NIA summer camp finds a new home - Program saved from the brink

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There has been an eleventh hour turn of fate for a popular children’s summer camp in Dyker Heights.

The Neighborhood Improvement Association (NIA) has found a new home for their summer program, much to the relief of anxious officials, parents and would-be campers.

The camp faced the real and imminent possibility of cancellation, according to NIA Executive Director Rosa Casella.

The third annual summer day camp was set to take place at P.S. 229 at 1400 Benson Avenue.

But in late April, the community non-profit group was informed that the building at 1400 Benson Avenue would be closed for the summer because of construction.

With less than a week remaining until camp registration, the NIA was yet to identify a new location.

But then the NIA’s Rosa Casella received a late night phone call from District 20 Superintendent Karina Costantino who informed Casella that I.S. 187/ Christa McAuliffe at 1171 65th Street had agreed to host the summer camp.

“When I got that phone call, it’s like the whole world lifted off my shoulders,” Casella said. “Our voices were heard.”

Casella said while the new location was “a little out of the way,” she was relieved and happy that the camp can proceed.

“The kids will be at a summer camp and the parents can go to work with a clear head, knowing their kids will be safe,” Casella said.

Parents also praised the development. A group of parents had planned a protest outside of P.S. 229 on Thursday afternoon. But upon arriving at the school, the parents and children were told the camp had found a new home.

The planned protest became a brief victory rally, of sorts.

“I’m very happy,” said Cindy Rosenthal, whose 2nd grade daughter has attended the NIA camp for the past two years.

“I hope that this had something to do with it and that all of our efforts made a difference,” she said.

Parents had written letters to Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and lodged complaints with the city’s 311 system.

“I’m a working mom,” Rosenthal said. “A lot of the other camps we were looking at didn’t have the later hours, so had this camp been canceled, it would have been tough.”

Jay Carrasco of Dyker Heights, whose son and daughter attend the NIA camp, also welcomed news of the new site.

“It takes away a lot of uncertaint­ies,” Carrasco said, speaking outside of P.S. 229. “It’s a little break for the working class.”

The NIA thanked various community leaders who helped secure the new location, including P.S. 229 Principal Jim Harrigan, Councilmember Vincent Gentile, Assemblymember Peter Abbate and State Senator Marty Golden.

Senator Golden released a statement, saying “For the working parents, it was an impossibility to have this program not open this summer. And for the children who have for many years enjoyed this program, it would not have been fair to tell them that the camp was closed. The children look forward to it, the games, the fun, the friendships and all the recreation, and I was not going to let them down.”

Laurie Windsor, president of the District 20 Community Education Council, said while she was thankful that a new location had been found, she was also still frustrated with how city officials handled the matter.

“We’re still perturbed that the communication came through so late,” Windsor said in a phone interview with this newspaper, referring to the late notice about P.S. 229 being closed during the summer for construction.

“It’s a sin that this happened,” she said. “They should have told us at the beginning the year.”

Windsor said she believed several city agencies were responsible for the lack of communication, including the Department of Education, the Department of Youth and Community Development and the Mayor’s Office.

“You have a situation where the right hand isn’t talking to the left hand,” Windsor said.

Windsor said the late change in venue creates a burden for the NIA, who must now scramble to obtain the necessary city permits.

About 180 children are expected to attend the NIA summer camp, now in its third year.

The camp operates from Jul 1 through until August 15, from 8am to 6pm, Monday through Friday. The program is open to all current New York City elementary students, from grades K through 5 and is free of charge.

Activities include physical education, arts and crafts, dance, drama, creative writing, foreign language and field trips.

While the camp will take place at I.S. 187, registration will still take place at P.S. 229 at 1400 Benson Avenue on Wednesday May 21st and Thursday May 22nd between 6:30pm and 8pm.

For more information about the camp, contact the camp director Linda Panza at 917- 757-8636.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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