Caribbean pols celebrate youth services’ victory

Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses City Council on budget’s passage.
Office of Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene

Two Caribbean legislators in New York City Council has hailed Tuesday’s budget passage that allocates funding for youth services.

Chairman of the Youth Services Committee, Haitian-born Council Member Dr. Mathieu Eugene, and Deputy Leader Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, have declared a victory for young people after the funding allotted for youth services in the budget agreement for Fiscal Year 2017 was announced at City Hall.

With a $38.5 million investment, Eugene, who represents the 40th Council District in Brooklyn, said the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP) will be expanded to include 60,000 jobs for young people.

“And this historically high figure will be baselined, which not only ensures these jobs will be available in future years but also allows providers to make advance accommodations for young people that will help enhance their employment experience,” said Eugene, who had been in the forefront of protests for funding for youth summer programs.

He noted that “there is a total investment of $100 million in youth services, and this include additional afterschool program slots for elementary and middle school children, year-round jobs, and a commitment to more programs that will help young people throughout New York City.

“This budget is truly a victory for our young people, and it reflects the needs of our youth,” Eugene said. “We in the City Council worked together to negotiate a budget that will help youth in all neighborhoods of our city.

“I’m thankful for the leadership of our Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, as well as Finance Chair Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. I’d also like to thank Mayor Bill de Blasio for listening to the requests of my colleagues and I [me] during this process,” he added.

“Most importantly, I’d like to thank the youth advocates for raising their voices for youth programs, and I’d like to commend the young people who were at every rally to speak out about the importance of making youth a priority,” he continued.

Since the release of the preliminary budget, Eugene has advocated for youth programs, including SYEP.

Standing alongside youth advocates, young people and his colleagues, Eugene led multiple rallies throughout New York City, calling for more funding for crucial youth services.

In addition, Eugene wrote three letters to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking for an increased commitment to youth services.

“Together, through dialogue and negotiation, we were able to do great things for our young people and the future of New York City,” Eugene said. “I’m so delighted that our young people will have a chance to continue to enjoy a variety of programs that will empower them.”

Williams, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings, and co-chair of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, “whether it comes to issues of youth employment, crime, or affordable housing, New Yorkers expect their elected officials, from the Mayor, to the Speaker and each Council Member, to adopt a budget consistent with our values.

“Earlier today [Tuesday], thanks to the work of the Mayor and the City Council, we had a handshake on a budget that reflects this,” said Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn.

“This is a budget that represents progress,” he added. “Since the beginning of negotiations, the Council made clear Youth Employment, as a central priority – both Summer Youth and Year Round employment. More importantly, we need a true pathway to universal Summer Youth Employment program.

“As all of the experts say, and we know, employing young people means stronger families, crime reductions and, literally, young people remaining alive,” Williams continued. “I am proud that, working together, 60,000 Summer Youth Employment slots were baselined, which is up from 54,000 last year. This represented the amount advocates thought they could handle in year one and the amount that would show a real commitment.”

In addition, Williams said 6,000 year-round jobs, equal to the amount requested, has been included.

Aside from the commitment, he said a taskforce will be established, dedicated to analyzing both programs, with the aim of looking at how well the program is run, how it can be improved and increased, while getting to the individuals who need the most attention.

“Critical to this, is the administration’s agreement to put funding behind the taskforce’s recommendations,” Williams said. “Just as important, the taskforce will be short-lived, charged in July and finishing in January, with the aim of impacting next year’s preliminary budget.

“We know that above all jobs help prevent crime, and so do other necessary resources,” he added. “I want to thank the Administration and Speaker for its infusion of $8 million in the Crisis Management System.”

Williams said the system was an outgrowth of the work of the Task Force to Combat Gun Violence, established last term and co-chaired by him and Council Member Cabrera.

In 2014, Williams said Mayor De Blasio and Speaker Mark-Viverito “significantly increased the funding, leading to an additional expansion in more neighborhoods.”

The system includes violence interrupters, mental health counseling in schools, coordination in hospitals for shooting responses, legal services “and even dedicated jobs for areas most affected with gun violence,” Williams said.

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