it provides a safe and enriching environment for kids after school while parents are at work.

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Anon

“Number of Single family households”… Where is this, Soviet Russia?

NYC can’t AFFORD “500 programs throughout the 5 boroughs”., especially when this ONE program costs$296,000.00 per year. Keep Firehouses open and let the pupils do their “homework” at HOME. After school Karate and Art classes don’t have to be provided by Taxes, enough!

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