standard Education Advocates Rally to Save Bushwick Early Learning Center

Advocates rallied to save a Bushwick early learning center (Photo via Los Sures)

Advocates rallied to save a Bushwick early learning center (Photo via Los Sures)

Elected officials and community leaders called on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to thwart the eviction of a vital Bushwick early learning center Friday morning. The looming ouster of the center is the result of a number of baffling procedural and paperwork errors by the city, and as a result, the location will likely be replaced by a luxury development, DNAInfo reported.

In a press conference convened in Williamsburg, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, along with the staff and parents of Bushwick United Early Learn (BUEL), called on Commissioner Gladys Carrion of the Administration for Children’s Services to allocate capital funds to purchase the property rented by the Early Learn/UPK Program so it can remain a community program in perpetuity.

“The closing of this Head Start [center] is a bigger issue involving the whole Williamsburg community,” said Council Member Reynoso. “These facilities are expensive because of gentrification. We should not have to lose services as well.”

The center, located at 152 Manhattan Avenue, has an eviction set for December 30th, at which time services will cease.

For 26 years, 152 Manhattan Avenue has been leased by the city as a space to provide free or low-cost services to children and their families.  Currently, the BUEL Program is licensed to provide Universal Pre-K, Head Start and Day Care to 106 children from low-income families in the Williamsburg / Bushwick area, with a majority coming from the NYCHA developments of Williamsburg Houses and Borinquen Plaza.

Now, the survival of these programs is threatened because the landlord refuses to renew the lease with ACS so he can sell the building, education advocates say. The advocates fear the building will be torn down and replaced with luxury development.

The parents of children enrolled at this center live within a five block radius, and report that there are no other similar facilities nearby. One of the parents, Rosemary Segueza, said the closing would be devastating to her family.

“If they close this center, I will have to quit my job to take care of my children,” Segueza said. “Nowadays, both parents have to work to provide for their families and we will be unable to do so as there are no daycare centers nearby.”

The impending closing is also in stark contrast to the Mayor’s recent announcement of more than 53,000 children enrolled in pre-K and his administration’s push for universal pre-K enrollment for all children by next year.

“This is our location. Forty years ago the City intended for it to be a daycare center,” said Martin Needleman, Executive Director of Brooklyn Legal Services. “It is critical that we do everything necessary so that this center is not closed.”

Most of the families who use this center live below the poverty level. Debbie Medina, Director of Organizing for Southside United HDFC – Los Sures was concerned about the consequences of closing this center.

“We continually fight displacement in our community as gentrification makes it almost impossible for working families to live here,” Medina said. “These parents are already doing all they can to stay in their homes. If this center closes, a lot of them will be forced to relocate to another community.”

When asked if the new owner would be willing to provide space for the daycare in their planned development, Council Member Reynoso said it skirted the issue of what services should be guaranteed, not granted based upon the whims of a developer.

“We shouldn’t have to be scavenging for breadcrumbs to provide services,” Reynoso said. “The City should provide these much needed services to the community.”

The Executive Director of the center, Edna Feliciano, hopes that a solution is found that does not interrupt the academic development of the children and that does not cause economic and emotional hardships.

Los Sures – Southside United HDFC contributed reporting to this article.