City cuts close Originals day care

The Originals day-care center closed after decades of serving parents in southeast Queens. Photo by Ivan Pereira
By Ivan Pereira

Day-care workers are pushing the city to restore funding to one of the longest-running facilities in Jamaica which shut its doors last week because it did not have the money to renew its lease.

The Originals day-care center, at 108-10 Sutphin Blvd., closed down Friday after more than 40 years of service. The city Administration for Children Services could not continue to pay the lease to the public center along with five others in Brooklyn.

Shamim Akhtar, a teacher at Originals since 2001, said she and the staff were heartbroken over the closing because dozens of parents sent their kids there for services such as its after-school program.

“We were doing so good,” she said as she was helping clean out the center. “All of a sudden they said they don’t have enough money for us.”

The center, which opened in the late 1960s, had 65 children enrolled in its program before it closed, according to Akhtar. The parents were asked to take their children to other centers while Originals ceased its services over the last few months, Akhtar said.

A representative from ACS said the decision not to renew the lease was based on the declining number of patrons at the center and the high cost of leasing the space.

“We have very few options when facing tough decisions about reducing spending that will not lead to discontinuation of services for families,” the agency said in a statement.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), however, blamed the city for the center’s problems over the last few years. ACS discouraged parents from enrolling their kids at Originals by dropping vouchers.

Comrie said he never heard any complaints from parents about the quality of the center, its services or its staff.

“It is ridiculous that [the city] wants to support substandard day cares in private homes instead of better facilities,” he said. At a news conference last Thursday in Brooklyn, District Council 1707 AFSCME Executive Director Raglan George Jr., who represents day-care workers, noted that ACS had received additional funding from the city over the last two years and gotten federal stimulus money.

“The city demonstrates no compassion for the plight of working families regarding child care. These centers have stabilized families and communities for two generations,” he said in a statement.

A spokesman for the union said it could not stop the shutdown of Originals, but it is currently writing to the agency and City Council members to try to get the center reopened soon.

In the meantime, Akhtar said she and her fellow Originals staff are looking for new positions because they have lost all hope in the center reopening.

“I honestly don’t think it’s going to happen,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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