May 5, 2020 By Michael Dorgan
Woodside on the Move, a non-profit organization that has served western Queens for decades, faces significant budget cuts that threaten much of its programming.
Each year the group provides thousands of residents with essential services in areas like housing and immigration, and also offers after-school programming for hundreds of kids.
WOTM expects a large portion of its $696,000 annual discretionary budget to be slashed as City Council Members deal with a drastically reduced budget starting July, according to WOTM Executive Director Michael Vaz.
The likely cuts follow the mayor’s announcement last month that he is shaving $2.7 billion from the city’s budget for the fiscal year 2021 – that goes from July 1 through June 30, 2021 – given the lost tax revenue with the COVID-19 shutdown.
Among the programs that may be affected by the cuts is the group’s housing program which goes to helping tenants with affordable housing, landlord/tenant mediation, and other housing-related issues.
Last year the program served 4,187 families – a 5 percent jump in the number of people who used the service in 2018, Vaz said.
However, around two-thirds of the program’s $280,000 budget is now on the line. The group also provides immigration advice and information on immigration matters under its housing program.
WOTM provides after school programming for children in kindergarten up to sixth grade at four different schools: PS11, PS152, PS151, PS361. Vaz believes that spaces at two of these schools – PS11 and PS152 – could be terminated. He estimates a total of 150 slots could be lost.
One of the group’s staple youth programs has already suffered a big blow.
WOTM’s popular children’s summer camp, which runs for about six weeks between July and August every year and caters to around 700 families, has already been canceled.
The Department of Youth and Community Development which funds the camps told WOTM that the camps will not go ahead this summer due to health and safety concerns surrounding the coronavirus, according to Vaz.
However, Vaz believes that budget cuts may have been a factor in the decision to cancel the camps. The camps cost between $300,000 – $400,000 to run each year, he said.
The camps employ about 80 part-time workers who will now be out of a job, Vaz said.
Vaz said that the cancellation of the camps will place a tremendous burden on families.
“This will have a domino effect on the community because now our kids are not engaged in anything this summer and it puts an additional hardship on parents and families,” he said.
He is appealing for city council members to stop further cuts to its programming as it would have a devastating impact on the community and people who rely on these services.
“We understand that certain sacrifices have to be made but we do not want these sacrifices to come at the expense of our youth and families,” he said.