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Brooklyn allocated millions in funding for arts, education

September 16, 2014 By Matthew Taub Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (podium) announces new funding initiatives with supporters at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
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Significant new funding for a variety of arts and educational programs was announced in a duo of press conferences Monday and in a separate event by the Mayor last week, to the delight of local elected leaders and advocates who had long championed greater budgetary allocations.

$22 Million “Boost” For Capital Projects in 35th Council District

At the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Councilmember Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) announced a $22 million “boost” to arts and cultural programs in her 35th Council District, home to a variety of storied institutions.

“The cultural world gave birth to me,” said Cumbo, a former graduate art professor at Pratt and executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts (MoCADA). “I wanted to do what I could to make sure art and culture remained part of the conversation. It’s really the glue that connects us – it’s what keeps us together.”

The capital allocation includes $5 million for the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), $4.4 million for the Brooklyn Museum, $2.8 Million for MoCADA, $2.1 million to 651 Arts (a non-profit organization dedicated to presenting, supporting and celebrating performing arts of the African Diaspora), $500,000 to the Mark Morris Dance Group, $1.5 million to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, $400,000 to the Prospect Park Alliance and $5.3 million to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden.

Cumbo was joined at the conference by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, as well as a host of officials, advocates and heads of major institutions.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden President Scot Medbury praised the new funding, while admitting that some of the projects were mere “holes in ground” and “not even shovel-ready,” but that he was excited to get started.

Others reflected upon the attention as a welcome contrast for groups that were often marginalized in the past.

“The lack of respect for our fields is legendary,” said Karen Brooks Hopkins, president of BAM. “Our efforts build community and encourage tourism, and that’s before you even get to appreciate the art that is being created.”

More Than $3 Million To Be Invested in Brooklyn Schools

At the New York City College of Technology (City Tech) in Downtown Brooklyn, Adams was joined by City Councilmembers Mathieu Eugene and Inez Barron, Assemblymember Helen Weinstein, and State Sen. Velmanette Montgomery, along with other officials, principals and assistant principals in announcing an investment of more than $3 million into various schools throughout the borough. The money comes from the Borough President’s capital budget.

“This funding will impact the lives of hundreds of Brooklynites, from MetroTech to Midwood to Bed-Stuy to Bath Beach,” said Adams, who received his associate’s degree in data processing (now computer systems technology) from City Tech, and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (and later a master’s degree in public administration from Marist College). “Historically, Manhattan has swallowed the majority of educational and cultural funding. But this allocation today will make sure everything from providing laptops to smart boards to redoing classrooms and libraries gets done.”

State Sen. Montgomery was eager to “join hands with a little money in our hands,” and vowed to “continue to build on the foundation that has been laid.”

City Councilmember Barron was similarly encouraged by the Borough President’s efforts.

“The Borough President understands the value of education,” Councilmember Barron said. Having served as a principal and vice principal, she emphasized the need to foster a desire for learning “from pre-K to grade 20,” and that “to put our dollars where it’s important, we really need the State to be a primary sponsor” of educational initiatives (reference was made to the complex and ongoing campaign for fiscal equity).

Assemblymember Weinstein heralded the allocations as “forward thinking” while Councilmember Eugene reflected on his former profession as a teacher in Haiti to stress how education “is a tool that opens doors.”

Denice Jennings, Assistant Principal for the Wingate Campus, was very happy with the $300,000 in funding her school received.

“I’m truly excited because we’ll be undergoing a renovation of our auditorium, making our graduations and performances a thousand times more enjoyable,” Jennings said.

Mayor Launches $145 Million in New After-School Funding

Last Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio launched School’s Out New York City (SONYC), the largest-ever expansion of afterschool for middle school students via $145 million in new after-school funding for fiscal year 2015. More than 34,000 new middle school after-school seats will be available this school year for more than 271 new middle school programs, bringing the total to 562 citywide.

During a visit to MS 255 Salk School of Science in Manhattan, Mayor de Blasio, Chancellor Fariña and Commissioner Chong met with students participating in a music video club operated by Manhattan Youth, one of more than 100 community-based organizations that are part of the City’s after-school expansion for middle schoolers.

“Learning shouldn’t stop when the school bell rings,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “With today’s transformational expansion of after-school programs to more middle school students than ever in our city’s history, we’re making headway in providing our young adults with an engaging and supportive environment that will keep our kids off the streets and out of trouble between the hours of 3 and 6 p.m.”

“Adolescence is such a critical and challenging period for our students, and enriching and engaging after-school programs gives them the support they need during this time,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Not only do high-quality after-school options keep our students safe and productive during afternoons, they also have a real positive impact on classroom learning.”


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