Troop 253 met in the gymnasium of Flushing's PS 20 for the past year before the city's Department of Education levied a $6,000 permit fee against the group, said Scout Master Evergreen Chou. He said the troop managed to negotiate a reduced fee of $1,280, but even that was too expensive.Chou appealed for help at the Community Board 7 meeting Monday night. He asked for leniency from the fee or for assistance in paying it."They wanted $6,000 for a troop that gets together and pays $2 a week," said Chou's wife, Daystarr, referring to the fee each Scout must pay. "Sometimes what is functional and successful for business is not successful for the community."Chou said the group is now meeting once a week at the Flushing Free Synagogue, but that facility does not have the same sprawling gym space available for more physical games and activities that PS 20 does.Board members suggested meeting at the Boy's Club or the Flushing Armory, but the Scouts also recruit out of PS 20, located at 142-30 Barclay Ave, and Chou said it is most convenient. It is a neighborhood that has seen gang activity in recent years. On Christmas Eve, 15-year-old Pashad Gray was shot and killed in what was rumored to be gang violence on nearby Sanford Avenue."Where we live, there's been two shootings in the last three months. Kids killed by their peers," said Junior Assistant Scout Master John Restrepo, 18, who noted that Pashad was a personal friend of his. "We're a non-profit organization trying to keep kids off the street."Despite the apparent financial distress facing the troop, which draws Scouts from all over the borough, a spokeswoman for the city Department of Education said the city still needs to find a way to pay for the extra resources when schools are used as community facilities."Schools need to set the costs of keeping buildings open late. Custodians and electricity have to be paid for," said DOE spokeswoman Margie Feinberg. "Each school has limited budgets to defray costs, so the people who use the building have to pay. That's nothing new. We can't give preferential treatment to one group without giving it to everybody."Last year, Chou made the same appeal to the community for assistance in paying the fee. Then, he said at the time, Scouts were leaving the troop and joining local gangs in the area. That problem has not surfaced again, he said, although he warned that it could if the kids lose interest in the troop."Around here, there's (gangs) MS 13, and GC - 'Get Clap,'" Chou said. "Right now, it's a pervasive problem. We can help keep them off the street and not just hang with those guys."For more information, contact Chou at 728-888-7412.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@times
©2007 Community News Group
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