Eastchester Gardens Community Center has been in transition for nearly a year but it appears that stability is on the way. The city Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) has tapped Neighborhood Initiatives Development Corporation (NIDC) to run the Adee Avenue public housing development’s recreational hub.
“We’re excited,” said Eastchester Gardens Resident Council president Keith Ramsey. “It seems like NIDC is a leader in the field. I hear great things.”
On February 2, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), unable to close an enormous budget deficit, ceded operation of the Eastchester Gardens Community Center, on a temporary basis, to DYCD and the Mosholu Montefiore Community Center (MMCC). When fall rolled around, DYCD put the community center out to bid. NIDC beat out MMCC and Lehman College, Ramsey said. It will run an after-school program, a teen program and weekend activities.
“We’re also excited,” NIDC executive director William Foster said. “We want to develop great programs for participants of all ages.”
Although Foster commended MMCC for its work at Eastchester Gardens, the Norwood-based non-profit had to cope with a number of challenges. It had little time to generate and implement its programs. MMCC had no history with Eastchester Gardens or the neighborhood. Some felt that MMCC failed to include Eastchester Gardens adults.
Although NIDC has never operated programs at Eastchester Gardens, the Olinville Avenue-based non-profit is well known in the neighborhood. NIDC already runs after-school programs at P.S. 96 on Waring Avenue and at Columbus High School.
“I see a lot of kids wearing t-shirts from NIDC-sponsored basketball tournaments,” Perez said. “I know [NIDC is] at some of the schools nearby. When I heard that [NIDC] had put in a proposal for Eastchester Gardens, I thought that was good news.”
At Eastchester Gardens, MMCC ran a “Beacon” program similar to those offered at schools throughout the Bronx. But NIDC will operate a “Cornerstone” program, intended for public housing developments.
From 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, NIDC will offer academic and artsy fun for children aged five to 12. From 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., it will cater to middle school and high school students. On Saturdays, NIDC will run activities for children and adults. The after-school programs will be titled “Eastchester Express,” as in “on a fast track to success” and “express yourself.”
“We want to help young people figure out who they are,” Foster said.
To that end, NIDC will put participants to work on comic books and stage dramas, and will offer classes on poetry and dance. The non-profit will encourage participants to use street art to decorate the community center and online social networks like Facebook to build positive self-image. NIDC’s academic curricula are highly structured, Foster said.
“Most importantly, we plan to provide a safe environment,” he added.
NIDC will employ 20 or more staff members at the community center, Foster said. Its contract will last for three years.
“To be honest, we wanted Lehman College,” Ramsey said. “But NIDC blew Lehman and [MMCC] out of the water. We’re excited.”
Reach reporter Daniel Beekman at 718 742-3383 or firstname.lastname@example.org