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City Keeps After School Programs Open Because Of Sandy

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TWC News: City Keeps After School Programs Open Because Of Sandy
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The city reversed course and agreed to keep open dozens of after school programs that it had targeted for closing, citing Hurricane Sandy as the reason. NY1's Lindsey Christ has the story.

The city said it has the money to keep the Child Center of New York's Beacon and 72 other Beacon Centers open for at least the next year and a half.

"I know what a program means to the kids and the impact we make on their lives," Saher Mahmood, assistant director of the Beacon Center at M.S. 226 said. "It just means a sigh of relief."

Beacons provide after school care and other social services, but the city planned to shut 24 of them down by next summer to save money.

After Sandy hit, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and others pushed for the programs to be spared.

This week, the Commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development Jeanne Mullgrav sent her the decision.

"We believe it is in the best interested the city to maintain these vital community services," Mullgrav wrote. "Our Beacons can provide individuals and families with much needed support during this difficult time."

Students said that's what they've been doing long before this difficult time.

"It keeps me and my friends off the street, from getting in trouble," student Matthew Erds said. "Instead of going home, we can come here, hang with our friends, have fun, do homework, and if we need help, teachers are here to help us."

"They teach us right from wrong and they teach us what we're supposed to do and what we're not supposed to do," student Malikah Gaskin said. "They're just like family to us now."

Like many of the city's after school programs, this one at M.S. 226 is already oversubscribed. But since the storm, they've taken in more students who were displaced and needed care.

Despite waitlists and ample research on it's positive effects, after school programming has been among the most vulnerable city services to annual budget cuts.

Seven Beacon programs lost their funding last spring but were kept open this year with City Council money. Those are still at risk of closing in June.

"We've been fighting, not just for our particular site," Mahmood said. "We know what it means for every kid in New York City."

The timing also has political significance.

Since the programs are now safe through June 2014, advocates say they no longer have to lobby the Bloomberg administration and they'll now start to push for New York's next mayor to be committed to keeping these lights on.

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