Eugene demands mayor restore summer day camp funds

May 13, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Councilmember Mathieu Eugene (at podium) led a protest rally last month and plans to lead another one for funding for summer programs for the city’s youth. Photo courtesy of Eugene’s office

Councilmember Mathieu Eugene, who led a rally last month to call on the de Blasio Administration to provide funding for summer youth programs, is taking his case to the public again.

Eugene (D-Kensington-Flatbush), who is the chairman of the council’s Youth Services Committee, will hold a rally on the steps of City Hall on Monday, May 16, at 1 p.m. to urge Mayor Bill de Blasio to restore summer camp program funding for more than 34,000 children.

Eugene held a similar rally in early April outside City Hall.

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In less than two months, the School’s Out New York (SONYC) summer programs are scheduled to start. But the SONYC program has not yet received funding in de Blasio’s executive budget, according to Eugene, who said that without the funding, the program will have to be canceled.

SONYC provides sports activities, arts classes and leadership training for youngsters in grades five, six, seven and eight.

The cancelation will leave more than 34,000 kids stranded with no place except the streets to spend their summer days, Eugene said. It will also hurt parents, he said, since they rely on the program and might not be able to afford private summer day camps for their children.

“All children deserve to have a safe place to spend the summer while they learn and play. Many parents can’t afford private summer camp programs, so our city’s programs are the only chance for many children to attend summer camp,” Eugene said. “These crucial summer camp programs have helped our children tremendously, and I will continue to fight to make sure that these programs are a priority for our city.’ 

Since the release of the executive budget, Eugene has advocated for more funding for youth programs, including the restoration of summer camp as well as an expansion of the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).

Eugene said he sent a letter, signed by 40 of his fellow council members, to de Blasio, in which he called for youth programs to be adequately funded.

Since that time, he said he has sent several other follow-up letters to the mayor.

In response to Eugene’s concerns, Rosemary Boeglin, a spokesperson for the mayor, issued a statement to the Brooklyn Eagle.

“As announced in May 2015, last year’s additional seats for summer programming were for one year only. We gave parents and providers a year’s notice to plan ahead for this summer. The Department of Youth and Community Development runs the largest summer youth jobs program in the nation, and we increased seats to ensure that more New York City youth have the opportunity to gain valuable exposure and workforce skills over the summer months. We have also extended hours at Cornerstone Community Centers, so both young people and adults can have a safe and supportive environment to be active, learn and develop their skills throughout the summer months,” the statement reads.

The de Blasio Administration has also taken other steps to help young people this summer, according to officials, who noted that SYEP spots increased by 15 percent last year.

In addition, the operating hours for the Cornerstone program, which provides year-round programs for adults and young people in 94 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) community centers throughout the five boroughs, will be extended to 11 p.m. every night from July 7 to Aug. 26.

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