Wills calls on city to boost funding for youth

City Councilman Ruben Wills (c.) and community members call on the city to expand funding for youth programs to help prevent violence. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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City lawmakers have about one month to pump up funding for anti-violence initiatives so they are in place when summer comes, City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) said last week.

With the June 30 budget deadline approaching, Wills and community leaders gathered outside the South Jamaica Houses’ community center, calling on the city to increase funding for several initiatives they contend will help curb the annual spike in violent crime that accompanies the warm summer months.

“We would like these programs to be done now ... so our children have a familiarity with these programs before the summertime comes,” he said. “We don’t want them running to the programs because they’re running from a violent episode.”

A few days before the gathering, shots rang out at the corner near the community center, which is run through a partnership between the city Department of Youth and Community Development and the Southern Queens Park Association.

“The reason that we wanted to have the press conference here at this community center is not so much as the close proximity to the violence that happened last weekend, but it was also because this is the community center where many of us grew up in,” Wills said. “I remember going downstairs and getting training, lifting weights, learning how to box and different things from this very community center.”

Wills wants funding so that several sites in southeast Queens — including PS 40, the Police Athletic League center in South Jamaica and Richmond Hill High School — can participate in a program spearheaded by the Manhattan district attorney’s office called Saturday Night Lights.

The initiative opens the buildings to youngsters during certain hours of the day when the risk for juvenile crime is highest.

The councilman is also seeking to expand the Cure Violence pilot program started in South Jamaica and called on the city comptroller to conduct a study on the fiscal impact of violence ahead of the budget deadline. The program targets areas with high incidences of gun violence and — through preventive outreach — tries to stop shootings before they start.

Those who work with the youth said the extra funding would go a long way.

“We have to reach out to the youth and get back in touch with them. There is a big disconnect between us and the youth,” said Talib Bey, who runs a mentoring program at nearby Rochdale Village.

“When I was growing up, we had community centers. We were able to play basketball,” said Bey, 50. “We did a lot of stuff children do and today those things are not provided in our communities. For some reason it seems like they disappeared.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 12:00 am, May 7, 2014
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Reader feedback

Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
“When I was growing up, we had community centers. We were able to play basketball,” said Bey, 50.

And parents took more responsibility for their kids back in the days. People took more pride in their communities back in the days. People were more involved in their communities back in the day and did not close their eyes to what was going on and held their elected leaders accountable back in the days. All things that seem to be missing today. What about Little League, Pony League, various sports in the community, what about investing in that as well, were young kids learn about teamwork.

How about summer employment for youth, back in the days there were all kinds of employment for young kids especially during the summer time), how about that WILLS, come up with some kind of employment program for teenagers because let's face it, these so-called "violence initiatives" are really not working that well. There certainly is all kinds of work that can be done to help cleanup the community.

BUT what measures are being taken to combat the actual violence that is taken place. I mean this crap has been going on for years and every year we hear the same old story.

Think outside the box.

May 7, 2014, 5:49 am
Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:


May 7, 2014, 7:52 am

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