WILLIAMSBURG —Dozens of parents, teachers and elected leaders reprimanded the city's closure of five public Williamsburg daycare centers — and the distraught community members said the cuts would worsen the neighborhood's cycle of poverty.
"You end poverty by empowering women to get jobs. You don't do that by putting them in a position to decide whether to keep their jobs or care for their families," shouted Brooklyn Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez at Monday's rally in South Williamsburg.
The heated protest on Roebling Street outside the Jonathan Williams Daycare Center — one of the programs to be slashed come fall — was part of New Yorkers' continued effort to battle the city's decision to end hundreds of daycare and after school programs as part of budget cuts.
"We have more value. We are worth more than the pennies he is trying to save," Council Member Diana Reyna yelled, throwing change on the ground as a symbolic gesture. "No mayor can pass a budget without our children being first in line to receive."
Veron Edwards, director of the 91-year-old Graham Child Care Center serving about 400 children annually, said she has struggled to comfort parents who have pled to her for direction when the program closes.
"Last week I was talking to parents and they were crying, asking 'what should I do?'" Edwards said of the Graham Avenue center for children from 2 months to 5 years old. "We have no answers."
Meanwhile, Edwards said she and all her staff will inevitably be unemployed when the program closes.
"Everybody is just overwhelmed," she said, adding that her center's umbrella organization, Colonies of Brooklyn Houses, would be ending all ten of its Brooklyn programs from East New York to Bay Ridge.
In a recent survey conducted by the Campaign for Children in New York City, 32 percent of the 600 Brooklyn families polled said they would quit their jobs to stay home with their kids and 28 percent said they would leave their children home unattended once the after-school programs were cut.
"It's going to have a domino effect," said Vanessa Scott, the director of the Jonathan Williams Daycare Center, also run by the Colonies of Brooklyn Houses. She said many children would also fall behind in school since they would have no education before kindergarten, and warned that the educational disadvantage would have long-term effects for their development.
But WIlliamsburg State Committeeman Lincoln Restler said the community had not given up their campaign to keep the centers open.
"We are going to fight tooth and nail," he said.
The Department of Youth and Community Development did not respond immediately to requests for comment.