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NAACP’s Jamaica-based day care center sues city

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By Betsy Scheinbart

The Jamaica NAACP Day Care Center has filed suit against the city, alleging that the Administration for Children’s Services illegally awarded a contract to a Brooklyn-based organization.

The subsidiary of the Jamaica Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People claims the ACS took “illegal, arbitrary and capricious actions.”

Daniel Cherner, an attorney representing the NAACP, said the city refused to provide specific grounds for defunding one of the NAACP’s programs and did not hold any public hearings beforehand. This, he said, was “in violation of the New York City Charter and the rules of the city’s Procurement Policy Bureau Board.”

Meanwhile, the New York City Corporation Council, which is responding to the suit, denies any wrongdoing.

“We feel there was no such violation and there is no merit to the petition,” said attorney John Epstein.

“This was all done legally,” he said of the awarding of a contract to Miracle Makers, a Brooklyn-based day care center.

The NAACP has operated two day-care centers, the Linden Center and the Montauk Center, both in St. Albans, for the past 30 years, but this year the city awarded the Montauk Center contract to Miracle Makers.

The Montauk Center is the larger of the two and holds seven classrooms, said Tanya Backham, co-chair of the center’s Parents Advisory Committee.

“No one has explained what is going to happen to our children,” Backham said. Montauk has been caring for infants as young as six months, but there is no indication that Miracle Makers intends to keep accepting such youngsters, Backham said.

Miracle Makers did not return phone calls by press time.

“This is a community-based school and we would like to keep it community-based,” Backham said of the center.

Cherner said the city’s efforts to de-fund the NAACP program will seriously affect “the children and families presently served, as well as the community and lead to the layoff of dozens of the program’s group day care employees.”

Cherner said the awarding of the contract to Miracle Workers was in violation of Section 326 of the city charter that requires a public hearing to be conducted by the commissioner or deputy commissioner of the agency for any contract in excess of $100,000, before the contract is signed.

The contract awarded to Miracle Makers was for $428,173, said Lamont Bailey, chairman of the center’s board of directors.

Bailey said his immediate concern is keeping the center open.

“They are telling us one thing and the parents another,” Bailey said of the city’s communication with the board. “They are telling us everything is okay, but the parents are very upset.”

The NAACP can stay on the premises until July 12, when both parties are due back in State Supreme Court.

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.

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