VIDA Discusses State Budget and Community Issues

Dozens of members of a Democratic Party club gathered in Quincy Senior Residences Saturday morning to discuss the recently passed 2018-19 New York State enacted budget and issues brought up by a lawmaker in attendance.

After general housekeeping where board members discussed community outreach efforts, the Vanguard Independent Democratic Association (VIDA), a community organization based on “community empowerment,” expressed its concerns within Central Brooklyn.

State Sen. Velmanette Montgomer talks about the state budget at the VIDA meeting. Photo by RJ Sonbeek

State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Sunset Park) was also on hand for the meeting. State Assembly Member Tremaine Wright (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights) was scheduled to appear, but was unable to attend due to other commitments.

Montgomery said the most important issue in the budget that affects Central Brooklyn is the continuation of the Extension of Close to Home Initiative, a program that keeps New York City youths that have been adjudicated as juvenile delinquents in the city instead of being sent upstate.

“The governor threatened to take $41 million from those programs,” she said, “I believe the assembly was able to put back $31 million.”

According to Montgomery, a big win in the budget came in education. She was pleased with the funds that were allocated to both youth and higher education.

“Ninty-six million dollars was allocated to libraries and $50 million was given for community schools,” Montgomery told the crowd, “I think both of those are good numbers.”

The issue that got the biggest response was the fight to keep the Old Boys High Campus, 832 Marcy Avenue, exclusive to alternative education. Old Boys is a building that currently houses Bed-Stuy Prep and Brooklyn Academy, two schools that provide an alternative source of education for students who struggled in a traditional high school setting.

“We’re at war again,” Montgomery said.

The current plan would add a middle school to the building, which would force the two schools to share one floor of the building, creating an environment Montgomery said defeats the purpose of the school.

“It is a program that looks at the total young person,” Montgomery said, “I met with a group of about 15 young people, and they were telling me how much that school meant to them. They need their space”

VIDA President Henry L. Butler said that the organization hasn’t gotten the chance to thoroughly review the state budget, but they trust their representatives.

“We do know that our assembly woman Tremaine Wright and our state senator fought hard to make sure resources are being brought home to the district,” Butler said.

Butler hopes that the members in attendance will have a better understanding of when the budget goes into affects and how it works. He said the state budget went into effect April 1.

He said a common complaint he gets from members is they don’t know what the legislature is doing at any given moment.

“People need to understand the different stages of government,” he said.

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