Monday, November 12, 2007

Community Center Struggles With Funding

Community Center Struggles With Funding
By Daniel Amzallag

The Manhattanville Community Center is low on operational funding and some fear it may have to be privatized, according to Maritta Dunn, former chair of the center’s advisory board.

The 133rd Street recreation center is home to after-school activities, programs for senior citizens, and frequent community meetings. “It is essential for every community to have a place where kids can go, seniors can go, everybody can go and have a moment of recreation in safety and in comfort,” said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chairman of Community Board 9.

Despite its low funding, the center has recently undergone a $2.2 million renovation, funded by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). “NYCHA as a whole is short of operational aid, separate from its capital funding,” said Jeanine Johnson, chief of staff for New York State Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-West Harlem.

“It took seven years for it to get renovated,” said Dunn. “It still has a lot of contractual problems.”

The community center is funded by NYCHA, which is currently experiencing a $225 million deficit. NYCHA has taken steps to cut costs, including bringing outside nonprofit organizations to operate community centers, which Dunn said could lead to problems.

Dunn cited the example of the Grant Community Center, also located in Manhattanville, which NYCHA recently privatized. “They gave a long-term lease to an outside nonprofit organization to run the center. As a result Grant residents can only get in there once a month,” she said.

“We’re concerned with the investment that they have now put into the Manhattanville Community Center that they’re looking to go with an outside nonprofit,” Dunn added, saying that such a move would limit residents’ access.

NYCHA Public Information Officer Howard Marder declined to comment on the matter, save for calling any suggestion that the center would close “ridiculous.”

The Manhattanville Community Center used to be run by an advisory board made up of local residents in conjunction with NYCHA, of which Dunn was chair. But because the advisory board was for profit, the Manhattanville Resident Association disbanded it, Dunn said. She asserted that the first step should be forming a nonprofit advisory group. “Then they would be in a better position to work in a cooperative manner,” she said.

“All housing projects are facing some strains as evidence of some of the cuts that NYCHA has made,” Johnson added. “There’s federal funding that needs to come in. The solution needs to be multi-faceted. All levels of government need to take part.”

“We are very concerned about its future, and we are not only concerned, but we will be looking closely into whatever actions NYCHA is proposing to do with that facility,” Reyes-Montblanc said.

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