Beginning on February 2, Mosholu Montefiore Community Center will take over youth programming at two northeast Bronx public housing community centers.
Some residents are excited about MMCC, some anxious. Community Boards 11 and 12 will ask the 57-year old non-profit to solicit advice from resident groups.
Edenwald Houses, on E. 229th Street, will enjoy youth programs for the first time in years. Home to 5,450 residents, Edenwald is the Bronx’s largest public housing complex.
“I’m elated that someone is finally paying attention to the Edenwald,” said residents’ council president Walter McNeill. “We’ve had a lot of violence this year. Our younger kids need structure and a safe haven.”
Eastchester Gardens, a smaller development on Burke Avenue, will receive a programming boost. The New York City Housing Authority has operated a successful youth center at Eastchester Gardens for some time.
MMCC will expand service to Edenwald and Eastchester Gardens under the auspices of the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development. On January 13, NYC announced that DYCD would receive $12.25 million in City Council funds for youth programming at public housing community centers.
In February, DYCD non-profit partners will take responsibility for 25 community centers formerly serviced by NYCHA, including Edenwald and Eastchester Gardens. DYCD will eventually release a Request for Proposals.
MMCC executive director Donald Bluestone said his organization would be applying to service Edenwald and Eastchester Gardens long-term.
According to NYCHA chairman Ricardo Morales, the appropriation will allow NYCHA to focus on its core mission – public housing. Morales’ agency is struggling to close a $200 million deficit.
Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott praised the plan.
“Community centers are a hub for NYCHA residences,” Walcott said. “This important continuity of service assures that young NYCHA residents and their families will have access to programs and resources that help them to be successful.”
Eastchester Gardens president Keith Ramsey is less than thrilled, however. Ramsey thought the City Council might fund Eastchester Gardens directly, rather than involve DYCD.
“MMCC has more money than we do,” Ramsey said. “But we have talented individuals here, talented volunteers. We don’t need MMCC.”
Ramsey didn’t hear about the DYCD deal until it was done.
“What if I set up a tent in your backyard, brought my family over, brought my pets over and then knocked on your door?” he questioned. “You wouldn’t like that, would you?”
Community Board 11’s Joe Thompson called on Ramsey to wait and see.
“Eastchester Gardens has a beautiful community center,” Thompson said. “I’m all in favor of getting the best use out of the facility. I just hope MMCC doesn’t leave anyone out of the picture.”
Community Board 12 district manager Carmen Rosa was similarly disposed.
“I have nothing against Mosholu Montefiore,” Rosa said. “But I think a large organization like MMCC needs to include the community in its planning.”
Bluestone met with Edenwald residents recently, McNeill said. Since NYCHA took over Edenwald’s center two years ago, it’s hosted virtually no youth programming.
MMCC will operate after-school and teen evening programs at Edenwald and Eastchester Gardens Monday through Friday, with activities on Saturdays as well.
At Edenwald, art will be a focus. At Eastchester Gardens, MMCC will push sports. Both centers will add MMCC “Boys 2 Men” and “Girl Talk” groups. MMCC will serve at least 143 kids at Edenwald, 168 at Eastchester Gardens.
“I’m excited about this opportunity to expand our services,” Bluestone said.
Ramsey said he would work with MMCC, as did McNeill. Of the 25 community centers to receive DYCD funding and the 11 NYCHA centers to stay open through June, three Bronx sites were previously scheduled for closure.
One of those, Fort Independence, will stay open thanks to a Boys & Girls Club grant awarded to MMCC.