According to Citizens’ Committee for Children‘s 2014 statistics, the neighborhood of Williamsburg/Greenpoint (43.5%) had the fifth highest percentage of children in families with incomes under the poverty lines in Brooklyn, coming behind Brownsville (52.8%), Borough Park (44.8%), Coney Island (44.8%) and Bedford-Stuyvesant (44.2%).
In light of this, KCP asked Assemblyman Joe Lentol and City Council Member Stephen Levin, both of whom represent the bulk of Williamsburg, what their plans are for the district to decrease poverty for children.
City Council Member Stephen Levin (Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Boerum Hill, Vinegar Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, and Bedford–Stuyvesant): “Too many families in Brooklyn face the harsh reality of poverty. Employment prospects are low and earnings are flat. This is made worse by skyrocketing housing costs and a lack of fresh and affordable food. In order to effectively fight poverty we need to take short and long term approaches.
“In the short term, we have worked with HRA (NYC Human Resources Administration) to eliminate barriers to accessing benefits, as well as ramp up outreach to communities in need. This means being proactive by sending workers where they’re needed the most, and increasing access to lines of communication. This year we were able to secure funds for Special Child Care Funding vouchers, which provide quality childcare access to families in need.
“In the long term, we must double down on our commitment to affordable housing and invest in early childhood educational support. (This includes) early literacy interventions, like the City’s First Readers initiative, to improve educational outcomes for a lifetime.”
Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (Greenpoint, Williamsburg): “Within Williamsburg and Greenpoint many of the diverse ethnic communities consists of large families, which operate on the income of one or two heads of household. Unfortunately, as a result of these large families, many of these children live below the poverty line.
“In the assembly I have been fighting to combat child poverty for decades. My fight primarily lies within the state budget by enacting funding for programs, such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), affordable housing programs, early childhood programs in both public and private schools, school breakfast and lunch programs, and extended school day programs. Many of these programs are educational in nature, which provide a learning environment where food is provided and also provides free time for parents to work.
“Through the state budget large swaths of funds are sent to New York City which then distributes it to these programs I also supported increases of the annual availability of credits available under the Urban Youth Jobs Program, which incentivizes businesses to hire disadvantaged youth in high poverty areas. In 2016-17 these credits were increased from $20 million to $50 million. Together with the Governor, the assembly also raised the minimum wage to $15, which will put more money in families pockets to help in alleviating poverty.”