With the Youth Operator Request for Proposals (RF) process starting over, we now have an opportunity – and a duty – to honestly discuss what we, as a community, want from our Island’s Youth Center.
Let’s start with the facility – located at 506 Main Street, the space needs so much work that RIOC President Susan Rosenthal, after a walkthrough months ago, said, “It’s a shame that this is Roosevelt Island’s youth center.”
Charlie Defino, executive director of the Roosevelt Island Youth Program (RIYP), which currently operates the Youth Center, raised the funds to renovate the space years ago. Sadly, the work never took place and ultimately the money went away. Now, at last, RIOC appears to be serious about fixing it up. A request for proposals to renovate the space is under discussion.
This community needs a program befitting a brand new space – and a growing population of children. Why shouldn’t the space be open during school hours to younger children? Older children should be able to attend enrichment programs there after school, with teenagers and young adults getting the space in the evening.
Currently, there is no website for the Youth Center, no schedule of activities, or even hours posted. You get used to walking by the space, and assuming that, like many of the Island’s storefronts, it’s empty. If there are enrichments and activities that take place there during the week, unrelated to the Island’s Beacon afterschool program (which is also run by RIYP), they appear to be a well-kept secret. The Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network coordinators aren’t aware of any.
Should it concern us that much of the community is unclear as to what exactly the Youth Center does – besides financially support the Beacon program (which is funded separately by the Department of Youth and Community Development)? The after-school program, the summer camp, the weekend sports, and evening activities at the school are all run through Beacon. What will it mean if, in the future, one group doesn’t receive both contracts?
Now is the time to ask questions. Parents and Islanders: Take the time to talk to your friends at the RIYP, Island Kids, and the Roosevelt Island Center of Community Development. Share your ideas. Get involved!