DNAinfo: 31,000 City Kids to Lose Summer Camp Seats Due to Budget Cuts, Pols Say

By  Ellen  Moynihan and Ben Fractenberg | March 23, 2016 7:04pm

CIVIC CENTER — Dozens of parents, students and City Council members rallied on the steps of City Hall Wednesday against budget cuts they said would leave 31,000 children without summer camp this year.

The planned cuts would eliminate programs for middle school students across the city, including 1,500 spots in Brownsville where the child poverty rate is 53 percent, officials said.

“I’m just sad that I have to come here and do this,” said Lower East Side resident Kayla Charles, 13, who has attended University Settlement Beacon since she was five. “You’ve heard about these kids getting shot, getting raped, those are my friends. You’ve gotta understand, as kids, we go through a lot of stuff.”

The city planned to cut the summer camp slots in 2015, but some council members protested and the $28 million program was reinstated.

Mericia Thomas-Reid’s daughter, Jasmine Thomas, is in the seventh grade and has attended the PAL Beacon Community Center in Brownsville for two summers.

“She loves it. It’s like a family there. She calls me and says, ‘Mommy, can I stay?’” Thomas-Reid said. “They go on field trips.  She went to the Nickelodeon Teen Awards. That’s not something I would even know about.”

Thomas-Reid added that she could not afford to pay for a day camp.

“I might have not been able to provide them for a child myself but they’re free,” Thomas-Reid said, “and the hours really work for working parents, it would be a big disadvantage to lose the program.”

Brooklyn Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo said some children are at risk of becoming involved in violent crime without the positive influence of camps.

“Two months can change a young person’s life in the city of New York for the better, or with irreparable damage that they will never be able to recover from.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio has until April 26 to submit his executive budget to the council.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said parents and service providers were given fair warning last May that the programs would not be funded in 2016.

“After hearing from parents and kids, we’re pleased to announce that the administration will fund the full 34,000 middle school seats for this upcoming summer, for this year only — so that families and providers are not left hanging,” de Blasio said in 2015.

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