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CB 8 warned of youth program cutbacks

At Community Board 8's annual legislative breakfast at the Pomonok Neighborhood Center in Kew Gardens Hills Friday, representatives of youth advocacy groups outlined categories of youth programs likely to be affected by next year's city and state budget cuts.

About $100 million in state funds and $70 million from city funds are currently slated to be slashed next year from youth programs that serve the city, said Vidhya Ananthakrishnan, a staff associate at the Neighborhood Family Services Coalition, a city organization that advocates for youth programs.

Youth programs within CB 8's district that would take a significant hit from the cuts include the Parsons Beacon Program, Ryan Beacon Program, Queens Community Civic Corporation after- school program, Pomonok after-school program, and an after-school program at JHS 217 run by the Forest Hills Community House.

"The real politics of it is we need to let legislators know that this is a priority for our community," said CB 8 Youth Committee Chairman Rory Lancman.

According to Ananthakrishnan, who handed out a chart outlining 10 categories of city youth programs which will be hurt by budget cuts, each of the 80 Beacon programs within the city, including about a dozen in Queens, are slated to lose $60,000 in funds next year.

Located in public schools, Beacon programs offer support services, classes and activities to community members of all ages during non-school hours.

Next year's proposed city and state budgets also include a $1.05 million cut to After-Three Programs, which operate from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., a $4.2 million cut to Youth Development Delinquency Prevention programs, which operate during non-school hours, and a $5 million cut to Advantage After School Programs, which operate from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition, $25 million in state funding and $13 million in city funding are slated to be cut from the Summer Youth Employment Program, a program that provides teens with seven-week summer jobs at non-profits, camps, nursing homes, and other organizations.

"The Summer Youth Employment Program is one of the most important youth programs because kids aren't in school in the summer and they need something to do," said Lancman. "I would rather have kids working, learning what it means to work and off the streets than running around trying to figure out what to do with themselves."

Representatives of Councilman Jim Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows), Borough President Helen Marshall and Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis) urged youth advocates to actively lobby and make their concerns known to legislators.

"Everybody's getting hurt," said Lenny Speiller, the chief of staff for Gennaro. "They're cutting from the Department of Education, not hiring from the Police Department, talking about closing firehouses. But this is a great team of advocates and we're really doing everything to make sure that the institutions of CB 8 get the funding that they need."

Robbie Garrison, a representative of the Queens Community Civic Corporation, which operates a three-day per week after-school program that serves 180 to 200 elementary school kids every week day, said she and her colleagues were willing to write to whoever they needed to in order to preserve their program.

"The elementary school children are at that preventative age that we should be working with," she said. "I would really like the funds to stay in place. The youth funds need to stay in place."

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300,Ext. 155.

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