Staten Island Pol To Stapleton Parents: Send Displaced Kids Here

Diane J. Savino

December 15, 2008

Advance file photosChildren displaced when the Stapleton Community Center closes beginning Jan. 5 have a friend in state Sen. Diane Savino, inset

State Sen. Diane Savino today said kids from Staten Island's Stapleton community about to be displaced from their after-school program can hang out in her office until they have a place to go.

Ms. Savino also said she'd throw in snacks for the 30 elementary and middle-school kids whose parents have been told the Stapleton Community Center will be shuttered beginning Jan. 5 because of city budget cuts.

Last Friday, Stapleton Houses Resident Association president Geraldine Parker took a novel approach to the problem, suggesting that parents drop off their children at politicians' offices to highlight the need for government intervention.

That led Councilman Vincent Ignizio (R-South Shore) to publicly scold Ms. Parker, adding that he'd call the police if children were left at his office.

"Government has an obligation to help these families figure out what to do and try to come up with alternatives," said Ms. Savino, a Democrat whose district covers portions of the North Shore and has an office in St. George. "Why would you shut the door on people in need? Our offices should be a clearing house for information."

"Why would he say such a thing?" added Ms. Savino of Ignizio. "I don't know what would possess him to say that. These families and their children face an untenable situation. These are children we are talking about. [Ms. Parker] made her suggestion out of frustration. I understand that. I called her and I told her, 'Bring 'em here, if that will help.' I have no problem with having children in my office."

Today, Ms. Parker said she was glad to get Ms. Savino's call and will meet with her board to figure out what to do next.

"She called to say anything she could do, she would do," said Ms. Parker. "She said she would provide space, even snacks. To hear her say that really touched my heart; to know that she is there for us. She knows parents are struggling. She understands kids need a safe haven."

Earlier this month the New York City Housing Authority, which operates the Stapleton after-school program, said sudden budget constraints meant 18 programs around the city would have to close.

Sen. Savino's district office is located at 36 Richmond Terrace.