Budget Deal Saves Forest Hills After-School Program From Closure

By Nigel Chiwaya on June 28, 2012 3:34pm 

Signs from the students of the Forest Hills Beacon protesting the program's closing
Signs from the students of the Forest Hills Beacon protesting the program's closing
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DNAinfo/Nigel Chiwaya

FOREST HILLS — A Forest Hills after-school program that faced closure will remain open thanks to a budget deal from City Hall.

The Beacon program at JHS 190 Russell Sage, on Austin Street and Yellowstone Boulevard, was originally slated to lose funding on July 1 as part of an effort by the mayor's office to close a $2.1 billion budget gap.

The program, one of one of seven Beacon programs slated for closure around the city, was spared Monday night, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the City Council announced that they had come to an agreement on a $68.5 billion budget that also prevents firehouse and Queens Library branch closings.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz hailed the deal, calling it a victory for the working-class families and children who relied on city-funded after-school programs.

"Despite the many obstacles and challenges that were presented in this year’s executive budget, I am very pleased that we were able to pass a budget that saves many of the city’s vital services including the 47,000 child care and after school programs that were slated to close," Koslowitz said.

For the staff and students of the Forest Hills Beacon, which offers enrichment programs to children and adults six days a week, the budget deal was a cause for celebration. Patrick Pinchinat, the program's director, described the joy on the faces of the children when they heard the news.

"There were a lot of high fives, a lot of smiles," said Pinchinat, who said the staff threw a celebratory barbecue Wednesday for the students, who had designed signs and spoken before community boards in protest of the program's loss of funding.

Pinchinat said that program has been fielding calls from parents who are anxious to register their children for summer camp.

"A lot of people didn't know what their kids would do this summer," Pinchinat said.

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