It used to be that on any given afternoon, local Red Hook kids would be at the Joseph Miccio Cornerstone Community Center, 110 West 9th Street,, participating in one of the many activities the center’s afterschool program offered, maybe coloring print-outs for art or taking a computer literacy class.
But the center, which also has ESL classes and GED courses, closed June 26 because the city cut funding to the programs that kept the center alive. The programs that the community center had, which were cut for budget reasons included Beacon, Cornerstone, School’s Out NYC and COMPASS.
“The closure of the Miccio is a devastating loss — as not only the site of essential Cornerstone programming, but also a true pillar of the community,” said Michelle Yanche, executive director of Good Shepherd Services, the nonprofit organization which operated the center.
“For 7 years, seniors, youth and families have gathered to seek support, and work together, with the Miccio serving over 1,300 youth and community members annually. Since the pandemic began, the Miccio has served as a grab-and-go meal distribution site and in partnership with local community organizations, has provided over 4,300 meals and essential supplies to youth and families across the community. Its closure will be deeply felt by a community that is still reeling from pandemic, Yanche added.
At Good Shepherd, the closure of the Miccio will be part of 20 overall program closures, forcing 300 dedicated and beloved staff members out of work and suspending services to approximately 3,000 young people and families as of June 30 due to budget cuts.
While it is not confirmed that the cuts will be made at post time as the city readies to pass an austere $87 billion budget, nearly $6 billion less than the one the city approved last year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s (D) proposed city budget eliminates the funding for these programs, despite the fact that he committed to reallocating funds from the New York Police Department to youth services on June 7.
“The details will be worked out in the budget process in the weeks ahead,” de Blasio said around three weeks ago. “But I want people to understand that we are committed to shifting resources to ensure that the focus is on our young people.”
De Blasio didn’t specify just how much money would be transferred from the NYPD at the time of this announcement, and the Miccio and its programs haven’t seen any of these funds.
City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca (D- Red Hook, Sunset Park, Greenwood Heights, Windsor Terrace, Dyker Heights, Boro Park) told Kings County Politics that he believes the situation is “shameful.”
“Anyone who spends a day in Red Hook knows that the Miccio Center does more to keep the community safe than a thousand cops,” he said. “But what the Mayor is doing with this budget is putting the jobs of cops ahead of people who are serving the community. We cannot police our way out of the pandemic, much less poverty. Yet this is exactly what the Council may let happen, and it is shameful.”
Yesterday, de Blasio discussed the city’s budget at his daily press briefing, reiterating without much detail that around half a billion dollars will be moved for youth programming.
“Over this weekend, here at City Hall my office presented to the City Council, a plan that would achieve a billion dollars in savings for the NYPD and shift resources to young people, to communities in a way that would help address a lot of the underlying issues that we know are the cause of so many problems in our society,” de Blasio said. “I am excited to say that we have a plan that can achieve real reform, that can achieve real redistribution, and at the same time ensure that we keep our city safe, and we make sure that our officers are on patrol where we need them around this city. So, that’s something that I think is so important for the future, to strike that balance the right way, reform, justice, redistribution, but always safety.”
He said that the money would, in specific, go toward youth recreation centers and NYCHA complexes, where “the need is greatest.”