Six years after Sandy, children’s program still homeless

A day care center that operated out of a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complex in Coney Island until Superstorm Sandy damaged the building still has not returned to the site nearly six years after the storm.

The HeartShare St. Vincent Services Surfside Gardens Cornerstone Program is seeking to return to its original home at Surfside Gardens, a NYCHA housing development at 2940 West 31st St. but repairs of the building are not yet complete, officials said.

Superstorm Sandy hit New York City on Oct. 29, 2012.

Since the storm, the Surfside Gardens Cornerstone Program has scrambled to find space and has operated out of various locations.

“Surfside has moved five times to nearby locations, including Liberation High School, Carey Gardens Community Center and P.S. 288, where the program is temporarily running now,” said Felicia Turner, the program’s educational coordinator.

The program offers after-school and evening activities, as well as a summer camp for kids. More than half of the program’s participants who reside in NYCHA housing are from poverty-stricken families, according to HeartShare St. Vincent Services officials.

The lack of a center also forced HeartShare St. Vincent Services to curtail parts of the program.

“We no longer had late hours, so teens roamed the neighborhood and were subject to street violence. We could no longer run our parenting classes,” said Program Director Radayza Montas.

Councilmember Mark Treyger, who represents Coney Island, is pushing NYCHA to expedite the repairs to allow the Cornerstone Program to return.

“Because of Superstorm Sandy, and quite frankly because of government bureaucracy and incompetence, this has not been reopened. But we are doing everything possible to hold their feet to the fire,” Treyger said. “Due to the displacement, the Cornerstone Program can’t fully offer children in Coney Island the opportunities they rightfully deserve.”

Brooke Rosenthal, vice president of Youth Development at HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, said patience is wearing thin.

“The building is nowhere near ready to be moved into. If you look at the playground, there’s broken glass everywhere and bullet holes in the slides. It’s very sad. Every time I’m there, young children come up to me and ask if the center is opening soon. They are waiting and we don’t have an answer,” Rosenthal said. 

Coney Island residents praised the program and said they hoped it could return to Surfside Gardens soon.

“Surfside saved my life when I went back to school. My son does his homework after school and participates in the weekend program too,” said Kaden Jones, a parent.
“It’s a resource for the community and for our youth. As a child growing up, I participated at Surfside and the program shielded us from participating in wrongful activities in the neighborhood,” said Mustafa Ahmed, one of the program’s workers.
“Coney Island is a small place, but it doesn’t have a lot of services. We desperately need educational, cultural and recreational programs,” said Ronald Stewart, a lifelong resident of the neighborhood.

NYCHA officials did not return phone calls or email messages.

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