Volume 17, Number 46 | April 8 — 14, 2005

P.S. 150, I.S. 89 face possible after school budget cuts

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Olivia, 5, left and Kayla,7, in P.S. 150’s after school program run by Manhattan Youth.

By Ronda Kaysen

Two Downtown after school programs – at P.S. 150 and I.S. 89 — may shut their doors at the end of the school year if Manhattan Youth, the organization that runs them, is not able to secure state and city funding.

“It would be impossible to look to other funding sources at this late date,” Bob Townley, executive director of

Manhattan Youth told Downtown Express. “I can weave magic, but you’ve got to give me some time here.”

Together, the programs serve a total of 235 youngsters and are facing similar funding troubles.

The P.S. 150 after school program serves 60 children — one third of the student body – and has been funded for the past five years with a $54,000-a-year New York State Advantage grant that expires at the end of the school year.

The state has not released a request for proposals for the grant yet, spurring concerns from Townley that funds will not been allocated for the grant in this year’s state budget, which was approved by the State Legislature last week.

Although the budget was approved, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which includes the Advantage grant, is still being negotiated by the legislature.

“The program will continue functioning as it has been and the R.F.P.s will be going out,” said Peter Constantakes, a spokesperson for the State Division of Budget in the governor’s office. He could not say how long it would take for the RFPs to be released.

With less than six months remaining until the start of the 2005 school year, Townley is skeptical he would be able to find an alternative funding source for the myriad programs he runs for the kindergarteners through fifth graders who attend the five-day a week program.

“I don’t know how people expect programs to plan if they don’t tell you [if the funding is available],” Townley said. “You can’t in July just tell me that the program’s not happening in September.”

I.S. 89’s 175-student after school program for middle school children is awaiting word from the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development department. In February, the organization applied for a $118,000 grant – 60 percent of the program’s operating budget — and will hear whether or not the funding has been approved by July.

The organization also needs to raise $40,000 in matching funds for the grant, which Townley is confident Manhattan Youth will successfully raise.

“We’re talking about hundreds of kids, but everybody wants to get involved in controversy,” Townley said about the dearth of a public outcry to his funding crisis. “Good hardcore programming and development, those are difficult issues.”

Townley anticipates that once a new community center for Manhattan Youth opens in Tribeca in 2007, funding crises will be better averted in the future.

“We need this capital space and we need it for free,” he said of the 28,000 sq. ft. center, which was negotiated last September as part of a development agreement between Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff and the community. ”It will give us tremendous flexibility.”

Even without a permanent home for Manhattan Youth, not everyone is convinced a crisis is at hand for the after school programs. Alyssa Pollack, principal of P.S. 150, is confident the program at her school will return next fall. “Our program is vital and every year it works out,” she said. “We’re going to find a way to make it work. We have a strong parent support and they’re great advocates for their kids, so I’m not worried.”

Among those advocates is Merrill Hesch, a P.S. 150 parent with twins in the Manhattan Youth after school program and the liaison between the program and the P.T.A. “It would be of grave concern to many of our parents [at P.S. 150] if the program wasn’t there,” she said, noting that her nine-year-olds have been attending the program five days a week for the past five years. “It’s been a very popular program. It’s fun for the kids and it’s been run very well. I’m hoping that we’ll figure this all out in the next few months.”

Ronda@DowntownExpress.com

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