May 23, 2013 By Bill Parry
Sunnyside, Queens: Hundreds of enthusiastic children, accompanied by their parents, packed the main room at the Sunnyside Community Services Center on Tuesday to make it clear that they are opposed to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed cuts to after-school programs.
The cuts would eliminate the free after-school program at PS 150 and would lead to the program at PS 199 being slashed by 20%. The cuts would affect about 800 Sunnyside and Woodside families.
Across the city, 37,000 after-school seats are on the chopping block—following the Mayor’s budget that seeks to cut the program’s funding by $66 million.
In this neighborhood, Sunnyside Community Services, a community based non-profit organization, administers the after-school programs. It receives funding from the city to pay for full-time staffers and to cover overhead costs.
The programs provide elementary students at PS 150 and PS 199 with homework help and a range of activities between 3 pm and 6pm, Monday through Friday.
The attendees on Tuesday were urged to send a protest letter to the Mayor or voice their outrage through social media campaigns. Many were told to work the phones in an effort to save the programs.
Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer fired up the crowd.
“We should be having a rally to expand these programs, not to save them,” Van Bramer said, adding that it’s the fourth year in a row that the Mayor’s budget has called for the elimination of these programs.
Van Bramer declared the programs as essential, arguing that they help children with their studies and keep them safe after school. “I hope to anger and motivate people that these programs should never be pawns in a budget negotiation,” he said.
Several local parents testified as to the importance of the programs.
Deborah Gody, a single mother of four, said, “These after school programs mean everything to me; if they were eliminated I’d have to quit my job and go on welfare.”
Sandra Fenton-Boyle, a married mother of three, pointed out that after-school programs should never be confused with babysitting. “It allows my husband Ed and I to work and build a better future for our family.”
Fenton-Boyle drew some of the loudest cheers of the event when she closed her speech saying, “When I win the lotto, the first check I write will be to Sunnyside Community Center!”