Astoria Houses could lose community center

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The community centers at two western Queens housing developments could close by the end of the year following proposed budget cuts by the New York City Housing Authority, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D−Astoria) said.

Astoria Houses could lose the community center it has operated on Astoria Boulevard at the end of December, according to one of the center’s workers who did not give his name. Ravenswood Houses will likely lose its center at 35−40 21st St. in Long Island City by the end of the year, said Brenda Pearson, the center’s director.

The city Housing Authority cuts are expected as the city trims its budget amid a state and national economic downturn, Vallone said. The city budget would still need to be approved by the City Council by the end of the year. A spokesman for Vallone said the cuts to the two centers were not final but likely.

Workers at both centers said the sites provided valuable services for local schoolchildren, who may be left with nowhere to go after the facilities close.

“It helps keep kids out of trouble,” said Henry Odom, a teenager from Astoria Houses who volunteers at the housing development’s center. “It gives them something to do after school.”

Vallone said Astoria Houses’ center provides vital services, including after−school programs, dance, computers and aid for seniors. He called on the city to save the center and upgrade the site.

“We need to cut costs, but we need to do that responsibly and where it will minimize the hurt,” he said. “This center provides resources that this community cannot get anywhere else. Astoria Houses has fought long and hard to improve the neighborhood and we cannot deal it such a crushing blow when we are so near success.”

The councilman said he has secured money over the years to provide anti−gang programs for youth at the center and $10,000 for a youth basketball league. In 2003, he secured $500,000 in capital funding for the center, which he said would be wasted if the site closes. Vallone said he wrote a letter to NYCHA, pleading for the agency to save the center.

A worker from Astoria Houses who would not give his name said the center provides after−school space for 45 children and that an estimated 100 children use its facilities throughout the course of the day. He said the center serves younger children, middle schoolers and teenagers.

“They’ll have nowhere to go,” he said of the center’s potential closing.

Pearson said Ravenswood’s center serves an estimated 30 children per day. She said she was not sure if children who use the center have alternative after−school programs to choose from in the neighborhood.

Workers at both centers said they relied on NYCHA funds to operate their programs.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 6:39 pm, October 10, 2011
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