The Neighborhood Improvement Association’s Third Annual summer camp for children in Dyker Heights could be in jeopardy.
Construction going on at P.S. 229, where the camp is held, could close the school during the summer months.
“As parents, we have a loud voice and we can make some noise,” said Laurie Windsor, president of Community Education Council in District 20. “We have very involved parents in this district, some of the most involved parents in Brooklyn. We’re not just going to sit back and accept this.”
Although the camp has not been canceled, the construction, which was approved by the Department of Education (DOE) and Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), could threaten the camp’s operation.
The summer camp, which is free of charge to the community and open eight weeks during the summer for ten hours a day, relies heavily on the facilities of P.S. 229, 1400 Benson Avenue, for its activities.
“We have everyone on our side,” Windsor said. “Elected officials are doing everything they can and the principal is on our side. We’re fighting two city agencies: the DOE and the mayor’s office. According to 311, we are an open site.”
NIA Executive Director Rosa Casella found out about the school’s temporary closing on April 18 through the DYCD, which gives the NIA much of its funding. Casella and other members of the community have tried contacting the mayor’s office and the DOE to find out why they are closing the site down even though most of the construction is occurring outside the building.
“We’re puzzled,” Casella said. “They’re not giving us the right answers as to why they’re closing down the site. Construction has nothing to do with it. Other buildings have construction and they’re open.”
According to Casella and Windsor, official word about the school construction came from the mayor’s office after hearing from DYCD, but it remains unclear if representatives from the DYCD or the DOE have spoken with the School Construction Authority regarding the potential conflict. The administration is closing 105 schools for the summer, including 55 in Districts 20 and 21 alone.
According to Margie Feinberg, a spokesperson at the DOE, “The school is closed because an addition is being added and there is work to the main building. We cannot occupy the building when there is major construction going on. We are working with DYCD to relocate the program to a site that will be open this summer, hopefully a nearby school.”
About one hundred parents attended a meeting held at PS 229 last week to voice their concerns with the construction and develop a plan to keep the camp within the school confines during the summer.
Several parents expressed their concerns that if the camp were moved from the school to another site in a neighborhood further away, they would be unable to drop their children far away because of their work schedules. Many working parents also said that they could not afford alternative private day camps that occur in the area.
“Let’s keep our focus inside the schools and keeping the program inside the school,” one father said.
NIA staff members handed out letters for parents to send to Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg regarding the OST Summer Camp and the coordination of school construction. Windsor urged parents to call 311 as soon as possible and repeatedly. Registration for the camp begins on May 21 and May 22.
“It is a disgrace that this is going to happen,” Windsor said. “We need this program for our children during the summer. With the Department of Education, there’s nothing written in stone. This could be changed.”