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East Village Too Wealthy to Merit Free After-School Programs

By Julie Shapiro | January 10, 2012 6:53am

EAST VILLAGE — The city is slashing funding to free after-school programs in the East Village because the neighborhood has grown too wealthy to receive the services, city documents show.

The 10009 zip code, which covers the East Village, has long been a "target" zip code for the Department of Youth and Community Development, meaning it's one of the neediest in the city and is a top priority for after-school funding.

But this year, local nonprofits and community leaders were shocked to learn that the East Village had been dropped from the city's "target" list, endangering the area's after-school programs starting next fall.

"There may be increasing affluence in the East Village, but there are also huge pockets of poverty," said Robin Bernstein, president and CEO of the Educational Alliance, which runs an after-school program at P.S. 64 at Avenue B and East Sixth Street.

"Doing this by zip code," Bernstein continued, "really misses the boat in terms of serving children with extraordinary need."

The city plans to cut after-school funding in every part of the city this year. The number of after-school programs in Manhattan's elementary and middle schools in both high- and low-need areas will drop to 29 next fall, down from 71, according to city records and the New York City Youth Alliance.

Programs in the low-need areas will be hardest hit, with just five elementary and four middle school programs in all of Manhattan expected to receive funding next fall, down from the 25 that are currently funded, according to city documents.

"It's going to be terrible," said Susan Stetzer, district manager of Community Board 3. "It's going to be very bad. A lot of people have needs in this community."

Marlon Hosang, principal of the East Village's P.S. 64, said he was baffled that the city does not consider the neighborhood a high-need area.

"You wouldn't say that if you came to my school," Hosang said. "I don't get it. There's still a good portion of the community that is high-need, high-risk, and we need to provide them with services."

The Educational Alliance's free, five-days-a-week program at P.S. 64, a Title I school, serves about 100 students a week, including many who live in public housing on Avenue D, Hosang said.

The program — which offers homework help, cooking classes, dance instruction, sports, arts and science activities — costs about $173,000 a year to run, nearly all of which now comes from the city, the Educational Alliance said.

"It would be incredibly devastating," said Tinea Little, director of the after-school program at P.S. 64. "I know the parents. If they cannot have their child in after-school, they can't work. It's really do or die for some parents out there."

Felicia Castro, 45, a hospital manager whose 8- and 5-year-old sons go to P.S. 64's after-school program, said she doesn't know what she would do if she suddenly had to pay a babysitter $15 an hour to watch her boys until she can get home from work.

"I'm very concerned," Castro said. "It's just a shame. [After-school programs] serve the working class."

The city has not yet announced which after-school programs will be cut, only that cuts are coming.

The city determines which zip codes are high-need by looking at how many children are living in poverty, how many are English language learners and how many are in state-subsidized childcare, according to a Department of Youth and Community Development spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the specific factors that caused the East Village to move off the "target" list.

Other East Village after-school programs that could be cut include University Settlement's program at P.S. 63, on East Third Street between First Avenue and Avenue A, and Henry Street Settlement's Boys & Girls Republic at the Lillian Wald Houses, on East Sixth Street between Avenue D and FDR Drive.

More than three-quarters of the children at the Boys & Girls Republic after-school program come from families that receive some form of public assistance, said David Garza, executive director of Henry Street Settlement.

"It's really an all-out assault on working families and the working poor," Garza said.

At P.S. 63, the after school program does more than just teach kids about computers and art — it also offers them a free dinner, because many of them need it, said Michael Zisser, CEO of University Settlement.

"The kids may eat again later at night, but we don't know," Zisser said.

He added that without city funding, University Settlement wouldn't be able to keep the program at P.S. 63 open.

"You don't want these kids roaming around on the streets," Zisser said. "You don't want to see regression. You don't want to see it go the wrong way."