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Northeastern Queens good place to raise kids: Survey

Northeastern Queens surpasses the rest of New York City as a positive environment to raise children, according to a survey by a child advocacy agency that paints a bleaker picture for other parts of the borough.

The Citizens Committee for Children said the communities of Bayside, Briarwood, Fresh Meadows and Flushing provide the best living conditions for children. Rego Park and Forest Hills also got high marks.

“For thousands of children geography is destiny,” said Gail Nayowith, executive director of the Citizens Committee for Children, at a City Hall news conference where the report was released. She explained that citywide communities vary profoundly in risks posed for children.

“The environment in these Queens communities is ideal for children, offering good schools, clean streets, good housing and low crime,” Nayowith said.

But the survey also revealed 19 percent (up from 15 percent in 1989) of Queens children now live in poverty, although that statistic is worse in the Bronx (42 percent), Brooklyn (34 percent) and Manhattan (32 percent). Only on Staten Island (14 percent) was the child poverty figure lower than in Queens.

Queens neighborhoods presenting the highest risk to children were Astoria and Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Elmhurst, Corona, Jamaica, St. Albans and the Rockaways.

The survey also reported that in Queens:

•Median household income fell from $44,369 in 1989 to $42,439 in 1999.

•63 percent of elementary and middle-school students received free lunches in 2000, an indication of poverty.

•An estimated 47.8 percent of families kept up with the daily cost of living without public or private aid in 1999.

•22 percent of households spent one half of their income or more on rent in 1999.

•13 percent of the class of 2001 dropped out of school; the city's worst such record after the Bronx, which had 18 percent.

•4.8 percent of youths age 16 to 19 were neither in school nor in the work force, the lowest such figure in New York City.

•Births to teenagers 19 and under totaled 8 percent in 1999 with only Staten Island reporting fewer.

•Queens had 10 library books per child on average in 2000, the best such record in the city.

•48 percent of Queens students met state and city reading standards in 2001, the best in the city. Fifty-nine percent of the class of 2001 graduated from high school compared with 66 percent on Staten Island, 60 percent in Brooklyn and 64 percent in Manhattan. In the Bronx, it was 48 percent.

•About one-fourth of the 2 city’s million children live in poverty, the survey said. But some conditions have improved, including a 42 percent decline in infant mortality. Teen pregnancy was down by 15 percent and the total children placed in foster care also decreased.

“The conditions after Sept. 11 created an economic crisis,” said Nayowith, who predicted a grim outlook for the city’s children if the deep budget cuts by the city, state and federal governments are carried out.

Nayowith said rising unemployment and a severe and worsening shortage of low-income housing contributed heavily to the poverty and homelessness in New York.

As to race and ethnic origin, the report said blacks have a 6.7 percent (per 1,000 live births) infant morality rate and nearly 60 percent of African-American children are born into poverty.

Some 53.2 percent of Asian children in the city are born into poverty, and 11.3 percent of Asian students drop out of high school, the survey found.

For Latino children, 71.1 percent are born into poverty, 52.3 of all teens giving birth are Latina, 5.9 percent of Latino babies die (per 1,000) before their first birthday. Latino students make up the city's largest percentage of high school dropouts at nearly 26 percent.

City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez (D-Manhattan) said she felt like crying when she read details of the plight of Latino children.

“Something is very wrong,” she said. “Our children are not less smart. Our women are not less smart and our men are not less smart than anybody else.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.

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