Two Cities

Maybe it was inevitable.

Some of the poorest, neediest kids in Hudson County enrolled in a program, the Boys & Girls Club,  that promises "Young people need to know that someone cares about them" sharing space with a growing Charter school that's attracted kids from Hudson County's wealthiest demographic.

During the school year, the Charter school bus does pick-ups at Maxwell Place, 333 River St. and The Tea Building.  The B&G kids come from HHA housing and overflow from Jersey City. 

The Charter school kids are fed wholesome, organically-grown, nutritious lunches delivered  daily from a premium food vendor, Revolution Foods.  The B&G after-school kids no longer get warm meals. They get this:

Dinner for B & G Club children

With a juice box.  That's dinner.

Young people need to know that someone cares about them.

The children of the Boys and Girls Club, many from  very poor or overburdened families, who may harbor suspicions that no one cares, have these suspicions validated daily by what they see going on around them.  The fact that the others receive food and they don't is only one example.

Young people need to know that someone cares about them.

Someone does. Many do.  But those in-the-know are afraid to speak up.

GA received a call last night from someone wanting to talk.

I tried to jot down what she was saying, but it came at me fast, and she broke down crying several times.  So I asked her to please send me something in writing.

From my Inbox:

B&G children used to get warm meals after school - white rice, chicken, pasta and chopped meat, chicken fingers. The counselors would make the food from scratch for the children. Some of the children would ask if they could take some of the extra home with them because they're not getting fed at home. That's all they'll get for dinner that night. The B&G children no longer get warm meals after school - they get dry cheese/peanut butter crackers and juices. Or get rice krispy marshmallow treats. Some of these kids are hungry and that's their dinner.

A food vendor came into the B&G club delivering food for Hola. They used to give some leftover fruit to the B&G club kids, but they are no longer giving them any of it. I believe the Hola kids are fed at lunch as well as after school snacks. The B&G kids ask for food.

In the summer the City provides B&G kids with sandwiches for lunch.

During the school months they are complaining and sad they're not getting dinner any more.

The pool has been closed for the last 3 days because of construction. The kids are upset. They keep asking when they can go swimming. Leo Pellegrini (Director of Recreation) was there today screaming and arguing for the pool to be opened. It won't be open tomorrow. I don't know when it will open.

The playground is being used as a construction staging area. The B&G kids can't play outside there. No pool or playground because of construction.

Furniture has been taken from the B&G for use by Hola. The B&G staff and the children (expressed to me) that they feel that they are encroaching in their own space. They feel like guests in their own facility.

A lot of concern for teenagers, who use the B&G club in the evening. They are relegated to two rooms - the game room and sometimes the gym if it's available but have to stay on the sidelines because there's no room.

(redacted) said that she can't understand why the B&G club already offers an after school program, why does Hola have to hold a separate one in the same building, therefore cramping the B&G after school program? (redacted) was quite upset with that issue. I replied they don't want to mix their children with underprivileged children.


Whether or not that is true or fair, that is the perception created by the juxtaposition of Two Cities and  the encroachment of one upon the other and the consequences-- degradation in services and programs;  the 'better' food, the sacrifice of space and amenities, the loss of play space and gym space.

 And so goes the undermining of  the B&G's mission:
Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence.

That's what GA's been told is going on at 123 Jefferson Street.

So what's the fix?

For starters, turn back the clock: re-institute meals,  restore lost programs (on-site dance instruction), return classroom and ancillary space for use by the B&G.

After that, if the Charter can remain without detriment to the B&G then consolidation of some duplicate functions make sense.  The school can figure that out with the B&G.

And the City needs to enforce it's lease agreement with the B&G Club as Da Horsey wrote on MSV:
The terms to the Boys & Girls Club specifically mandate it demonstrate in an annual report to the Business Administrator how it has complied with requirements using the building, the value and cost of its use in its activities along with the continued demonstration of tax exempt status.
Maybe then we can understand how much the diminution of services has to do with budget cuts, and how much of it is management.

Folks, this is NOT a political issue.  It's a moral one.

GA Note:
Just got a call from the gal who downloaded this to me last night, and she said the the difference between the summer and school year issues need some clarification. The problems of construction are happening  NOW, during the summer time when the B&G Club uses the facility all day.  The Charter school does not use the space during summer.  The B&G operates an all-day summer camp, ages 5-14.  The Charter and the B&G have 2 separate independent after-care programs running concurrently.

As I noted above, perhaps consolidation of some redundant functions between the 2 would free up space for the B&G (and the Charter) and solve crowding issues. 

(Updated, 8/5/11- 2:41 pm)

GA's written a postscript to this piece. Where the blame lies, and it's NOT with HoLa.