Volume 16 • Issue 32 | January 9 - 15, 2004

City says no to Downtown youth funds

By Elizabeth O’Brien

Members of Community Board 1 lambasted the city for canceling a request for youth program proposals, a decision they said jeopardized Downtown youth services and wasted time spent reviewing applications for funding.

The decision, announced in late December, came after three C.B. 1 members volunteered countless hours evaluating Downtown programs for city funding under the direction of the Department of Youth and Community Development. Last summer, the C.B. 1 team trained under the agency and then followed its procedures to review proposals and recommend organizations to receive money from the agency’s Youth Development and Delinquency Prevention request for proposals.

“When we dedicated this much time to something and the city takes it away from us, it’s heartbreaking,” said Tom Goodkind, one of the three C.B.1 members on the project, in a telephone interview. The other two were Rebecca Skinner and Janiece Brown Spitzmueller.

Under a request for proposals issued April 13, 2003, select youth services in the C.B. 1 area were to receive a total of $60,000 out of the $21.5 million that was to be split among the city’s 52 community boards and other groups. The request for proposals was cancelled citywide, and C.B. 1 members said they couldn’t believe the Department of Youth and Community Development squashed the good faith efforts of volunteer reviewers in all five boroughs.

“I just find it offensive that they went through this entire process and it was cancelled,” Skinner said at a recent meeting of C.B. 1’s youth and education committee.

But city officials assured the community that their work evaluating proposals would not be in vain.

“The lessons of this work will be incorporated into the next R.F.P,” said Michael Ognibene, a spokesperson for the Department of Youth and Community Development.

It remains unclear how the city’s decision will affect Downtown youth services, said Bob Townley, the director of Manhattan Youth, a nonprofit organization that runs after-school programs in the area. Manhattan Youth’s application got high marks from the three C.B. 1 evaluators, who recommended that it receive part if not all of the $60,000 allotted for Downtown youth services, sources said.

Townley, also a C.B. 1 member, said that Manhattan Youth has received funding from the Department of Youth and Community Development for 20 years, and the organization had expected to receive a portion of the $60,000 allotment. Manhattan Youth will begin an aggressive fundraising campaign to offset the loss, Townley said.

“They’d have to shoot me to end my basketball league,” Townley said in a telephone interview.

City officials insist there have been no funding cuts. The request for proposals, originally scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2004, was scrapped as a part of a major restructuring of the agency’s comprehensive youth services, Ognibene said. All existing city contracts will be extended at least six months until June 30, 2004, with another six-month add-on likely, Ognibene said.

However, news of the extension came as small comfort to Townley. In recent years, the city has slighted Manhattan Youth with very small grants, Townley said. The organization turned down one city award of about $4,000, since it required extensive paperwork that would cost an auditor several thousand dollars to complete, Townley said.

Therefore, Manhattan Youth has no existing contract to be renewed with the city. Without an influx of city dollars, there might have to be reductions in the weekend basketball program, Townley said.

Ognibene declined to comment specifically on Manhattan Youth. He said that other youth service providers in the C.B. 1 area have received funds from the Department of Youth and Community Development.

The cancelled $21.5 million request for proposals will eventually be incorporated into a new request for proposals, Ognibene said. The new plan will be “grander,” he added, noting that the current project’s cancellation should not be a cause for disappointment.

Paul Hovitz, chairperson of C.B. 1’s youth and education committee, disagreed. C.B. 1 has passed a resolution protesting the withdrawal of the request for proposals, he added.

“The mayor talks about providing services for our community, but all they’re doing is running around in circles,” Hovitz said. “And our kids are paying the price.”



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