By: Summer Brennan
District Council 1707 leaders and their members, daycare workers, and concerned parents met on the steps of City Hall Wednesday, March 3, to protest the decision by the Administration for Children’s Services to close 16 city-funded day care centers. Of the centers set to close, eleven are in Brooklyn, three are in Queens, and two are in Manhattan.
“We will continue to fight,” said Councilwoman Annabel Parma. “We are passionate about making sure the day cares stay open. They allow families to work, and to stay in communities. “She said the centers were a “safe haven” for children, and must not be closed under any circumstances.
DC 1707 Executive Director Raglan George Jr. urged the City Council to keep the centers open for the children’s’ sake, as well as the parent’s. “Families need these centers to go to work. Closing them will put people out of work,” he said. “The next step will be to close the Head Start programs.”
“During a time of economic crisis, we should be doing all that we can to keep people employed, especially lower-wage workers who are usually more affected by downturns in the economy,” Mr. Raglan continued. “Instead, New York City is eliminating educational services for thousands of young children, placing additional stress on parents in neighborhoods of need. We urge the City Council to restore the $9 million necessary to keep these centers open.”
Also present were children and staff from the Duffield Children’s Center in Brooklyn. Many of the children, mostly toddlers three and four, appeared wearing hand-painted T-shirts over their coats with the slogans “GROW ME WITH NURTURING,” “CULTIVATE ME WTH KNOWLEDGE” and “SHOWER ME WITH EDUCATION.” Speaking on behalf of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Deputy Borough President Yvonne Graham said that closing any of the centers would be a drastic mistake, as they were a much-needed resource for working families. “More quality childcare is needed, not less,” she said. According to other speakers at the protest, the programs set to be closed were not in gentrifying neighborhoods as city officials had said. Instead, these closures would devastate the surrounding communities of working families. Several legislators pointed out that between zero and four years old was the most critical time in a child’s education, and urged that instead of being farmed out to relatives, these children should remain in the centers with state-certified teachers. Protesters also stressed that this was another form of union busting, and most of the workers to be affected by the closings were women, many of them women of color.
It was New York City Council Member Letitia James representing Fort Greene Brooklyn, who stated it loud and clear to Mayor Bloomberg. “You are heartless. Find the money to keep these centers open.”