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Coney Island youth programs debated

With gangs on the rise in Coney Island and a recent spate of violent crimes, one local activist is saying more programs for youths are desperately needed.

But city officials dispute the notion, saying activities abound for youth of all ages.

“There are definitely issues regarding youth in Coney Island,” said Pam Harris, executive director of the non-profit Coney Island Generation Gap Reunion Committee Corporation. “We don’t have viable activities and space for them (teenagers) to vent and to do something productive.”

Harris was at a 60th Precinct Community Council meeting recently complaining that the precinct lost former youth officer, Morgan Dasilva to promotion last September and she still hadn’t known his replacement.

Inspector Robert Johnsen explained that Officer Adam Torres replaced Dasilva and was still getting his feet wet in the position.

Following the meeting, Harris said she sat down with Torres and discussed some initiatives such as starting a youth council and was left with a good impression.

“We do need better communication between the precinct and our organization, and it is the responsibility of the new youth officer to make sure we communicate,” said Harris.

Torres, formerly in the rough and tough anti-crime unit, said he will work hand-in-hand with Harris, but is still learning the ropes of working with the schools in the area and on such police youth programs as the Explorers Club.

“I’m starting fresh and everything’s getting built back up,” he said.

Meanwhile, Harris also complained that more computer labs should be made available for the youth in the neighborhood.

In particular, Harris alleged that of the many large public housing complexes in Coney Island area, only two have their community centers open.

These two include the Carey Gardens development, 2955 West 24th Street, and the Heartshare Community Center at Surfside on West 27th Street, she said.

However, these centers cater mostly tokids 12 and under, and for the ages of 13-23 there really isn’t anything to do, Harris said.

“It’s hard for me to recruit youth when I don’t have a viable place to put them,” she said.

New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) spokesperson Heidi Morales responded that both Surfside and Carey Gardens does indeed have programming for teens from 13-19 as well as for kids from 6-12.

Additionally, the O’Dwyer Gardens development at 2959 West 33rd Street has a NYCHA community center with after school (6-12) and teen (13-19) programming, she said.

“We work closely with City agencies such as DYCD (Department of Youth and Community Development), as well as the Mayor’s office, the City Council, as well as non-profit organizations to provide NYCHA residents with innovative programming,” said Morales.

City Council member Domenic Recchia said there are numerous youth programs for kids of all ages.

This includes such organizations as the South Brooklyn Youth consortium, which is open seven days a week and runs the successful Coney Island Sharks youth football program.

Several schools in Coney Island also have Out of School Time (OST) and Beacon after school programs, he added.

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