Stephan Russo Speaks to NY1 About Budget Cuts to Summer Programs

The de Blasio administration has quietly slashed tens of thousands of seats in summer programs, and many parents say the cuts came out of the blue. Goddard Riverside’s Executive Director Stephan Russo spoke to NY1’s Lindsey Christ. Watch the video here.

On the Upper West Side, 70 families have already enrolled in the summer program at the Joan of Arc Middle School campus. It was to be the second year of the free summer camp, an extension of the Beacon after-school program run by Goddard Riverside Community Center, and students were excited.

"I was planning on going to the Beacon program to have fun with my friends and, like, play basketball," said Jaden Ault, a student with the Manhattan School for Children. "If I need help with my homework over the summer, I come to Beacon."

But last Friday, this program was one of hundreds that received an email from the city, saying its funding had been cut, suddenly and without warning, from the mayor’s budget.

"We are unable to expand summer services as previously proposed," the email read.

Just a year into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s celebrated plan to expand after-school and summer programming for middle schoolers, all 17,000 seats that were added last summer have now been eliminated.

"We were really taken aback and totally caught off guard," said Stephan Russo of the Goddard Riverside Community Center.

City officials had confirmed the funding in March and sent each program its budget.

"We had registered families, and now we’re stuck with a situation of, what do we do and how do we tell those additional families that there’s no summer program for their kids?" Russo said

Last summer, the mayor had doubled the seats in middle school summer programs from 17- to 34,000.

"The child who is in this building safe and sound and learning is not out in the streets or anywhere in harm’s way," de Blasio said in July 2014. "They’re safe, they’re being supported and they’re learning."

Now, many of de Blasio’s allies are confused and frustrated.

"For a mayor who talks a lot about meeting the needs of working families, particularly low-income working families, this seems dissonant. This seems like ‘What?’" said Nancy Wackstein of United Neighbor Houses. "It’s inconsistent. Let’s put it that way. That’s the nicest word I can use."

The city said it has prioritized funding for 130 struggling schools this year. Last week, the mayor announced those schools would get a $50 million boost.