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Youth program draws teens to Rosedale library branch

But community residents say the branch, which can accommodate about 30 people, is too small to host such a popular and important program.

"Because of the space, the program is not yet fully operational," said Irnel Stephen, secretary of the Rosedale Civic Association. "Students have to wait outside until someone else leaves. It's a matter of access. There is no space."

The program, Building on Success: Rosedale Library Youth Initiative, is a project funded by a juvenile justice grant from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, to provide young people with activities and role models, said Scott Steinhardt, an agency spokesman. The library received $54,000 starting in April this year to cover the costs of employing a youth counselor and a part-time social worker and run homework, computer, and other educational programs for the teenagers, said Joanne King, a spokeswoman for the Queens Borough Public Library.

"The Rosedale program is up and running," she said. "It is in its first year and there are still some things being worked out."

A counselor was hired in July 2003 and in just nine months the program has attracted 1,200 youths for activities, and computer training sessions have drawn 3,400 kids, King said.

The grant also paid for a few new computer terminals, she said.

The Rosedale initiative began as a spin-off of the youth program at the Laurelton branch, King said. A $300,000 federal grant was awarded to the Laurelton branch about three years ago to establish the program to attract and entertain youngsters, she said.

"There was a big problem in the neighborhood with kids who don't have anything directed to do after school," she said. "There's very little in the neighborhood in the way of youth programs."

The community is also filled with youngsters whose parents do not let them go home to an empty house, forcing them to find something to do and somewhere to do it until they get home from work, King said.

"They are effectively homeless after school," she said. "Their parents don't want to give them a key to the house."

The money awarded to the Laurelton library also paid for physical changes to the building, King said. A small expansion allowed more youths to participate in the programs, she said.

The grant for the Rosedale program did not provide for an expansion at the small library, and some say the lack of space limits the effectiveness of the initiative.

The area has seen more families move into the community over the last few years and the growing population has been pushing the capacity of the Rosedale library, Stephen said.

"At one time they were considering having dedicated block times," he said, referring to a plan to allocate time periods to certain streets in the community. "That would have been impossible. It would put so much pressure on the parents to get their children there at that time."

But King said the library has no plans to expand the Rosedale library and the youth program is moving forward.

"It is small but the need is so great for activities to engage these kids," she said.

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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