When the city’s Administration of Children’s Services (ACS) announced recently that budget constraints were forcing them to close ten borough day care centers, City Councilmember Lew Fidler had a simple yet profound solution for their plight.
It was just one word, but it’s one that the Bloomberg administration uses rarely, if at all. After all, doesn’t anyone ever “haggle” anymore?
Fidler told members of Community Board 18 last week that when ACS told them that they were going to close upwards of sixteen day care centers throughout the city — the lion’s share of which will be in Brooklyn — he wanted to know one thing.
“I asked them if they considered calling all of the lease holders and tell them that if they don’t cut their rents by ten percent the city was going to cut their leases,” he explained, recalling the conversation. “They looked at me and said, ‘That’s a good idea.’”
It apparently never dawned on the city to do that, Fidler said.
“Instead, they decided to simply close the ones with the highest lease costs based on an artificial number in their heads and move the kids around.”
A little back and forth between the city and the lease holders could go a long way to keeping everyone happy — especially in this financial climate, where property owners are having trouble filling their spaces, Fidler said.
ACS officials said that the closing of the day care centers will save the city $9 million. Centers on the chopping block include the Court Street Day Care Center at 292 Court Street, the Farragut Day Care Center at 104 Gold Street, Bethel Baptist and Strong Place Day Care Center at 242 Hoyt Street, Salvation Army Fiesta at 80 Lorraine Street, Martha Udell Early Childhood Academy at 505 St. Marks Avenue, Alonzo Daughtry at 1005-07 Bedford Avenue, BBCS Duffield Children’s Center at 101 Fleet Place, Bedford Avenue Day Care Center at 40 Brevoort Place, La Puerta Abierta CCC-PAL at 2864 West 21st Street, and Learner’s Haven DCC at 432 Rutland Road.
City officials said that the day care centers are under-enrolled and have high leases ranging from $150,000 to $450,000 a year.
If they are closed, the children at these day care centers would be offered seats in nearby centers, according to an ACS spokesman.
Finding the closures “counterproductive” parents with children in these centers have vowed to protest the cuts.
Yet that may not be necessary. It seems that before they close a single center down, the city will try haggling first – with the Brooklyn delegation’s help.
“We’re going to work closely with landlords to renegotiate childcare facilities’ leases or enter into “mixed-pay leases” in which the city would pay a portion of the rent and the operating board of the center pays the rest of the rent,” explained City Councilmember Steve Levin (D-Brooklyn Heights), who has two day care centers in his district facing the city’s budget axe.
—with Michele De Meglio